[Product Roadmap] How gaming startup Playerzpot evolved from an app that crashed during IPL 2018 to touch 5M users

In this week’s Product Roadmap, we feature Playerzpot, a peer-to-peer gaming startup that originated in a Navi Mumbai garage and drew small-town users amid the pandemic. It has now gone beyond fantasy cricket, and has more than 5 million users.
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When software professionals Yogesh Doiphode and Mitesh Gangar wanted to start up, they wanted to begin in a space they were passionate about. That’s why they decided to build India’s best fantasy sports platform and launched Playerzpot in 2015 from a small garage in Airoli, Navi Mumbai. 

“In 2015, we observed a gap between the real world and how sports fantasy is perceived or played in India,” Mitesh says. 

In a cricket-friendly nation like India where sports content is consumed daily, the duo felt daily fantasy sports were the best fit. They manoeuvred the initial financial obstacles of starting up from a garage by providing IT services and using those revenues to build their fantasy website.

Mitesh Gangar, Co-founder, Playerzpot

The IPL break 

The first version of their product, launched in April 2016, was web-based. The duo conferred with friends and relatives, who advised them one thing: to launch a mobile-friendly website. 

The first android app was launched in April 2018, but the system failed to support users on first day of IPL 2018 due to unexpected traffic. 

We took problems such as these as learning opportunities and course-corrected our strategies to innovate and adapt. Taking a user-first approach, we started solving problems of users and defining industry with concepts like ‘Refer & Earn’, instant withdrawals, private game, etc,” Mitesh says. 

Since then, the platform has continued to add more unique features and build credibility, and today enjoys a strong foothold in the market. In six years, Playerzpot has touched a user base of over five million users and has been profitable since the year of inception. 

“Our approach has always been to bring in new innovations and ideas that can fill gaps or ease the customer experience,” Mitesh says. 

Focus on the fantasy model 

PlayerzPot works on a peer-to-peer gaming model. Users can use their mobile sets to showcase their skills and earn rewards in return. 

The mobile gaming segment saw exponential growth with the advent of technology, cheap data, and mobile phones. 

“Coupled with all these growth factors, we decided to shift the passive match-watching audience to an active, interactive one through our fantasy model. We aim to create a hub for users who want to showcase their skills and cricketing knowledge,” Mitesh says. 

The initial days were challenging for the fantasy gaming startup, which was completely bootstrapped, and the team worked hard to come up with a product that would help create a customer-centric platform. This helped them with initial traction.

Mitesh explains they created a platform and as they had “limited budget for marketing”, they decided to “base it on the referral programme, which was the first of its kind in the industry”.

In terms of user base, Playerzpot claims to have grown more than 100 percent each year. 

Image and Data credit: Playerzpot

Starting with cricket 

In the initial years, Playerzpot focused on cricket as it was the primary sport in India. The platform started working on addressing market gaps and user problems in the initial year itself. 

Even though they took an “industry-first approach”, the tech was adopted by everyone and the team started looking at other popular sports such as football and kabaddi. 

“The pandemic opened our eyes and we started looking for ways to sustain our user base. That's when we started contemplating adding casual games,” Mitesh says. 

As the user base increased and with constant feedback, the team began offering new sports. 

"Currently, we have nine sports on our platform. We launched casual games with a vision to become a one-point gaming destination. We have successfully launched seven casual games in less than eight months and are on the right growth path,” Mitesh says. 

Once the MVP was in place, the team started “working on the ancillaries for user retention and experience”. 

The current Playerzpot application sees two million MAUs and has close to 40 percent active users - far higher than the industry standard. 

Sunil Yadav, CEO, Playerzpot, says the team is at present working on scalability and adding new games. “We have grown from a small team of 10 people to 100 people. We plan to have around 150 employees by the end of March 2022.” 

Focus on innovation 

Mitesh feels that the team’s focus on scaling the product helped immensely. He adds they always wanted to be innovative but “had to drop this ideology from time to time to work on scaling the product”. 

“The balance between product innovation and product scalability has always been a hurdle, one that we believe will remain. Till date, we delayed our product innovation strategy and didn’t drop anything that has been executed,” he says. 

Sunil adds that their customer support team helps identify and document user problems for the product team. 

Ahead of IPL 2018, PlayerzPot launched referrals, which went on to become a “game-changer”, according to the founders.

Every time a user signed up, they received a referral code they could pass on to others. When a new user signed up using that code, both parties received bonus cash in their accounts, and this cycle continued. Over time, this ensured organic growth. 

Image and Data credit: Playerzpot

The lessons 

“During IPL 2018 we had launched our Android app and did not anticipate the surge in traffic. Our system crashed on the first day of IPL. We regrouped as a team and made necessary adjustments to stablilise the system. This incident made us realise the importance of scalability. Since 2018, we have realised what it takes to build a scalable product,” Sunil says. 

One of the features they added after user feedback was instant withdrawals, which let users link their Paytm or bank accounts with PlayerzPot and pocket cash winnings within few seconds as opposed to waiting for days. 

“This was a welcome addition. We looked at customer complaints and worked on fixes. We also wanted to build a fair platform that did not discriminate based on the user’s ticket size,” Sunil says. 

This pandemic has served as an opportunity in the form of time “to consider future plans and conceive new avenues to engage our active userbase”. 

The team started skill-based casual games with real money – this enhanced engagement and helped retain users on the PlayerzPot platform in the absence of real-life events. This opportunity helped “re-construct the PlayerzPot vision”. 

The global online gaming market, which earned $62 billion in 2020, is expected to be at $300 billion by 2026. The market share is evenly split between US and China at 24 percent each, Asia-Pacific minus China at 23 percent, Europe, Middle East, and Africa at 23 percent, and the rest split between Latin America (4 percent) and Canada (2 percent).

 The Indian startup scene has truly come alive in the past couple of years with multiple gaming platforms that have attracted investments of $1 billion valuations at $7 billion. Post the Nazara IPO, there has been a significant growth of gaming startups. 

Playerzpot is bullish about the future. 

“This year, we are anticipating a growth of 3X in user base and 5X in revenue. With new games and diversification of our Real Money Gaming portfolio, we want to meet the Gen Z target audience. We launched Rummy on our platform recently (in June 2021) and will be adding Poker by September 2021. We will also be adding few more causal games in our portfolio,” Sunil says. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai