Virat Kohli-backed e-gaming startup MPL nears unicorn status with latest $95 million funding

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February 4, 2021 2:29 PM

Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures led MPL's latest round while Base Partners, RTP Global, SIG, Go-Ventures, Telstra Ventures, Founders Circle, and Play Ventures also participated.

Online gaming, online sports industry, ofs, esportsVirat Kohli had invested in MPL in February 2019. The company became the BCCI’s official kit sponsor and merchandise partner in November 2020.

Virat Kohli-backed mobile gaming startup Mobile Premier League (MPL) has raised $95 million in Series D round of funding led by Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures. Base Partners, RTP Global, SIG, Go-Ventures, Telstra Ventures, Founders Circle, and Play Ventures also participated in the round, taking its total fundraising to $225.5 million. The investment also led to over 2X jump in its valuation from around $400 million in September 2020’s $90 million round. The latest valuation of MPL stood at $945 million, the company said on Thursday, taking it to the near unicorn status. Currently, Dream 11 is the only gaming unicorn in the country.

MPL said it has more than 60 million users in India and over 3.5 million users in Indonesia. The startup offers more than 50 games across categories and has worked with 28 game developers to publish their games on the platform. The latest investment will be deployed towards expanding its eSports portfolio and organising digital tournaments along with the company’s international expansion this year. MPL had organised the digital sports festival College Premier League in 2020, with Rs 1 crore in prizes and scholarships.

“The esports community in India is thriving, and we believe this is the perfect time to take Indian-made games to the world as well as help Indian gamers get recognized for their talent,” Sai Srinivas, Co-Founder, and CEO, MPL said in a statement. The startup had raised $500,000 last week from existing employees under its Employee Investment Plan, which saw participation from 10 percent of the company’s employees. Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli had invested in MPL in February 2019 even as the company became the BCCI’s official kit sponsor and merchandise partner in November 2020, The Indian Express had reported. Kohli was named as MPL’s brand ambassador in March 2019.

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Online gaming in India is governed by the Public Gambling Act (PGA) 1867 involving real money transactions. However, the segment has more or less remained in a legal quagmire for years now despite the gradual rise in the segment’s popularity and addiction among users. Delhi and Gujarat High Courts had in recent past directed state governments to reportedly consider public interest litigations (PIL) as representations to regulate online gambling, allegedly operating under the garb of gaming.

However, betting and gambling have been the state subjects in India, allowing the respective governments to enact their own laws for the same. “Differing state interpretations of online skill games make it difficult to build scale for businesses. Since its inception, AIGF has been at the forefront, working with relevant policymakers to demonstrate the skill aspect of the game and also economic benefits that accrue from the online skill gaming industry,” Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation had recently told Financial Express Online.

The digital gaming market in India is expected to grow from nearly $295 million in revenue in 2020 to $531 million by 2025 at a CAGR of 12.5 per cent along with user penetration growth from 8 per cent to 10.2 per cent, according to Statista. The growth so far has come on the back of booming smartphone sales, more disposable income, and affordable internet at a faster speed.

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