This is a story of tradition, dreams, archery and entrepreneurship. Far in the North East of India, Meghalaya is a state one hears rarely about but when Ankur Priyadarshan pitched us a story about an archery game in Shillong, Meghalaya, it had us intrigued. Ankur is a Pune based entrepreneur who completed his MBA from NITIE in Mumbai before which he worked at an MNC as a technologist for a few years. A brush with the Meghalayan culture got him thinking and that is when he decided to build an online platform around Meghalaya's most popular game - Teer.
Traditionally called "Thoh Tim", Teer is a lottery game based on dreams and archery. The better a person can interpret dreams, the more are the chances of winning. There are multiple theories about interpreting dreams but at the core, the aim is to translate these dreams to numbers and bet on them. One can bet on a number with as low as INR 1 but still stand a chance to win upto INR 80.
"Each day, first at 4pm and then again at 4.30pm, groups of archers meet at the shooting ground for what must be the most unique lottery draw anywhere in the world. At each session, 20 archers from three different clubs line up to shoot their arrows at a target. So there are 60 archers in total. Once the word is given, they all fire in rapid succession in to the target. The officials then inspect and declare the results," describes one of the travellers (Mike Marlowe) on his blog.
The history of the sport dates back to early in the 20th century when clubs of various localities and villages in and around Shillong held a weekly archery contest. Over time, the competition evolved and took its present form only in the late 1950s when a unique system of adapting the results with the requirements of gambling emerged.
Legalised by the state government only in 1982, the sport now has an online presence as well and this is where Ankur Priyadarshan steps in again. Starting in October 2014, teercounter.com has everything a teer lover would need (except buying tickets). The website publishes results as soon as they are announced, has a prediction game, gives users detailed Analytics, a social network, online shopping and some more.
Teercounter currently gets about 1.4 lakh monthly unique visitors with an Alexa rank of 9500 in India. Landing on to the homepage at first seems as if you have hopped on to a screen with two columns displaying a couple of numbers and the rest of the screen has dummy icons and ads. But those dummy icons are actually links to go to other sections of the website. Teercounter is a very good case of functionality over form. For a teer gambler, this information is what matters and if s/he has a chance to browse what all is happening around the sport, design of the website doesn't seem to matter.
"We are a profitable company. Do you want me to remove ads for you to review it?" replied Ankur to my email query which asked that ads is all I see. Pretty confident of the offering, Teercounter might do pretty well if it sets up a process around this game and then replicates it to other local games as well. But for now, the progress is pretty impressive. Ankur is now working towards a way in which players can buy tickets online which will bring more users to the portal. There are other websites dedicated to teer as well and the government itself has contemplated on getting up a portal but Teercounter is the frontrunner at the moment. There are around 15 lakh teer players in Meghalaya and these online platforms are a great idea in this niche segment. It'll be interesting to see how teer is played a few years down the line.