When Boston University graduated Kush Desai returned to India in May 2019, fantastic game was a hot property. India had just received its first gaming unicorn in Dream11, the 12th season of the IPL was a resounding success, and online gaming was one of the fastest growing segments of the mainstream Internet.
Kush, who had “fallen in love with football” in an EPL match and a fantasy player since 2012, decided to start a sports game company.
In July 2019, with the first support of his father, he created NxGn Sports Interactive in Ahmedabad. Later, in September, the startup started building its flagship product –, a gaming platform for fantasy football.
In a cricket-mad country like India, where over 90% of fantasy players engage with alone a sport (cricket), the proposal for a “football-only” platform might come as a surprise. But Kush had conviction.
He says Your story,
“I’ve been playing fantasy football since grade 8 or 9, and I had an idea of what a platform should look like. The aim was to help develop the culture of football fans in India as the fantastic games resumed.
Founder-CEO of the Twelfth Man Kush Desai with Sunil Chhetri
After months of product development, Twelfth Man launched in April 2020, shortly after the coronavirus lockdown began, which has led to an online gaming boom.
The following month, NxGn roped the Indian soccer captain Sunil Chhetri like his brand ambassador, and since then there has been no turning back.
Actions of Founder-CEO Kush,
“One of the best decisions we made was to recruit Sunil Chhetri. When we think of Indian football, we think of him. He is the “Football Dhoni”. Brand ambassadors like him inspire confidence in users, who may be reluctant to access new applications involving real money.
“We have used him for brand development so far, but we plan to launch some activities with him in the coming months,” he adds.
Daily fantastic games in FIFA leagues
The twelfth man takes its name from a sporting term used to describe supporters of a sports team or club which create buzz and support in the stadiums.
The platform allows users to compete in a wide variety of daily fantastic games and leagues throughout the season, That is for free or by paying a small fee to participate in a prize pool. This entry fee is pocketed by the owner of the platform. He doesn’t take any other cuts.
The twelfth man also welcomes sport quizzes three times per week.
“During the lockdown, everyone was looking for new things to entertain themselves. The European leagues would not resume until June. Thus, we have introduced daily quizzes where they could test their knowledge of the sport and stay engaged, ”Kush shares.
Twelfth Man passed 650,000 downloads in app stores
If a player falls within a certain range in the leaderboard, he or she receives a portion of the prize pool as cash winnings. In addition, users can also benefit from non-monetary prizes like match tickets, sporting goods, etc.
Users will soon be able to choose from More than 100 world leagues recognized by FIFA (the governing body of football), starting with “tentpole” type events such as English Premier League (EPL), La Liga, Bundesliga, UEFA, Indian Super League (ISL), etc.
“We don’t offer any other sport; the focus is entirely on football. Besides the fantastic games, we are also working on live scoreboards, casual football related games and the content in the vertical, ”explains the founder.
User growth and future roadmap
Kush reveals that “word of mouth” has been one of the most important growth drivers for the twelfth man. “Users tend to play with their friends because they want to compete with them. This is how one attracts the other and so on, ”he explains.
Another factor driving user loyalty has been promo code.
“In India, fantastic gamers are used to playing for free or at discounted rates. So promo codes are always important for great apps, ”he adds.
Infographic: Design YS
The twelfth man claims to have witnessed a influx of new registrations after IPL, which ended in November. He organized more than 45,000 daily competitions, cross 650,000 application downloads, 300,000 player registrations, and 110,000 monthly active users (UAM).
“Our goal is to reach anywhere between 3-4.5 lakh MAU and 1 to 1.2 million user registrations by the end of the year, ”says the founder.
The boot started also plans to raise funds towards the end of 2021, after reaching a certain scale on some big budget football events this year.
The fantasy game landscape
The fantasy games industry in India has grown 9X from Rs 1,743 crore to Rs 16,467 crore over the past four years. Less than 10 operators in 2016, there are 140 fantastic gaming platforms today, according to a FIFS-KPMG report.
Twelfth Man is one of a handful of fantastic single sport gaming apps
Even though the twelfth man is one of the a handful of fantastic single sport platforms, it is in competition with large generalist operators offering football competitions as well as other sports. These included, , My11Circle, , , , , and many others.
Founder Kush, however, isn’t suspicious of it.
“Football is the the biggest sport in Europe and South America. Hopefully at some point we can get out of India. “
“We are also entering soccer entertainment content like YouTube shows, watch videos and podcasts, ”he adds.
In a growing global sports ecosystem rich in moolahs, this seems like an achievable “goal”.