On Tuesday, the Indian gaming company, Dream 11 outbid biggies like Tata Sons, Unacademy and Byju’s to bag the sponsorship of Indian Premier League, 2020 with a bid of Rs. 222 crores. Dream 11 is India’s biggest gaming unicorn with 30 million-plus users playing fantasy cricket, football, kabaddi and basketball.
Founded in the year 2012 by two Indians, Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth, it is an online platform that allows Indian sports lovers to showcase their talent and expertise in various online games. It allows users to create virtual teams creating real-life players and then organise a game based on the statistical performances of those players in an actual game.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) undoubtedly, is one of the most-talked-about sports festivals in the world was postponed due to the global pandemic. The announcement made by BCCI regarding the starting of the same was warmly received by cricket fans globally with much enthusiasm.
The IPL 13 will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year with Dream 11 being the title sponsor. However, the company has been alleged to have Chinese connections since one of its major investors is a Chinese gaming giant, Tencent Holdings. The same company that owes a certain stake in PUBG.
Dream 11, besides bagging the title sponsorship rights has partnerships with seven IPL teams- Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab. Dream 11 on their website has listed the investors who have major shares in their company. Kalaari Capital, Steadview Capital, Multiples Alternate Asset Management Private Limited and Tencent Holdings. Among these, Steadview and Tencent are the most important ones. Kalaari Capital is a venture capital company based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Steadview is a leading alternative asset management firm and Multiples is a private equity firm that specializes in mid to late-stage equity investment. The fourth and most disputed one is Tencent Holdings.
Tencent Holdings was founded in 1998 in Shenzhen, China and is an internet-based platform company using technology to enrich the lives of users in various fields like entertainment, artificial intelligence and technology globally. Most strikingly, as a part of its Series D funding, the Mumbai-based company has received a whopping amount of $100 million from Tencent Holdings in 2018. In the same year, Dream 11 announced a partnership with ICC, Pro Kabaddi League, International Hockey Federation and also roped in the former Indian Cricket Captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni as its brand ambassador. The latest funding was raised on April 29, 2019, from a Secondary Market round. “Dream 11 stakeholders, including its founders plus all 400 plus employees are Indian,” a BCCI source was quoted saying by PTI.
With anti-China sentiments running through the Indian minds following the border skirmish between the two nuclear power at Galwan Valley, a call for the complete boycott of Chinese goods was repeatedly made at all levels. Prime Minister Modi’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ was a clarion call in this direction.
Amidst all these, the nexus between the two companies did not go well with Indians. “As a well-wisher of Indian sports, I wish and pray that IPL 13 is held successfully in the UAE. However, with Dream 11 becoming the title sponsor of IPL, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ will be a bit shattered as Dream 11 is a Chinese company. It has also come to fore that the company has a huge investment in one of the IPL franchises.” Secretary of Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) Aditya Verma was quoted as saying by IANS.
Notably, Tencent known for its popular messaging app WeChat has more than 10 investment in India, including Flipkart, Ola, Swiggy, Gaana and Byju’s Classes. Tencent was looking to step up its presence in India and nothing could have been better than the IPL. The company has plans to own at least a third of India’s gaming user base in two years.