Mumbai-based online fantasy sports platform Dream11, founded by two Indian entrepreneurs in 2008, has bagged title sponsorship rights for the much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL). Chinese smartphone company Vivo exited the space after four years, having had the title sponsorship rights since 2017 and a contract till 2022.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earlier this month decided to officially announce the suspension of the partnership with Vivo. The decision came amid border tensions with China that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers in Eastern Ladakh, triggering nationwide outrage.
Founded by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth, Dream11 has been a favourite of investors. In 2018, the company raised over $100 million in funding led by Chinese social media and video games giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. Besides Tencent, Kalaari Capital, Think Investments, Multiples Equity, and Steadview Capital are the marquee investors.
With activists calling for boycott of Chinese goods in view of the standoff, the Secretary-General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), Praveen Khandelwal questioned the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) decision.
Earlier, Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) Secretary Aditya Verma had said the development was against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative.
“As a well-wisher of Indian sports, I wish and pray that IPL 13 is held successfully in the UAE. However, with Dream11 becoming the title sponsor of IPL, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ will be dented as Dream11 has Chinese connection,” he said.
The BCCI believes that awarding Dream11 the IPL title rights would not raise much eyebrows as it is “essentially” an Indian startup with “single-digit Chinese investment.” They are set to receive around Rs 250 crore (approximately AUD $4 million) from Dream11 for the upcoming edition, which will be played in the UAE from 19 September to 10 November.
For Dream11, cricket is the most popular sport on its platform constituting approximately 85 per cent of its user base. With over eight crore users currently, it became the first Indian gaming company to enter the “Unicorn Club” in April 2019.