Whilst many live sports have ground to a halt and are still firefighting the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, fantasy sports in India has been thriving.

Fantasy sports platforms and operators have opened up new markets, boosting engagement amongst a new audience and providing a lifeline for leagues and clubs.

Discussing the growth of the sector in India on the Fantasy Sports panel on day one of the SBC Digital – India conference, Piyush Choudhary, Director of Sales, South Asia at Sportradar, indicated that the Indian fantasy sports market has the potential to become a ‘billion dollar industry’ within the next year and the ‘largest sports fantasy sports market’.

“It’s more important to just look at the well-rounded impact of fantasy sports in India which is the number of people who’ve got engaged which is your users – 100 million touted to 150 million plus,” he explained.

“I think foreign investments have seen phenomenal growth this year, from some of the largest private equity there’s been more than 200 million coming into fantasy sports, plus the number of jobs which have been created, which I think 5000 plus alone for fantasy sports in 2021.”

Choudhary likened the growth of the Indian fantasy sports sector to that of the UK’s Premier League, explaining how fantasy engagement kept sports such as cricket afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.

“You look at any large sports event, especially cricket, and there’s a fantasy advertiser. I think that has been a great impetus towards sports because fantasy sports is actually carrying the weight load. In the UK, you watch any Premier League game and 90% of the sponsors of gaming companies, and the same trend is starting to come into India.

“Fantasy sports was good to have three or four years back, but now it’s a must have of the sports industry of the economic industry of the job market, as well as the gaming market.”

Furthermore, Business Development Director at Data Sports Group, Rajesh D’Souza, encouraged fantasy sports operators to see the ‘wider opportunity’ when branching out into ‘niche’ sports. D’Souza suggested that football, for instance, offers platforms the opportunity to ‘increase the gamification’ and ‘set the bar’ for rival platforms.

He said: “The audience is quite small, but there are players who are willing to play those games. From that, companies can make revenue out of them so that they can sustain themselves in these unprecedented times. Users who were only playing cricket started to play other sports as well, so everyone is seeing a huge surge in their growth as well as from India.

“With different sports, football comes next to cricket, and then you have sports like basketball handball and a bunch of other ones which have been recently introduced into the market. I feel there are certain sports like football which gives a wider opportunity to kind of change the scoring or enhance the scoring mechanism.

“By bringing in new sports, I think that’s another way where a lot of fantasy users start to learn how to play a game or start generating interest in different sports like you know basketball or volleyball etc, which is still a growing thing.”

Esports is another ever-expanding market in India and Dinesh Kruplani, Founder and CEO at CrustPlay, a newly launched esports and gaming platform, has seen a spike in interest in esports fantasy during the coronavirus crisis.

“We have seen a huge growth in the viewership and the esports market in India since the launch,” he remarked. “We have been trying to bring esports fantasy into the esports industry.

“Due to the pandemic, the esports market had a huge growth in India. There is a rise in new content creators and streamers out there, and also new games. Before, millions of users were just sitting at home and watching the screen to just support their favourite team.

He concluded: “We are expecting those people to play esports, so they can choose their favourite players and get to study the weaknesses and strong points of the players, and get a team assembled. Then they could be easily getting the points and it’s a new experience for the users and operators.”

SBC Digital India is the premier online event for igaming in India and will deliver a fully virtual and interactive conference, exhibition and networking experience to delegates with an interest in the igaming industry.

Taking place from 27 – 28 January, the event includes a star studded roster of speakers and sessions over two days providing insight across igaming, skill games/DFS, casino and more.

To register for your free ticket, click here.