By Joy Bhattacharjya
From rising internet penetration, and the availability of high-speed connectivity at low cost to the growing popularity of league-styled sports, there has been a multitude of factors that are responsible for the significant growth of fantasy sports in the country over the past decade. Offering sporting fans a platform to become active participants rather than just remaining passive viewers, fantasy sports have steadily taken root across the country.
According to ‘Fantasy Sports: Creating a virtuous cycle of sports development’, a report co-published by Deloitte and Federation Of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) in February 2022, India has become the largest fantasy sports market in the world with over 200 Indian operator companies, successfully surpassing the USA’s over 50-year-old fantasy sports market. Having a market size of over Rs 34,000 crore, the industry currently is catering to over 13 crore registered users in the country.
With the pandemic putting a halt to crowds at stadiums, and sports matches being conducted under stringent COVID protocols such as bio-bubbles among others, more sports fans turned to the virtual world for meaningful engagement with their favourite sports. The effect on fantasy sports was swift and steep during this time period. According to the aforesaid report published in February 2022, the industry base in India grew by over 20 lakh users between May and June 2021.
The report further projects the growth to continue in the next cycle, rising from INR 34,600 crore in FY21 to an estimated Rs 1,65,000 crore by FY25, clocking at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38%.
Fantasy sports have also been responsible for bringing about a steep rise in employment opportunities in the country. It is no longer just a recreational sector for sports viewers. It has, in fact, risen to the forefront of India’s sports technology industry.
The sector is already creating a base for future-ready jobs in India in sectors of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and analytics over and above the expansion of both. The sector has pumped $112 million into India’s fantasy sports platforms with numerous start-ups competing to attract the country’s 800 million sports viewers.
Apart from just attracting an FDI of over Rs 15,000 crore and a contribution of over Rs 24,300 crore in taxes to the Government in the next three years, fantasy sport is also expected to generate over 12,000 additional highly skilled jobs.
Currently, with the growth of fantasy sports, the Prime Minister’s vision of developing an aatma-nirbhar Bharat and growing the AVGC sector appears to be turning into reality. Its impact expands beyond the amount of revenue coming in, as it has also brought about the development of talent and resources in the tech sector. Some of the best software innovation is happening in India right now with scores of young talent from top institutes in India wanting to stay back to continue working in the Indian tech industry.
Fantasy sports platforms are offering a beguiling combination of high-level tech innovation and sports further solidifying India’s position as a tech superpower. With emerging challenges in the global tech landscape, the Indian fantasy sports industry can help channel talent and create cutting-edge products and technologies.
This further provides resources to be deployed for the grassroots development of sport, and improved sporting infrastructure, thereby completing a value chain that begins with increased and sustained development of sporting fandom in the country. Hence, fantasy sports are not only enabling the development of sports in the country but also emerging as a key contributor towards the growth of the Indian economy.
The author is the director- general of Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports.