Saroj Panigrahi of My11Circle on user-centricity, technology, and cricket’s popularity in smaller cities

Saroj Panigrahi, COO, Games24x7, discusses how My11Circle has been able to capture a substantial share of the fantasy gaming market and how the brand has grown over the years. He shares the platform’s marketing strategy, sheds light on the collaborations and reveals key statistics on the platform’s growth.

Harshal Thakur
New Update

The sports industry in India is snowballing at a nimble pace. In the past decade or so, especially after the advent of IPL in 2008, intra-national sporting leagues of football, hockey, badminton, and kabaddi have sprouted up and gained popularity. This has led to an overall boom in the way the sports industry functions. This growth has benefited and given rise to players around the sports across industries. 

The sports industry in India witnessed a remarkable surge in 2023, recording a total revenue of INR 15,766 Crores (approx. $1.9 billion USD), marking an 11% incremental value over the previous year. 87% of the sports industry spending came from cricket, amounting to INR 13,701 Cr for the year. 

Cricket’s standing as a sport in India and IPL’s stature as a league have had a combined effect on the sport’s popularity and pervasiveness across India. To tap into this growing audience and offer something more along with the passive viewing experience, fantasy gaming emerged as an avenue for fans to create teams, predict results, and engage in online communities. 

According to a 2022 report of NITI Aayog, fantasy sports was estimated to attract INR 10,000 crores foreign direct investment in India in the next few years. As per Deloitte's report in the same year, the Indian fantasy sport industry was worth INR 34,000 crore and had 13 crore users.

This growth is not limited to metro and tier I cities. On the contrary, it’s spreading more in smaller cities. According to a report by Redseer Strategy Consultants, the fantasy sports revolution is gaining momentum in tier 2 cities and beyond in 2024, with over 65% of revenue originating from these local internet economies. 

With multiple platforms crowding the fantasy gaming market, some have taken intriguing steps to target and harbour a larger user base. My11Circle has been one such platform. 

My11Cirlce partnered with IPL 2024 as its associate partner–a first-of-its-kind collaboration.  

Besides this significant partnership, the platform also launched a few noteworthy campaigns featuring some of the top cricketing stars from the IPL and team India. 

In an interview with Social Samosa, Saroj Panigrahi, COO, Games24x7, discusses how My11Circle has been able to capture a substantial share of the fantasy gaming market and how the brand has grown over the years. He shares the platform’s marketing strategy, sheds light on the collaborations and reveals key statistics on the platform’s growth.  

Edited excerpts:

What sort of growth has My11Circle witnessed in its five years of existence and what factors do you think can be attributed to this growth?

In the first five years of My11Circle, we have emerged as one of the leading players in the fantasy sports space in terms of users on the platform. Despite being a late entrant in the sector, My11Circle has taken giant strides visible in its strong user and revenue growth. This upward trajectory stands as a testament to our effort towards building an exceptional platform for fantasy sports enthusiasts, investments in our technology expertise, our ‘Science of Gaming’ philosophy as well as our strategic focus on brand building.

Keeping our users at the center of everything we do has been a crucial driver of our success. We continuously seek to understand our users better through advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. We deep dive into terabytes of player data, extracting valuable insights to understand our users and offer tailored gameplay experiences to meet their unique needs. This user-centric approach, combined with cutting-edge technology, enables us to deliver a seamless and engaging experience that resonates with our audience and fosters long-term loyalty.

How does My11Circle differentiate its marketing strategy from other fantasy sports platforms, especially during high-profile events like the IPL?

IPL is one of the biggest cricketing extravaganzas, and India’s love for cricket can be witnessed by its record-breaking viewership, which sees millions engaging with the tournament in just two months. The IPL season is a mainstay of our marketing calendar.

As the associate partner for TATA IPL 2024, My11Circle had strategically positioned itself to elevate the player experience and foster a deeper connection with cricket enthusiasts. We are also title sponsors of Lucknow SuperGiants and our association with the team has been very effective in leveraging the IPL season. Our campaigns are created and conceptualized keeping our audience in mind, which allows us to connect with them so well.

We understand that our users seek entertainment that aligns with their passion for cricket, and thus, we endeavor to be present where they are. Our partnership with IPL epitomises this commitment, offering users additional avenues to engage with the tournament and showcase their skills.

Our campaign for IPL 2024 had our brand ambassadors at the core and this prominent lineup of cricket heroes undoubtedly resonated with fans, further enriching their engagement with the sport.

Furthermore, our association with JioCinema added another layer of excitement to our marketing strategy. This strategic partnership not only facilitated seamless connectivity with consumers throughout IPL 2024 but also provided fans with an additional opportunity to engage with the tournament.

Can you elaborate on the specific marketing channels you utilised to reach your target audience during the IPL season?

At My11Circle, our marketing strategy for IPL 2024 entailed a comprehensive 360-degree approach aimed at maximizing reach and engagement with our target audience. We understand the importance of being available across various platforms to cater to the diverse preferences of our users. Therefore, our campaign prominently featured on TV through Star Sports, on OTT platforms like Jio Cinema, and on performance platforms such as Google, META, and their affiliates. Moreover, our partnerships with influencers further amplify our brand's presence, allowing us to connect with users on platforms where they are most active.

This is the first time that the IPL had a new fantasy sports platform as its associate partner i.e. My11Circle. How did this association come into fruition and how has it translated into results?

The Indian Premier League is a hotspot for fan engagement, and My11Circle is at the forefront! Our strategic partnership with the TATA IPL aims to enhance our brand presence and capitalize on the enthusiasm surrounding cricket in India. It's a top priority for our marketing efforts, with nearly half of our marketing spend focused on the IPL.

As the associate partner of TATA IPL 2024, the principal sponsor of Lucknow SuperGiants, and backed by a stellar roster of established and up-and-coming cricketing heroes as our brand ambassadors, we have positioned ourselves to amplify our presence and solidify My11Circle's position as the leader in the fantasy sports arena. Our association with the IPL is about more than just boosting our brand; it reflects our long-term vision. The proof is in the numbers! We saw over a 50% increase in teams created on My11Circle in the first two weeks of the IPL. We view this as a long-term commitment that will help us grow multifold and firmly establish our brand. This partnership provides us with a platform for sustained engagement with cricket fans, allowing us to continue to innovate and further strengthen our position as a trusted name in the fantasy sports landscape. 

What was the thought-process behind pairing Saurav Ganguly and Shubhman Gill in the initial campaigns? What kind of response have you received? What elements do you look for when selecting ambassadors? 

Our marketing and partnership strategies are rooted in a long-term vision aimed at fostering strong connections with our audience. We are proud to have cricket stars such as Saurav Ganguly, Shubman Gill, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rinku Singh, and Yashasvi Jaiswal as our brand ambassadors. Our roster of brand ambassadors represents a symbol of both cricketing excellence and youthful energy. 

These partnerships reflect our commitment to fostering a community where fans can fully immerse themselves in the game they love, blending skill with sheer excitement.

How did the ‘Science of Gaming’ philosophy come into being and what was the intention behind it? What changes in engagement have you witnessed with regards to it? 

At its heart, Games24x7 is a technology company fueled by a passion for gaming. It is this blend of passion and our scientific approach of running business - which has constantly inspired us to innovate, bringing the timeless appeal of the most loved classic games to technology-enabled digital formats. And while we have grown over the years, our passion and our operating ethos – ‘Science of Gaming’ has stayed constant.

The 'Science of Gaming' approach to running a gaming business, underscores the importance of objectivity and puts in focus three priorities of ‘user-centricity’, ‘goal-centricity’ and ‘why-centricity’. By investing heavily in automation and intelligence, we ensure that our operations are not only efficient but also deeply attuned to the preferences of our diverse user base. Through a commitment to "why-centricity," we foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, driving innovation at every turn. And with ‘goal-centricity’, we constantly push the boundaries to come up with creative solutions to achieve key business goals.

What constitutes your target audience? How do you segment your audience and how do you tailor your messaging accordingly?

My11Circle caters to a broad audience—anyone over the age of 18 years, with a passion for sports can enjoy the fantasy gaming experience on our platform. 

We understand that every user is unique. By leveraging data and user insights, we provide a hyper-personalized gameplay experience, ensuring a tailored journey for each user. Our commitment extends beyond attracting new users. We strive to keep our existing players engaged and excited about fantasy sports. By offering personalized gameplay experiences and user-centric initiatives, My11Circle is dedicated to fostering a community where every cricket enthusiast feels valued and empowered to participate in the excitement of IPL and beyond.

How did the recent campaign featuring giant larger-than-life versions of cricketers come into being? What was the thought behind it?

Our recent campaign titled "My11Circle pe ek crore toh bas shuruwaat hai, socho..kitni badi baat hai!" was all about creating excitement and making the cricket season even more thrilling for our users. Designed with our users at the forefront, the campaign sparks curiosity and elevates the thrill, encouraging them to delve deeper into the game, analyze player performances, and truly enrich their cricketing experience.

Building on larger-than-life avatars of our brand ambassadors, the campaign symbolizes My11Circle's maximized experience for players. The presence of these cricketing stars in our campaign brings an added layer of excitement and authenticity, embodying the passion and energy that define the spirit of cricket. This campaign provides a platform for cricket enthusiasts to apply their understanding of game strategies and player performance, transforming passive viewership into an interactive experience. By bringing fans closer to the sport they love, we aim to enhance their connection with cricket.

Can you provide insights into My11Circle's user demographics, including monthly active users (MAU) and the ratio of male to female consumers? Additionally, what trends or observations have emerged regarding the growth of female participation in fantasy sports on the platform?

My11Circle boasts a vibrant and active community of players hailing from nearly every corner of the country. Our user base spans across various demographics, showcasing the increased appeal of fantasy sports and the accessibility of our platform. There has been an upward trend that we have witnessed when it comes to participation of women in fantasy sports.

As evidenced halfway through the tournament, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra emerged as the regions with the highest number of winners on My11Circle, closely followed by Bihar, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. Jharkhand emerged as the biggest mover, witnessing 65% surge in mega winners, showcasing increased participation and cricketing passion.

Looking ahead, what are the growth strategies for My11Circle, in light of its association with the IPL and the broader trends shaping the fantasy sports industry?

As cricket remains a year-round passion for millions, major tournaments like the IPL and the T20 World Cup serve as catalysts for heightened user engagement. To capitalize on this enthusiasm, our focus lies in crafting unique experiences and tailored interactions that connect with cricket enthusiasts across diverse demographics. Through user-centric initiatives, technological advancements, and strategic partnerships, we aim to stay ahead of the curve in the dynamic landscape of the fantasy sports industry.

We prioritize our tech capabilities to deliver fantasy sports experience, constantly refining our platform with innovative gameplay and user-friendly interfaces. Our commitment extends to sustaining momentum by engaging our growing user base, harnessing data-driven user insights, and introducing strategic initiatives aimed at nurturing lasting user loyalty and engagement.

partnership strategies user-centricity IPL 2024 T20 World Cup 2024 fantasy gaming brand ambassadors My11Circle