Meet Edisn.ai, the Indian sports tech startup stepping up the game globally with fan engagement
Sport is big business, and fan engagement is changing the game in the digital world. This has led to a spurt in the growth of the sports technology market and sports tech startups. In February, one Indian startup was selected to showcase its product to the NBA. Founded in September 2018 sports management veteran Ashok Karanth, Edisn.ai is an artificial intelligence (AI) powered fan engagement platform with state-of-the-art player recognition and contextual content delivery.
How does it work? The platform essentially allows broadcasters to engage their fans with information. Say, for example, cricketer Ravindra Jadeja is on the ground and fielding. The AI captures his fielding movements and is able to tell the viewer how every run saved could be crucial for the team. By delivering contextual content from past data, the broadcaster can engage fans keen to know what happens with every run saved.
Watch the founders explain more in this interview with YourStory:
“We are a player recognition and contextual content recognition platform. We give insights to broadcasters about their fans and we help them engage with them,” says Ashok Karanth, Co-founder of Edisn.ai, the first AI platform from India to have had a first full-fledged demo in the US for athletes and brands.
On the ball
An “out-and-out sports enthusiast”, Ashok completed a course in engineering from NIT-Suratkal in Karnataka. In 1996, he went on to work in marketing in a technology company called Microland. However, he decided to pursue an MBA from IIM –Calcutta in 1999, after which he moved on to a pharma company, followed by a consulting company.
“I liked sports so I decided to switch to sports management. I applied for a job in 2004 and started my journey with a lot of heart. At the time, it was not about the money, but about working with great sports people, especially cricketers,” Ashok says.
He went on to head an MNC sports management company Frontiers Group, and later headed Bengaluru-based Springboard Sports. These sports marketing companies managed upcoming talent and superstars. Ashok’s work in the sports arena also led him to Spoment, a global sports and media company, and Sportytrip, which managed fan engagement. That’s when the idea of turning entrepreneur came to him in 2016.
“I had worked with sports stars and brands for so long that I realised that fan engagement could become personal with the growth of mobile. Remember, not all fans make it to the stadium but everyone is consuming content on mobile. Fan engagement has reached another level,” Ashok says.
He invested Rs 1 crore to start up Bengaluru-based Edisn.ai, and has an eight-member team at present.
On top of the game
MarketsandMarkets estimated the overall sports technology market to be worth $8.9 billion in 2018 and said it would rise to $31.1 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 20.63 percent. The growth drivers include “significant improvement in audience engagement, growing demand for data-driven decisions and operations, and increasing sports events, online and offline”.
Sports engagement is big business for brands, with everyone who is watching a broadcast being a potential customer. So how does Edisn.ai help broadcasters stay on top of their game?
The Edisn.ai technology plugs into apps; during broadcast, the AI recognises players and begins to engage the audience to set the field for merchandising and brand building. It delivers contextual content on recognised players, enables users to share videos and interact with their friends on social networks without leaving the screen, and even helps with tickets for live games and merchandise.
The AI tech recognises images and video, and is able to pinpoint moves of players and recognise them as they pass or field the ball. This leads to continuous engagement, which is critical. Edisn.ai’s CTO Akshay Chandrashekar is building these real-time engagement algorithms and is also the co-founder.
Off to a flying start
As of now, the company has six customers and more than seven clients running Proof of Concepts (POCs). It is powering fan engagement for a leading “sports broadcaster” in Asia for their cricket and football engagement for fans who use mobile. They also are working with an IPL team, an Australian esports team and an American football team.
“This will be rolled out to millions of users for their live cricket and football content,” Ashok says.
The company is also working with an Olympic sports federation business in Europe, and an e-sports company.
Ashok is expecting to convert pilots to commercial contracts and raise money by the end of the year. Some of its pilots are global and the company hopes to add more clients.
The MarketsandMarkets report says North America and Europe comprise 70 percent of the market.
According to Forbes, the sports market in North America is $73.5 billion. However, internet and cloud technology penetration, the emergence of professional leagues, and digitalisation of sports are driving the adoption of sports technology in APAC.
“India, China, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are home to major sports leagues and active participants in sports such as cricket, hockey, badminton, athletics, and e-sports. The continuous growth in internet adoption, social media analytics, cloud computing, IoT, and smart devices is the major technological growth prospect in the region,” the report says.
A whole new ball game
The future in India is bright with IPL, Kabaddi League, and Football League continuing to rise in popularity. The total number of smart phones in India will be more than 300 million, according to Gartner, and with the rise of Reliance Jio data consumption will only increase.
That said, Edisn.ai wants a piece of the global pie. It needs to make a mark in a market with global startups like FloSports, Sports Innovation Lab, RightEye, and Rooter. It functions much like Rooter, which engages fans on social media during a broadcast, has had 12 million fan conversations, and was selected to LEAD, a sports accelerator in Berlin.
But Edisn’s business model is still evolving. It has a technology component for which broadcasters and brands pay. It can also be paid for the number of fan engagements. However, the business model of the eight-month-old company is still under wraps. It seems safe to say its tech will make it a valuable business to broadcasters and funds once revenues start kicking in.
The founder is sure of one thing. “We have to go global because that’s where the brands and marketing dollars are,” Ashok says.
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