IFSG Renamed to Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports

Dream11-founded self-regulatory industry body Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG), has renamed itself to Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), as per a press release. Interestingly, the industry body was originally christened as FIFS when it was incorporated as a Section 8 Company under the Companies Act, 2013 (Not for Profit Company) in 2017.

This action of renaming itself twice and reverting to its original name reflects narrowing of the regulatory body’s focus from all skill-based sports games, including esports, fantasy sports and casual sports games, to only fantasy sports, which the federation claims to have proven to improve real-life sports consumption in India.

Commenting on the development, John Loffhagen, Chairman, FIFS said, “In the last two years, we have seen exponential growth in the Fantasy Sports industry. From 5 million users and 25 operators in 2017, the fantasy sports industry has now grown to 140+ operators with 80 million+ users. This rapid growth is a testament to the potential of fantasy sports in India. The name change from IFSG to FIFS is a result of our recognition of this disruptive and emerging sector and its need for self-regulation to sustain growth. We look forward to working with the operators and stakeholders in creating and maintaining high industry standards.”

Since its inception in 2017, FIFS has issued guidelines and regulations to set and maintain high operating standards in the industry to uphold the interests of consumers, operators and other stakeholders. The organisation has also created awareness about fantasy sports by launching the fantasy sports industry’s first ever charter in 2019, conducting two seasons of fantasy sports conference GamPlan in 2018 and 2019, and launching ‘Stars of Tomorrow’, an athlete support program, in collaboration with Dream11 Foundation and GoSports Foundation. FIFS has also launched various reports on the legality, landscape, growth potential and impact of fantasy sports in India.

With India’s first online gaming unicorn Dream11 as the founding member, the organisation currently has 33 members, including various fantasy sports operators and other stakeholders. Besides this, it has one Ombudsman—Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri (Retd.)—and four strategic advisors—Professor Ratnakar Shetty, former BCCI Chief Administrative Officer; Amrit Mathur, former Secretary Sports Authority of India; Dilip Dixit, former Additional Commissioner of Sales Tax; andAN Roy, retired Director General Police of Maharashtra.


IFSG appoints former Mumbai top cop as advisor

Fantasy sports industry body, the Indian Federation for Sports Gaming (IFSG), announced that former Mumbai police commissioner and Maharashtra DGP, AN Roy, would be joining the organisation as a strategic advisor.

Roy joins former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri; former Delhi Daredevils COO Amrit Mathur and former BCCI Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty as a member of IFSG’s advisory board.

The former Mumbai top cop is expected to work closely with the IFSG board members to create guidelines for responsible industry practices for the fantasy gaming sector.

Commenting on the new appointment, Anwar Shirpurwala, CEO, IFSG said, “It is an honour to have Mr. Roy on IFSG’s advisory board and further strengthen the bench. During his vast tenure, Mr. Roy has played a pivotal role in bolstering the Indian police force, streamlining operations as well as improving overall perception. The Fantasy Sports industry in India is growing rapidly, we believe that Mr. Roy’s rich experience in successfully planning, strategizing and executing policies is sure to have a positive impact on the industry at large.”

Elaborating on his role at IFSG, Roy added, “I am happy to join IFSG and get associated in shaping steer the evolving fantasy sports ecosystem, as the industry readies for exponential growth and helps set up best industry practices around self-regulation.

Fantasy Sports is helping millions of sports fans engage deeply and meaningfully with their favourite sports and use their knowledge and skill in a meaningful way. Along with my fellow board members, I will work towards ensuring the fantasy sports users enjoy a fair playing environment and set industry benchmarks.”


IFSG releases survey on fantasy gaming’s impact on sport consumption

The Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) released a new survey on how fantasy sports participants follow real life sporting activities much more actively as compared to non-fantasy gaming players.

The custom study conducted by Nielsen for IFSG, titled ‘Fantasy Sports: Measuring its impact on actual sports consumption’ interviewed 1169 respondents in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. Out of the total sample size of 1169, 566 respondents were fantasy sports players and 603 respondents were non-fantasy Sports players.

It was found that 37% of fantasy sports players consume more than 6-8 hours of real-life sports content per week to stay abreast with knowledge on players and match conditions. The figure for non-fantasy sports players spending 6-8 hours consuming sports content is 8%.

Out of the 566 respondents from metro areas who are fantasy sports players it was revealed that 78% respondents follow the match live by tracking it through an online scoreboard or using online apps while 66% follow cricket players and team news online so that they understand which players are performing well.

The survey also revealed that almost 100% of the respondents follow cricket, while football is the second most tracked sport, with 40% fantasy sports players and 43% non-fantasy sports players tracking the sport.

The study also noted that almost 99% of fantasy sports players and 86% non-fantasy gaming participants are aware about Dream11, while the second most followed fantasy gaming brand is MyTeam11, which 45% fantasy and 34% non-fantasy players are aware about.

Commenting on the findings of the IFSG study, Anwar Shirpurwala, CEO of IFSG said, “India is a sports loving nation. Alongside cricket which remains our most watched sport, we are witnessing increased viewership of sports like Kabaddi and Hockey as well as the advent shorter format sports leagues like IPL, Indian Super League (ISL), Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).

The fantasy sports platforms are enabling casual fans to engage with the sports they love becoming core sports fans. The growth of the online fantasy sports gaming platforms is resulting in a growth in the viewership of various formats of sports. The findings validate the strong potential of Fantasy Sports in contributing to the growth of sports ecosystem of India.”

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

IFSG appoints Justice AK Sikri as Ombudsman officer

Fantasy sports industry body Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) has announced that it has appointed retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri as its Ombudsman & Ethics Officer.

In this role, Justice Sikri will be responsible for investigating consumer queries/complaints raised by the users of the online fantasy sports gaming platforms. He is also expected to provide strategic council and resolve disputes brought forward regarding breach of IFSG self-regulatory guidelines or financial discrepancies.

Commenting on the announcement, Harsh Jain, President of IFSG and CEO of Dream11 said, “Justice A K Sikri’s association with IFSG is an important development for the industry body. The sports gaming industry is growing at an exponential pace and so is the need to ensure that all operators adopt best-in-class ethical business practices. With Anwar as the CEO of IFSG and Justice Sikri as the Ombudsman, IFSG will be able to frame robust industry benchmarks with strong governance protecting our industry’s 8 crore users and 32 operator’s interests.”

IFSG also announced that former MAIT CEO Anwar Shirpurwala will lead the organisation as its new CEO.

The industry body has also stated that sports journalist and former Delhi Daredevils COO Amrit Mathur, former BCCI treasurer Ratnakar Shetty and Dilip Dixit will be part of its advisory panel while lawyer John Loffhagen will be the chairman of the federation.


StarPick withdraws from IFSG membership

Fantasy sports portal StarPick has announced that it is withdrawing from the membership of sports gaming industry body Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) with immediate effect.

The reason given by the company for its withdrawal and disassociation from the industry body, was because innovation and newer formats of fantasy gaming, such as the company’s recently launched prediction-based ‘Fantasy MatchUp’ games  were not accepted by the industry body in its charter.

Commenting on the withdrawal, Trigam Mukherjee, CEO of StarPick India said, “StarPick is focussed on engaging the users with superior technology and innovations. However, we believe that that current IFSG charter is not conducive for us as a company to innovate in the fantasy sports gaming space and hence are withdrawing our membership with immediate effect.”

Mukherjee added, “Though fantasy sports gaming and some platforms have been around in India for over a decade, this space is still in its infancy. There has been no real innovation in this space until we launched StarPick in 2018. We believe that platforms such as ours need the freedom to disrupt and innovate to bring new game-play formats to the Indian users in addition to the tried and tested older game-play formats.”

Reacting to the development, IFSG stated that StarPick’s new formats allowing users to predict performing players in a given match may not be legally tenable and could be perceived as some form of sports betting.

 “IFSG is driven by transparency, integrity and responsibility. We and our members believe in providing a safe and responsible fantasy sports gaming environment to our users. For the same, we have several checks and balances in place to help our members maintain ethical standards and also adhere to fantasy sports format/s that is/are legally approved by the Indian courts. While many fantasy sports operators believe in innovations in fantasy sports gaming format, they tend to overlook the legal impact of the same.

As India’s only industry body, we are here to help and support our members align with legally approved standards and ethical way to engage with the users. Members who prefer taking up formats that are not legally approved cannot be backed by IFSG and they are free to withdraw their membership. We will not support any member violating the IFSG Charter that associates fantasy sports to sports betting in any form or shape. We are open to suggestions from our members and willing to work with them in building new formats that are within the purview of the Indian laws,” said IFSG President John Loffhagen in a statement.


IFSG successfully hosts GamePlan 2019; KPMG report on sports gaming ecosystem released

The Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) hosted the second edition of GamePlan sports gaming conference at Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai today.

Based on the overall theme of ‘The Economy of Sports Gaming’, the GamePlan 2019 event hosted three separate panel discussions: Future of Online Sports Entertainment in India; Growth of Sports Gaming Ecosystem and Fuelling Sports Fan Engagement. Panelists included the likes of Melinda Petrunoff of Facebook; Vikas Agnihotri of Google India;  Varun Narang, of Hotstar; Ipsita Dasgupta of Pro Kabaddi League; Girish Menon, Senior Partner of KPMG India and Harsh Jain, founder and CEO of Dream11.

Consulting firm KPMG India released an industry report titled ‘The Evolving Landscape of Sports Gaming in India’ at the event. According to estimates in the report, the online gaming industry in India (both real money and casual/social gaming) generated Rs. 4,400 crores in revenues in the financial year 2018. The report also states that the industry is expected to growth at a compounded rate of 22% annually and would be able to achieve revenues of around Rs. 11,900 crores by the financial year 2023.

The report also estimates that the total size of the illegal gambling industry in India would be worth around US$130 billion as of 2018 as compared to $122 billion in the year 2017. KPMG in its note also said that users are able to differentiate between fantasy sports and sports betting with over 69% of the users interviewed in their survey being able to differentiate between the two products.

Speaking on the launch of the report, Girish Menon, Partner and Head – Media and Entertainment, KPMG India said, “Online gaming in India is seeing increased traction due to the growth of digital infrastructure, with fantasy sports emerging as an important segment in this space. With the number of fantasy sports operators growing rapidly and the number of users on fantasy sports platforms expected to cross 100 million by 2020, this segment has the potential to spawn a whole ecosystem around it, and could help deepen user engagement with their favourite sports”.


Dream11 crosses 5 crore user mark

Leading online fantasy sports portal Dream11 has declared that it has crossed the landmark of 5 crore  (50 million) registered users on its platform, making it the biggest platform for real money skill gaming in India.

According to the company, it has more than doubled its user base in a short span of 12 months, from 2 crore users last February to 5 crore+ users at present.

As per a report by Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) and marketing research agency AC Nielsen, Dream11 holds almost 90% market share within the Indian fantasy sports industry. The report has further projected that the total user base of all fantasy sports companies will cross the 100 million (10 crore) mark by 2020.

Commenting on this milestone, Harsh Jain, CEO and co-founder of Dream11 said, “We are thrilled to have 5 crore Indian sports fans on our platform. This achievement reaffirms the growth potential of fantasy sports in India, signalling a new era for the Indian sports gaming industry. Backed by strong partnerships across sports genres and robust technology infrastructure, we will continue our efforts to expand our user base and provide the Indian sports fans with a personalised, immersive and engaging experience.”

In 2018, Dream11 officially partnered with leading International and Indian sporting bodies, such as the International Cricket Council (ICC), National Basketball Association (NBA), Big Bash League (BBL), Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), and International Hockey Federation (FIH) as their Official Fantasy Sports Game. The company has also engaged former India cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as their brand ambassador.


IFSG to organise second edition of GamePlan conference on 4th March in Mumbai

Fantasy sports industry body, the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG), has announced that it will be hosting the second edition of its flagship event ‘GamePlan 2019’ on 4th March, 2019 at Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai.

The day long event will see three engaging panel discussions on the economy of sports gaming being conducted which will be followed by a launch of a special report on the ‘Evolving Landscape of Sports Gaming’.

The first panel discussion at the event will revolve around the future of online sports entertainment in India and will see Vikas Agnihotri, Company Director Sales- Google India; Kartik Sharma, CEO (South Asia) of Wavemaker; Harsh Jain, CEO of Dream11 and KPMG Partner Girish Menon discuss the topic.

Two other panel discussions will see discussions on the growth of the sports gaming ecosystem and fuelling fan engagement respectively.

Arvind Iyenagar, CEO of Sportz Interactive; Arvind Ramachandran; co-founder of Fantain; Akhil Suhag; CEO of Fanfight; Ricky Thussu, Global Sales Head of the International Hockey Federation and Melinda Petrunoff, Director of Global Marketing Solutions of Facebook are some of the speakers who would participate in panel discussions at the event.

IFSG had hosted the first edition of GamePlan in February 2018. The event had seen discussion on the investment potential in fantasy sports; legality of fantasy sports and synergies between sports leagues and fantasy sports. A report detailing the legal issues in the fantasy sports industry was also released at the first edition of the event.


Feature: Fantain CEO Anand Ramachandran discusses the company’s evolution and opportunities in the fantasy sports space

Sports fan and IT industry veteran Anand Ramachandran started Fantain, a fan engagement analytics company in 2012. Eventually, he converted Fantain into a free-to-play fantasy sports platform, that is now backed by leading online events and ticketing brand BookMyShow.

Over the past couple of years, Fantain has started offering real money fantasy games for cricket, football and kabbadi and now has over one million registered users on the platform. In this interview, Ramachandran talks about what led to the inception of Fantain and how he sees the fantasy sports industry growing in the days to come.

Full interview:

Q. Why did you decide to start Fantain? Can you tell us more about the product and the games offered?

Anand Ramachandran (AR): We started Fantain Sports in 2012.  The three of us (Vivek, Aravind and I) are hardcore sports fans who have seen how sports is produced and consumed in the US.  We wanted to bring the best to India.  We have done various things in and around sports over the last few years – fan engagement apps, fan analytics, sponsorship dashboards, etc.  We started the fantasy platform in 2017 when we felt that the market was ready for a world class fantasy platform.

Currently, we offer single match fantasy contests for cricket, kabbadi and football – the three primary sports in India.  We also offer a free version of the game (for people who want to try out fantasy sports) and a paid version of the game.  In the short term, we will be looking to add more and more innovative fantasy formats to our rapidly growing fanbase in India.  We will add more sports and also look at international expansion over the medium to long term.

Q. You earlier started as a sports analytics company and then ventured into fantasy sports. Why the shift and how has been the experience so far? Can you share some details about your journey so far in terms of number of users and revenue?

AR: Fantain has always strived to be a fan engagement company.  When we launched our analytics offerings, we focused on analysing the sports fan instead of the more popular player and game analysis (think stump cameras and player statistics).  Our goal was to bring in a deep understanding of the Indian sports fan and use that to build custom solutions for him / her.

An idea will not work in India just because it has worked elsewhere.  An idea will work only if the Indian fan and the Indian sports ecosystem sees the need for such a solution.  We see fantasy as a way to engage with the sports fan in a meaningful fashion.

Everything we have done over the last 6 years has contributed to the success we are seeing in the fantasy platform – our understanding of the sports scene in India and the Indian fan is what helps us build world class products.  We recently crossed a big milestone of over 1 million fans on the platform – with healthy engagement metrics and with a very good proportion of them converting to paying users.

Q. Fantain was a free to play fantasy platform that you converted into a real money one only around a year back. What prompted you to switch to a real money version amidst the competition from dozens of other websites?

AR: Our intention was always to build a pay to play fantasy platform.  We started with a free version  so that we made fantasy sports,  a relatively new idea, easily accessible to the Indian sports fan.  The free platform helped us acquire fans, engage with them to find out what they wanted to see in the paid platform.  We take fan feedback very seriously and it will not be wrong to say that most of our new product innovations come as a result of direct inputs given by our fans.

We are aware that there are other players in the Indian fantasy space – this is great since it signals that the Indian fan is seeing Fantasy sports a viable entertainment platform.  The Indian market is huge and has a lot of space for many good players.  And most importantly, the quality of work we do will finally determine our success.

Q. Fantain has received funding and backing from BookMyShow. Can you tell us more about the investment round and how has the association and partnership with BookMyShow helped you?

AR: We received our first investment from BookMyShow in early 2016 and our relationship has grown significantly since then. BookMyShow are the leaders in the Indian B2C space and their understanding of the Indian consumer is excellent.  They have helped us move into the B2C space from our earlier B2B focused initiatives.  BookMyShow sees us as company that can add long term value to the Indian sports fan – and that is important for them, given that sports is a key focus area for them.  We are also constantly looking for ways to leverage the enormous customer base and trust they have built in India.

Q. Are there any innovative formats or versions that you have introduced to separate your product from the rest? How do you see the fantasy gaming industry moving forward?

AR: A core operating philosophy for us is to serve the knowledgeable sports fan in India and to enhance the knowledge of fans on our platform.   You will see this recurring theme in everything we do – from the design language to the data that is served up to fans.  We see this as a major area of innovation for us.

In addition to the single game fantasy that you see on the platform, we will be launching tournament fantasy and draft fantasy formats in the future.  We also believe that technology in itself is a big differentiator.  Our app provides real time fantasy leaderboard to the players something that many platforms don’t offer today.  We are the first to launch blockchain enabled fantasy platform in India so all participants are assured about our platform’s transparency and consistency. As the fantasy space grows and consolidates, we see trust, transparency and great customer service as the key tenets to running a great fantasy company and we believe we are leading the industry in that front.

Q. You are a part of Indian Federation for Sports Gaming (IFSG) which is trying to bring about a self-regulatory framework and common platform for all operators. How do you think initiatives like IFSG help and what is the road ahead in terms of the agenda of IFSG?

AR: We are part of this body because we think IFSG has a very important role to play in the growth of fantasy sports in India.  In addition to self-regulation, we see IFSG championing the cause of sports fans and protecting their interests as well.  Fantasy sports is a relatively new industry in India and a lot of effort has to be made to build this industry on the right principles.


IFSG hosts ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ event, Dream11 foundation donates Rs. 3 crores for emerging athletes

Fantasy sports lobby group the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) launched its athlete support programme ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ at the Trident Hotel in Mumbai yesterday. The programme, created with an aim to identify and support India’s future sporting talent.

Thirteen young athletes from various sports such as sailing, swimming, tennis and squash were selected at the event and will be provided financial assistance and other infrastructural support by IFSG along with GoSports Foundation.

Dream11 Foundation (the CSR arm of fantasy sports website Dream11) pledged Rs. 3 crores for the programme and handed over a cheque to IFSG President John Loffhagen at the event.

Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and award-winning boxer Mary Kom; Principal Secretary to  the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Bhushan Gagrani; cricket historian Boria Majumdar; Dream11 CEO Harsh Jain and others participated in the panel discussion on ‘Is India on its way to becoming a sporting powerhouse?’ at the event.

Commenting on the initiative, IFSG President John Loffhagen said, “Inspired by the Indian Sports Ministry’s efforts and initiatives, IFSG wants to facilitate and contribute towards building India as a great sporting nation. Being a part of the sports ecosystem, we feel it is our responsibility to enable the overall growth of sports and provide specific support to deserving athletes at an individual level.”

Harsh Jain, CEO of Dream11 added, “We are proud to support IFSG’s Stars of Tomorrow initiative as it resonates with our Foundation’s objective of contributing towards building India as an even greater sporting nation.”

Felicitating the athletes selected in the Stars of Tomorrow event, boxer Mary Kom added, “I am happy to be associated with IFSG’s initiative as I feel that for India to truly become a sporting nation and be seen as a strong contender in the international arena, support needs to be given not only for team sports but also to individual sports. IFSG’s Stars of Tomorrow is another welcome step towards achieving national goals.”