recently raised around $95 million. The round was led by Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures, with participation from Base Partners, RTP Global, Telstra Ventures, Founders Circle and others. Investors in the earlier rounds included Sequoia Capital and Times Internet, the publisher of
The eSports and mobile gaming focussed company boasts of 70 games on the platform and adds around 10 new games every quarter. Over a Zoom meeting Sai Srinivas, co-founder and chief executive officer of MPL, discusses the gaming business, consumer adoption, regulatory challenges and more. Edited excerpts:
How big is gaming in India? What is MPL’s focus?
Online gaming has the potential to become bigger than the entertainment industry. A recent FICCI-EY report states that the industry grew at 18% over the last year with 360 million gamers in India currently. This number is slated to go up to 500 million gamers by 2025.
We will contribute around a third of gamers globally. MPL’s focus is to create a platform that connects our indigenous games, developed by game developers across India to the large base of gamers in the country. Our vision is to take these games global, and host large scale tournaments on the same.
Gaming being an universal language, we are working backwards from creating an ‘Olympics of Esports’ where a German might compete against an Indonesian, against an Indian or an American in local `Made in India’ digital games.
How much are consumers spending on gaming and how do you see this changing in coming years?
The online gaming segment is expected to reach Rs 15,500 crore by 2023 at a CAGR of 27% according to the FICCI-EY report. We believe that good quality content will always be king. Further, large scale online gaming tournaments in games like chess, which MPL has conducted in the past, have shown us that Indian gamers like to compete if fairness and transparency are ensured.
How do you see the growth of digital sports?
We are in a world where more people have access to a mobile phone than to a cricket ground or a football. Digital sport is probably the most accessible format of competitive engagement that there ever has been. More people in India will be competing in esport than in cricket. That’s because of easier accessibility of smartphones.
Few years from now there will be a situation where an American can compete with an Indian who can compete with a German on their mobile phone, playing chess, pool or carrom, etc. In 2-3 years, online gaming will be much larger than the entertainment industry in India.
What are the regulatory challenges that gaming faces in India?
Online gaming suffers from a lack of differentiation from prohibited categories like gambling in India. While games of skill are exempted under the gambling laws of various states, there does not exist any uniform regulatory policy for such skill games which defines which are these games, what player protection measures must be installed in gaming platforms and uniform rules for large-scale digital tournaments.
Furthermore, the blurring of lines between digital sports and gambling by certain states has added to the confusion. At the end of the day, not all games are the same, and we must avoid painting everything with the same brush if we intend to further grow this sunrise sector.
Are you planning to go public?
We are just a 30-month-old company. An IPO is a huge event. We don’t have it on the horizon. If things work out and we are able to scale to the level we want to, then we will see.
How does a player ensure he or she is not playing against bots?
We do user KYC. If a bot is playing that means some code is running. To run it you need a phone running on a rooted device. Our app can’t run on a rooted device (a device where you have system-level permission). We don’t let our app run on these. We also have independent, third-party agencies certifying ‘no bots’.