Nazara invests Rs. 7.5 crores in Qunami, acquires majority stake

Online gaming and content company Nazara Technologies Limited has announced that it has invested Rs. 7.5 crores in Sports Unity Private Limited, the Delhi-based company that operates real money multiplayer quizzing app Qunami.

Apart from Nazara, Vaibhav Gaggar, a Delhi-based lawyer and managing partner of law firm Gaggar & Partners also participated in the investment round.

Qunami has over 3 lakh downloads and 40,000 monthly users playing up to 30 minutes per day and has crossed over 1 crore transactions.

The news about Nazara investing around Rs. 7 crores in Sports Unity, apart from making investments in Sportskeeda and Halaplay was first reported by Inc42 in July 2019.

With this investment, Nazara has acquired majority stake in Qunami. The company stated that is investment in the quizzing company is a strategic move in addition to Nazara’s investments and diversified presence in various areas of gaming including esports, fantasy sports, digital cricket gaming, real money gaming and infotainment among others.

Commenting on the development, Seemant Shankar, co-founder of Qunami noted, “Quizzing attracts audiences of all demographies and possesses a massive potential to scale. Nazara, a partner with a rock-solid reputation and international spread and carrier association within 118 countries creates the key alignment to Qunami’s vision of global expansion and opportunity to skyrocket Qunami’s success metrics.”

Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Technologies Ltd. added, “We at Nazara are very excited with the quizzing space and are confident that Qunami will leverage Nazara’s network to grow into a large consumer centric internet brand and build quizzing as one of the leading real money gaming categories in the emerging markets.”


Feature: Nostragamus CEO Yashashvi Takallapalli discusses growth in prediction-based fantasy gaming

Around two years ago, IIT Madras and IIM Calcutta graduate Yashashvi Takallapalli along with his three other friends decided to start Nostragamus, a new and untested version of fantasy sports, that was different from draft-based fantasy.

In less than three years, Takallapalli and his team have turned Nostragamus into the biggest prediction gaming app in the country, with over 5 million registered users and a loyal user base.

In this exclusive interview, Takallapalli shares details about Nostragamus and its plans as well as the scope for growth in the competitive fantasy sports industry in India.

Full interview:

Q. You initially started an online sports news portal Sportscafe and later launched a unique fantasy game, Nostragamus. Can you tell us, why you decided to start such as game and also tell us more about Nostragamus and how it is different from other fantasy game formats?

Yashashvi Takallapalli (YT): Gambit Sports (the parent company of Nostragamus) has been the culmination of our love for Sports and our flair for providing something different and spectacular to the Indian Sports audience.

I started Sportscafe with a duty to provide engaging content, all centered around Indian Sports.  The idea for Nostragamus, on the other hand, was born when we decided to offer not just content but an experience to the Indian Sports Fan – a comprehensive Sports experience complete with content, knowledge, thrill, money, adventure and journey/progress, all in the form of a game.

Nostragamus is unique because it fundamentally plays to the sensibilities of the Indian sports audience. One thing that is common to all levels of sports followers, right from the casual watcher to the hardcore fan, is that they have their opinions on sport. We are tapping into those opinions with a simplified format. Keep in mind, that opinions are just not about which players will perform better, but also about who wins, who progresses to the next round, who makes a century, which Dhoni will turn up – the one that finishes matches with helicopter shots, or the one that taps away for singles. That’s the fun of the game.

Q. Could you share more details on the game’s features and offerings? Also, can you tell us about the response you have received so far and some metrics such as registered users, revenues and active users?

YT: Like I said before, Nostragamus offers both sports predictions and draft (the traditional fantasy sport model) in multiple languages. Even in Sports Predictions, the users have historical statistics to make informed decisions, there are options which eliminate randomness, thereby making it all exciting.

The response, to summarize has been phenomenal. We started off being a nobody, and now we are here, we have an overall user base of over 5 million and are now amongst the fastest growing apps offering fantasy products, adding around 1 million users every month.

Our active user base is also well above industry metrics, we have a very sticky, loyal base.

Q. There are orders of the Punjab & Haryana and Bombay High Courts in the context of daily fantasy sports being a game of skill and completely legal. However, Nostragamus offers a format that is different from the conventional daily fantasy sports formats. Do you believe Nostragamus is a game of skill as well, and if so why?

YT: Completely. Firstly, the format, which we call as predictions base fantasy, has been analysed by leading law firms in India who have studied the ruling, our game format, and concluded that we are also a game of skill given the points mentioned in the judgement. We have gone a step further: American courts had outlined clear, mathematical rules that qualify a game as a game of skill. We had our game evaluated by statisticians, who then concurred that our user statistical data abide by those rules as well.

Also, we are now offering the conventional draft fantasy format on NostraGamus too!

Q. The fantasy sports space is extremely competitive with lot of operators vying for space and market share. How does Nostragamus plan to engage with users and gain traction with others in this competitive sector?

YT: I think it is a space with so much potential for growth. Today, they are 60 million fantasy sports users, we expect that to rise to 200 million+ in the next five years. But that growth will be stunted if fantasy sports games do not retain users well. Our objective is to deliver a game that is exciting for all kinds of sports fans. And trust me, there are many different types. We constantly ask ourselves 2 questions:

1) can we entice our players to play even when there’s no sporting action

2) can we entice the avg cricket player to enjoy football, or vice versa

The company that answers these 2 questions will be the premier fantasy sports company worldwide.

Q. Finally, can you share some plans on your strategy for the future and how you plan to sustain in the coming days?

YT: We are expanding rapidly, not just with users but also with our employees and think tank. Our team has a bunch of talented, driven folks who make possibilities reality.

My vision is to introduce real-money fantasy gaming as a sustained gaming option to every type of sports fan in the country.

While I can’t reveal the exact contours of the strategy, I can say that understanding the addressable market and their needs, providing for them through a bouquet of in-game offerings is the key to making this a reality. We are, at heart, a tech & product gaming company, and we will make it impossible for a player to stop playing the game.

Business Gaming

Ability Games acquires stake in game development company Yudiz

Kolkata-based Ability Games Private Limited, which operates fantasy sports website 11Wickets, real money poker portal PokerLion and sports news portal, has announced that it has acquired an undisclosed stake in Ahmedabad-based IT company Yudiz Solutions Private Limited.

Yudiz Solutions has a team of 220 people and developers, and provides various services such as game development (including Virtual Reality Games), mobile and app development, web designing and branding etc. The company boasts of various clients such as Nestle, Network18 and Groupon.

Commenting on the acquisition, Navneet Makharia, CEO of Ability Games noted, “This is a strategic acquisition on part of Ability Games, keeping in view the future growth prospect of the company. We will now be covering various line of products in real money gaming, play money gaming and various sports information. Now all our products will be developed in-house and we will work on 100% proprietary software.”

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Andhra Pradesh MLA calls for banning online rummy

After Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s assertion last month about banning online rummy in Andhra Pradesh, an MLA belonging to the ruling YSR Congress Party raised the issue of online rummy and its perils in the ongoing session of the legislative assembly of the state.

Malladi Vishnu, a YSR Congress Party MLA while speaking in the house mentioned that many families are being disturbed due to online rummy and that he was receiving requests from various people to bring a strict law against online gambling and rummy.

He further urged the government to seriously consider strict action against online rummy websites.

The speaker presiding over the legislative assembly called upon the concerned minister to reply to Vishnu’s suggestion. Since the minister concerned, i.e. the Home Minister was not present in the House, the Deputy Chief Minister responded saying he had noted down the request made by Vishnu.

Last month, it was reported that the state’s Minister for Tourism, Culture and Youth Advancement, Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao alias Avanthi Srinivas had raised the issue of online rummy and gaming spoiling the lives of many educated as well as unemployed youth and demanded a ban on online rummy, at a conference of District Collectors and Superintendents of Police in the presence of Chief Minister Reddy.

On being told by the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) that, at present, Andhra Pradesh does not have any specific legislation against online rummy, Reddy reportedly stated that the state government will soon introduce a new law to ban online rummy.


Three professional players win MPL Chess Mahayudh

Three professional chess players won the top three positions in Mobile Premier League’s recently concluded MPL Chess Mahayudh, that saw participation of over 90,000 players and a total prize pool of Rs. 11 lakhs.

18-year old Coimbatore-based chess prodigy VS Rathanvel was declared the winner of the chess mahayudh on the night of 21st July, and has been given a cash prize of Rs. 5 lakhs.

Rathanvel secured 253 wins out of 265 matches that he competed in over a 12 hour period. On his way to the top, he defeated grandmaster Ankit Rajpara, from Gujarat, who won 241 games.

Rajpara secured the second position and a cash reward of Rs.50,000, while defeating another young FIDE Master, from Ahmednagar, Suyog Wagh. Wagh had 238 wins and finished a mere three points away from Ankit Rajpara.

The chess mahayudh, touted as India’s biggest digital chess event had got an endorsement from India’s most recognised chess player, Viswanathan Anand, who was the tournament’s official ambassador. The tournament garnered over 3 lakh registrations and saw 90,000 players competing on the tournament day, with over 1.2 million games of chess being played over a 12 hour period.

 “For a 10 month old start up to host a Grandmaster, 2 FIDE Masters and another 90,000 players is no small feat! It was an absolute honour for us to have them play MPL and we thank them for their trust. The future of digital sports is on the mobile phone and we are happy to bring chess on our platform.”, said Sai Srinivas Kiran G, co-founder and CEO of MPL.

“I am delighted beyond words about winning MPL Chess Mahayudh. This was an incredible gaming experience and I loved the challenges posed by different players across the country. Playing chess for 12 hours straight is exhausting but I am happy I was able to maintain the momentum! I am looking forward to the next chess tournament organized by MPL,” said V.S. Rathanvel, on winning the competition. He leaves for international chess tournaments later next month and plans to use his winnings to further pursue his professional chess career.

Commenting on the tournament, second place winner Ankit Rajpara said “I played over 250 games, and I did not face a single technical issue or glitch. This has never happened before in my experience. The fairness ensured by MPL bodes well for the growth of chess in the digital era.”

Legal & Regulatory

Bombay HC rules fantasy sports to be a game of skill, approves Dream11’s format and manner of payment of GST

A division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Justices Bharati H. Dangre and Ranjit More in a recent Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Gurdeep Singh Sachar, ruled that the daily fantasy sports games offered by Dream11 depends upon the user’s skill and judgment and is undoubtedly a game of skill.

The PIL was filed by Sachar, a Mumbai-based resident, who claimed that fantasy games are luring people to play games of chance through their hard earned money and are amount to different forms of gambling.

Sachar further contended that Dream11 was allegedly evading Goods & Services Tax (GST) by violating Rule 31A of the Central GST Rules and not paying 28% GST on the total value of deposits.

The court in its judgment dated 30th April, 2019 rejected both the contentions made by Singh.

In its order in Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India & Others, Justice Ranjit More, speaking on behalf of the bench noted that the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its 2017 order of Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh has already held, after detailed examination, that activities conducted by Dream11 do not amount to gambling.

The court also referred to the fact that Gumber filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which was dismissed.

The order further mentions that the Supreme Court order of Dr. KR Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu & Another, which held that games involving a substantial degree of skill fall outside the definition of gaming and gambling, has been relied upon by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its 2017 order.

The Bombay High Court subsequently notes that the view it has taken is not different from the reasoning of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The court observed:

There is no merit in the submission that the result of their fantasy game/contest shall be considered as merely by chance or accident notwithstanding involvement of substantial skill. The petitioner claims that the result would depend largely on extraneous factors such as, who amongst the players actually play better in the real game on a particular day, which according to the petitioner would be a matter of chance, howsoever skillful a participant player in the online fantasy game may be. The petitioner has lost sight of the fact that the result of the fantasy game contest on the platform of respondent No.3, is not at all dependent on winning or losing of any particular team in the real world game. Thus, no betting or gambling is involved in their fantasy games. Their result is not dependent upon winning or losing of any particular team in real world on any given day.

On the issue of alleged GST evasion, the court noted that Rule31A of the Central GST rules applied only to ‘gambling’ or ‘betting’ services, where 28% GST is payable on the face value of the bets.

The court referred to Schedule III of the Central Goods and Services Act, 2017 which states that ‘actionable claims, other than lottery, gambling and betting’ are excluded from the scope of supply.

The court reasoned that the amounts pooled by the players for entering a contest in the escrow account of the company is an actionable claim that is to be distributed to the winning players and consequently can neither be considered as supply of goods or supply or services and is thus excluded from the definition of supply.

On the issue of rate at which the GST has to be charged, the court noted that under entry code 998439 (other online content n.e.c.), explanatory notes suggest that role-playing games, strategy games, action games, card games and children’s games etc. are covered under this category, which would also cover Dream11’s format and fantasy sports gaming, for which 18% GST is applicable.

The court in its concluding remarks while dismissing Sachar’s PIL observed:

It is seen that the entire case of the Petitioner is wholly untenable, misconceived and without any merit. It can be seen that success in Dream11’s fantasy sports depends upon user’s exercise of skill based on superior knowledge, judgment and attention, and the result thereof is not dependent on the winning or losing of a particular team in the real world game on any particular day. It is undoubtedly a game of skill and not a game of chance. The attempt to reopen the issues decided by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in respect of the same online gaming activities, which are backed by a judgment of the three judges bench of the Apex Court in K. R. Lakshmanan (supra), that too, after dismissal of SLP by the Apex Court is wholly misconceived.

Read more about betting and gambling laws in India.


Sourav Ganguly endorses fantasy sports website My11Circle

Former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly has joined online fantasy gaming website My11Circle as its brand ambassador, as per an announcement made by the company.

Promoted by PlayGames 24×7 Pvt. Ltd. (which operates one of the largest online rummy websites RummyCircle and social gaming portal Ultimate Games), My11Circle is one of the recent entrants in the already competitive fantasy sports market.

Commenting on the development, Ganguly noted in a press release, “I am very excited to be part of this fun game, especially because it is about cricket. Makes me feel involved in the game. I think the players on My11Circle will also enjoy the game thoroughly. Waiting for lots of action and lots of fun with players from all over the country,”

Avik Das Kanungo, Brand Head of Play Games24x7 said: “We are very lucky to have Sourav as part of the My11Circle family. This game is about cricketing knowledge, passion and decision making. The app is looking at scaling up their presence with Sourav Ganguly who took Indian cricket to new heights. Every player on our app is like a cricket captain and picks his / her own cricket team and everyone knows that Sourav is the best when it comes to this. I am confident that our players will also look forward to this exciting journey with Sourav on My11Circle.”

Saroj Panigrahi, Business Head My11Circle, said, “As a game of skill, My11Circle connects the cricket fan with a platform where they can exhibit their knowledge and expertise of the game. It is an opportunity for them to become a champion. Our campaign with Sourav Ganguly is true to our brand’s belief of not just celebrating the success of the matches but also about the fans, who together make cricket such an awesome game”.

Ganguly joins other former and current cricketing legends such as MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, VVS Laxman, Jonty Rhodes and Hardik Pandya in endorsing fantasy sports websites.

Launched in January this year, My11Circle states that it intends to change fantasy gaming experience for players by having various features such as live scores and updates and faster cash rewards.

Read more about online gambling and betting in India.