Affordable phones, free data and UPI system fuelled our growth, MPL co-founder says

MPL Co-Founder and CEO Sai Srinivas  

Recently, Mobile Premier League (MPL) joined India’s unicorn club after the gaming company raised Series E funding at a valuation of $2.3 billion.

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The latest round was led by Legatum Capital, and existing investors Sequoia, SIG, RTP Global, Go-Ventures, Moore Strategic Ventures, Play Ventures, Base Partners, Telstra Ventures, and Founders Circle Capital participated.

The esports and skill gaming platform has over 85 million users across India, Indonesia and the U.S. It employs over 800 personnel across Bengaluru, Pune, Jakarta, Singapore and New York.

Founded in September 2018 by Sai Srinivas and Shubham Malhotra, MPL aims to provide users platform to earn money by playing online games with players from across the globe.

The platform hosts over 70 games including sudoku, chess, and fantasy games, and users can enrol themselves in money tournaments and win cash rewards.

In an interview with The Hindu, Srinivas said most people like playing easy games. They first get introduced to the world of gaming with these games and then move their way up.

The duo built the product after running experimental gaming tournaments at home. After launching the product, they organised a large tournament and asked the company's staff to invite friends and family to participate. The seven-day event ended with one winner each day getting an all-expense paid trip.

“We saw that a lot of people were not playing for it [all-expense paid trip] but they were starting to play for the fun of it,” Sai Srinivas said. “That’s when we knew we had an incredible product in hand.”

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The company targeted a million games per day in three months, and went on to achieve that number in 4 days of launch.

MPL then partnered with other gaming studios and developers to publish their games. The platform launched Esports Arena and hosted games such as World Cricket Championship and others.

According to Srinivas, MPL succeeded since we had extremely affordable devices, practically free data due to Jio and a reliable payments system like UPI. All these things came together in 2017 and turned out to be a great ecosystem for digital start-ups to blossom.

“UPI is a gamechanger. We are there in multiple markets across the world and not one country comes close to India in terms of payments infrastructure that we developed,” Srinivas said.

UPI allowed people from across the country to pay any amount to anybody and a trustworthy payment gateway helped build people’s confidence.

Signing up Virat Kohli as its brand ambassador gave the platform a lift in 2019. After that, as pandemic induced shelter-at-home mandates gave more phone-based gaming time for people, gaming companies experienced a spurt in earnings.

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“We were one of the beneficiaries of the pandemic and pandemic helped us,” Srinivas said.

Since February 2020, a month before India went into lockdown, MPL has grown more than twice in terms of user base.

Now with the current funding, the company aims to expand to more geographies, invest in its home-grown technology, and drive continued growth in the Indian market. It wants to double down in the U.S.

Srinivas believes that to make our games industry big, the government must make rules that provide clarity to investors so more money can come into the ecosystem. This will help create jobs and build better products.

On making investments in China, Srinivas would "rather prefer going to other countries. It’s much more simpler and a more accessible market.”

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 5:04:44 AM |

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