In 2-3 years, 30-35% of global e-sports audience will come from India: Sai Srinivas, MPL

On first day of e4m Game On: Gaming Summit, exchange4media Chairman & Editor-in-Chief Dr. Annurag Batra spoke to Mobile Premier League (MPL) Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder Sai Srinivas

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Mar 19, 2021 9:05 AM  | 9 min read
gaming summit

The first day of e4m Game On: Gaming Summit, which kicked off on Thursday, saw an interesting conversation between exchange4media Group Chairman & Editor-in-Chief Dr. Annurag Batra and Mobile Premier League (MPL) Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder Sai Srinivas. The theme of the fireside chat was 'Indian Gaming Companies Going Global'.




How have the last 12 months been for you, both personally and professionally?


The last 12 months have been quite a roller-coaster. The gaming industry has leaped forward by a couple of years. On a personal front, it has not been easy to stay indoors for such a long time. But with the vaccine rolling out and more people getting vaccinated, hopefully, we can all get back to offices in full strength and take it from where we stopped.


Gaming has become a mainstream activity and is no longer a leisure activity. Give us a sense of where it is headed in the next 3-5 years?


Gaming has always been mainstream. It is just that now, thanks to the internet and mobile phone penetration, it is becoming more and more accessible. Also, gaming is the only format of content that does not have a language. You can't say that about any other format of content, be it movie, video, audio, or text. Gaming is a universal language and that is why it is so easy for anyone to pick it up. That is one of the reasons why gaming is growing so fast compared to other formats of content.

What's going to happen in a couple of years from now is that there is going to be a platform, whether it is MPL or someone else only time will tell, where massive global tournaments will be held. Take a simple game like chess. It is not far-fetched to think that one to one and half years from now, a player playing from New York can compete with a player from Sao Paulo or Delhi in India. There will be massive online tournaments where there are a million-odd people playing. Not only is the scale of this tournament immense, but imagine the situation where you and I play the quarter-final of the tournament and reasonably certain that a significant bunch of folks from across the world would also want to see the live broadcast of how the game between you and me is going on because a lot of people got eliminated. That is the future of e-sports. It is going to mobile-driven because most people can access computing only from mobile.

Of course, PC and console led the e-sport revolution, but as and when it gets into developing markets and gets into more people's hands, it is going to be mobile that is going to lead that revolution and that is the only way you are going to get competitive e-sports into the hands of 3-4 billion people across the world. That is how I look at the future. That 1 million is just a placeholder. These tournaments can be as high as 5 million, 10 million, or 12 million. The limitation is just to imagine it. Practically, everyone who understands chess can play a tournament of chess online using that milestone. If a similar tournament was to be held offline, it is impossible to accommodate even 10,000 people offline, and that's the beauty of online digital sports.


What is the potential you see for home-grown games?

Firstly, there are a lot of home-grown developers who have been doing pretty well. There are lots of home-grown developers who are making games for global audiences and who focus on making games for Western markets out of India. It is a different ball game that we have still not have or had a Triple-A level game come out of India. I think it is just a matter of time. The closest analogy I can think of is that to make a high-budget movie you need the market to grow. The domestic market has to grow. To make a high-budget movie, the person must be confident of breaking even on the investment. So as the market grows the appetite of local game developers will also grow and you will have large Triple-A level titles come out of India. But one thing is for certain which is that most Indian game developers or Indian games will be mobile-driven. I am not saying there won't be console or PC focussed games but almost 9 out of 10 developers are going to build the games for the mobile phone.


What role will Indian e-sports companies play on the global level?


The Indian e-sports companies should fundamentally define what e-sports means for our country. I fully acknowledge that Western countries have run e-sports on PCs and consoles but in our country, people who have PCs and consoles are very few. Denying the opportunity to 200-300 million people to participate in a competitive tournament just because they don't have a PC or a console is ridiculous. We, as a country, should enable the participation of larger audiences. Whoever has a mobile phone should be able to participate in competitive e-sports. In the next 2-3 years, 30-35% of the global e-sports audience will come from India just because of the sheer size of the country. If 30-35% of the consumption of any industry comes from one geography, then the onus is on that geography to increase participation and at the same time build out clear regulations that are inclusive for users.


What are the things marketers can do to leverage gaming?


The first thing that marketers can do to leverage gaming is actively participate in sponsoring or participating in large-scale e-sports tournaments. If you are going to run a tournament for a million and another million or two are going to watch that tournament, that is at least 2-3 million eyeballs glued to that tournament. That is a targeted communication because there is no better way to reach those folks than by sponsoring that tournament. The cost of sponsoring these tournaments is significantly lower because it doesn't involve a lot of physical infrastructures. It also becomes an easy way for marketers to target specific audiences. Different games have different kinds of audiences. Depending upon the kind of audiences that you want to reach out to you can pick and choose and sponsor that kind of tournament. The advantage of sponsoring e-sports tournaments is that you can reach out to male and female audiences through tournaments that are skewed towards them. Marketers should spend time and money understanding this space because marketers who do understand this space are going to get a significant headstart over other folks who will not spend time understanding it but then would want to understand it once it becomes fully mainstream.


Do you think gaming in Indian languages is the next big frontier because that will bring in a newer set of audiences that were never introduced to gaming?


More than languages, games build on Indian stories. If you look at Japan, there are so many games that have been built based on the stories that originated from that land. In India, we have so many stories to tell and every game is in a way telling a story. More than language, games that are built on stories that are familiar to Indian audiences will tend to do well. As more Indians come online, there will be studios that will focus on some of these games.


What kind of jobs will the gaming sector create?


Gaming and particularly e-sports, you will see that India and Indian platforms will be net exporters. This will help build a class of workforce that is focused on IP creation. India historically has been extremely good in services but the advantage of building this ecosystem is that it focuses a lot on IP creation. IPs like digital properties can be monetised again and again across the world. That creates a lot of value back for the Indian ecosystem. It is going to create a lot of jobs apart from the core aspects which everyone knows about like engineering, product management. It will add tremendous value to the trade ecosystem. Today, most storytellers are working in the film industry or related industries. Storytelling is one of the most difficult aspects of game development. Copywriting is also a critical aspect of game development. Most of the creative folks who work in the film or OTT industry will find relevant jobs in the gaming ecosystem. India has been good at creative work. A lot of work on these top-class Hollywood movies happens in India.


What are the two or three predictions that you are going to make for the Indian gaming industry?

Gaming in India will make more money than what Bollywood does or all the film industry does. That I am certain of. In any country, where gaming has become mainstream, it eventually makes more money than all the other entertainment sectors combined. It is true for matured economies like China and the US and India is headed in that direction. E-sports is going to be a part of the Asian Games and it is eventually going to be a part of the Olympics. India will be among the first three or four countries to win a lot of medals in Olympics as long as e-sports across the globe recognises that access to e-sports is the most important thing. If we provide access to our people and if 300 million are participating in a tournament, the person who is going to come on top is more or less going to be in the top 2 or 3 in the world. We must also ensure that people are provided access to the right kind of devices to increase the reach of the sport.

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Mark Zuckerberg announces new WhatsApp app for Windows

The app will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 3:25 PM   |   1 min read


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new WhatsApp app for Windows, which will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people - all from your desktop.

Making the announceemnt on Facebook, he wrote, “Launching a new WhatsApp desktop app for Windows. Now you can make E2E encrypted video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people.”

“The new Windows desktop app loads faster and is built with an interface familiar to WhatsApp and Windows users. You can host group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people. We’ll continue to increase these limits over time so you can always stay connected with friends, family and work colleagues.

Since introducing new multi-device capabilities, we’ve listened to feedback and made improvements including faster device linking and better syncing across devices, as well as new features such as link previews and stickers.

As we continue to increase the number of devices which support WhatsApp, we’ve just introduced a new WhatsApp beta experience for Android tablets. We’re also launching a new, faster app for Mac desktops that is currently in the early stages of beta,” he wrote further.

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MarTech can brilliantly answer the ROI question: Hareesh Tibrewala

The Joint CEO of Mirum India spoke to e4m Editor Naziya Alvi Rahman on a host of questions with respect to the India MarTech Report 2023 that will be unveiled at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit today

By Naziya Alvi Rahman | Mar 23, 2023 2:41 PM   |   1 min read


Hareesh Tibrewala spoke to e4m on a host of issues related to MarTech while delving deep into the India MarTech Report. He started by addressing the roadblocks in the implementation of MarTech in the country.

He also explained the point about MarTech explorers in terms of the sectors, which is invested in this marketing technique.

Tibrewala further spoke about how martech was critical in the role of a marketer and how it could be extremely significant for calculating ROI.

The conversation also veered toward the importance of MarTech in the cookie-less world and the advent of Web3.

Watch the entire conversation here.

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Google opens up access to Bard

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 1:07 PM   |   1 min read


Google has said that it is opening up access to Bard, the ChatGPT competitor, as per media reports.

The tech major will be expanding the access to Bard in more countries and languages.

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts.

Google unveiled Bard in February. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the soft launch of the AI to "trusted testers". 

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MarTech no longer only about marketing, it needs to drive sales: Mirum India report

The survey for the report shows 88% of respondents expect to increase spending on MarTech over the next 3 years

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 12:43 PM   |   2 min read


Mirum India, a Wunderman Thompson company, has put together a report on the emerging MarTech landscape in India.

The report captures how MarTech solutions are being utilized by brands to effectively communicate their brand messages to the right set of audiences at the right time.

The report highlights that while the global spend on MarTech solutions is around 25% of the total marketing budget, in India, majority organizations spend less than 15%, indicating significant potential for growth. With MarTech spending set to increase across company sizes and sectors, 88% of respondents expect to increase their MarTech spending over the next three years. The report also emphasizes the need for brands and organizations to work with growth partners as preferred by MarTech HEROES, focusing on ROI, and delivering value to the brands.

The report will be unveiled on March 24, 2023, at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit in Mumbai. The summit will see India's most reputed brands and top management coming under one roof to interact and share insights on their game-changing success stories.

Speaking on the report, Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO – Mirum India, said, "The estimated size of the MarTech industry in India is expected to be between $35bn and $50bn by 2026, presenting a sizeable opportunity for businesses. Our latest report highlights how brands are using MarTech solutions to effectively deliver the right brand message to the right customer at the right time, creating fabulous customer experiences and increasing brand loyalty. It is interesting to note that marketers globally spend 25% of their budgets on MarTech solutions, and our report shows the emergence of MarTech EXPLORERS, who are keen to leverage the power of MarTech. This presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to grow and thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape."

CVL Srinivas, Country Manager – WPP India said, "To succeed in the rapidly evolving tech and data driven world, organizations need good marketing automation tools and diverse skill sets. The report highlights the need for growth partners, preferred by MarTech HEROES, to ensure strong ROI for clients. It brings clarity to the ecosystem and presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to create fantastic customer experiences and increase brand loyalty. At WPP, we've invested heavily in building our tech and data practices, creating a comprehensive ecosystem where value is delivered at every touchpoint."

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Why contextual advertising is making a comeback

As part of e4m TechTalk, Dimpy Yadav, General Manager - Xaxis India, writes contextual advertising is re-emerging for delivering relevant & targeted messages to India’s audiences

By Dimpy Yadav | Mar 23, 2023 9:18 AM   |   4 min read


For years, contextual advertising has taken a back seat in favour of hyper-personalised behavioural targeting. But with tightening regulations and deepening concerns around data privacy, contextual advertising is reasserting its place within India’s marketing ecosystem. And it’s about time too.

Contextual advertisement placement is a proven marketing strategy that dates back to the very origins of the modern industry. In today’s digitised world, this tactic involves showing ads that are directly relevant to the content that a user is viewing or even to the user themselves. They can align contextually with anything from a web page to a geographic location or even the weather.

So why is contextual advertising making a comeback in India in 2023? And how can the nation’s marketers and agencies rise to this new digital challenge?

The right context

It’s been seven years since the Indian government launched its digital India campaign and the nation’s digital economy has grown at a phenomenal rate – 2.4 times faster than the overall economy between 2014 and 2019.

Meanwhile, smartphones have become more affordable, internet infrastructure has expanded, and data has become significantly cheaper. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the adoption of digital interactions has accelerated even further, with food deliveries, telemedicine, and online gaming surging in first-time usage.

For marketers, digital and mobile media have become more accessible and cost-effective mediums. This year, advertising spending on mobile is expected to comprise 78 per cent of India’s total digital media expenditure. According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending in India grew YoY by 35.9 per cent in 2021 and is forecasted to grow by 28.4 per cent in 2022

India’s digital explosion comes amid a tectonic shift away from the third-party data collection that marketers have relied on for years. Consumers have become more cautious about the data they share online while global regulations around data collection like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have constrained brands’ unfettered access to personal data. In this climate, contextual advertising, which leverages the content of the environment instead of the personal data of its visitors, serves as a privacy-friendly alternative.

A loyal audience

One of the key criticisms of social media over recent years is the potential to miss or misuse key contextual information. Although social media gives brands access to massive audiences, campaigns can easily fall flat if they aren’t executed in just the right context. Even the best creative cannot drive engagement when it appears in an irrelevant or inappropriate environment.

But that dependence on its environment is also one of contextual advertising’s greatest strengths. When utilized in partnership with established publications, it capitalizes on the built-in trust and loyalty that those outlets already enjoy with their audiences. When a receptive audience is combined with the modern capabilities of global scale, digital precision, and algorithmic efficiency, the results can be powerful.

Trust in context

Improvements in targeting capabilities and data analysis have also made it possible for advertisers to target audiences through keywords and topics as well as demographics and interests. Marketers can meanwhile be selective about the types of content they want their ads to run alongside, reserving their investments for audiences that are more likely to take an interest in their products and, therefore, more likely to engage with them. For these reasons, they can feel confident that their content will be well received and their investments will be profitable.

Still, marketing based on context may be a difficult transition for industry leaders who are more familiar and comfortable with behavioural targeting. But it’s hard to argue that the shift towards a contextual mindset will be anything short of necessary and more than likely fruitful. Recent research by Integral Ad Science (IAS) revealed that Indian consumers are more likely to positively receive and remember contextually relevant ads.

Last but not least, contextual advertising will aid marketers in the desired outcome from their campaign. According to a study conducted by IAS and personal computer manufacturer HP, purchase intent was 14 per cent higher among consumers who viewed the in-context ad. In addition, consumers reported a 5 per cent increase in positivity toward the HP brand after seeing an in-context ad

As third-party personal data is becoming less accessible, contextual advertising is growing more sophisticated, giving marketers the power to meet receptive audiences with relevant content. That’s a fundamentally sound path to success that benefits both brands and consumers alike.

Most significantly of all, it has the potential to transform digital media investments into real-world business outcomes. Although the value of premium publishing has always existed, marketers are now able to prove its success with clarity and maximum return on expenditure.

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Brands can be the real winners as gaming firms hit the jackpot with innovative games

Indian gaming firms received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years. This opens up huge opportunities for advertisers

By Kanchan Srivastava | Mar 23, 2023 8:55 AM   |   4 min read


The Indian gaming ecosystem, which boasts of more than 1,100 startups and a 40 crore-strong gaming communities, is thriving like never before.  With their unique offerings such as NFT-based games, fantasy sports, real-money games and cash prizes, home-grown firms have gained popularity across the globe. Over 86 Indian firms have received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years, including two unicorns and seven soonicorns, according to a latest report of the research firm Tracxn. 

Globally, gaming firms received $20.4B funds over the past five years. Of this, India’s share is roughly 6.8%. The United States (42.2%) Chinese (18.3%) firms got the lion’s share. 

Fantasy sports platform MPL ($150 million), which is a unicorn, is among top 10 funded companies globally over the last 2 years. Games24x7, another Unicorn from India, also received $75 million. 

Soonicorns like Zupee ($72 M), WinZO ($65 M), Hike (NFT gaming, $261 M), JetSynthesys, Octro, EloElo and Games2win also bagged the jackpot. Even four early stage startups-Bombay Play, One World Nation, Studio Sirah, Awon Gamez-have also managed to win their first rounds of funding over the last year. 

Even as the cryptocurrency sector across the world tanked, Venture capitalists have shown keen interests in Indian Web3 gaming startups that offer play-to-earn (P2E) entertainment and use crypto coins and NFTs for transactions. Companies with blockchain-based offerings pocketed $620 mn in 2022. Gurugram-based Rario, Bengaluru-based and Delhi-based Hike are among them, Tracxn data says. Hike pivoted from instant messaging to social, gaming, and crypto in 2021 only. 

“Indian gaming companies have been building local products with capabilities to cater to mobile-gaming markets across the world. Gaming as a category has shown itself to be driven by a highly monetizable audience base: one that tends to spend a lot of time on content and online engagement, is likely to be a trend-setter, has the propensity to spend and is often the chief purchase influencer in his/her family and friend circle,” opines Piyush Kumar, Founder & CEO, Rooter - Gaming and Esports Content platform. 

He further noted, “Indian gaming startups have been quick to encash this opportunity. Gaming content platforms like ours are building scalable, tech-driven, revenue-generating models that have garnered interest from marquee global investors.”

According to Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus,

“Since gaming is an industry that is completely digitally led, there is an almost infinite reserve of digital content that can be converted into NFTs. Also, the gaming audience is more tech-driven and understands the concept of NFT quite easily. These two factors give the NFT-based gaming industry a big advantage.”

Karan Taurani, senior VP of Elara Capital, echoes the sentiments.  “Indian gaming companies have quickly realized the shift of casual gamers towards real-money games. Web3 gaming is a far more sustainable ecosystem for both players and gaming companies and hence there are huge growth opportunities. Investors know this fact.”

Big opportunity for brands 

Such overwhelming investment in the Indian gaming startups opens up a huge opportunity for advertisers. Most of the gamers are young and have a significant purchasing power. 

The Indian online gaming industry is estimated to grow to more than Rs 15,000 crore in 2023, representing a CAGR of nearly 22%,  as per the latest 'India Online Gaming Report' of GroupM. 

“Most of the potential of this platform is still unutilised”, an advertising executive said. He added, “Gaming platforms offer tremendous scope such as in-app advertising, brand integration, rewards and advergaming. Brands can also reach their target audience through communities, e-sport tournaments, team associations, NFTs and influencers.”

The in-game advertising market globally is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7% to reach about US$220 billion by 2027, almost two-fold compared to 2020, according to a report of Research and Markets.


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How Nikhil Gandhi led strategic growth for MX Player

Gandhi, who has stepped down as COO, had three focus areas to drive the platform’s evolution when he took over the role two years back

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 8:24 AM   |   2 min read


Nikhil Gandhi, who stepped down as the Chief Operating Officer of MX Player on Wednesday, has the credit of leading the OTT platform for two years with a specialised business strategy.

Gandhi made a mark with his team leadership, brand management, and strategies for generating revenue through digital content.

When Gandhi joined MX Player from TikTok, he was clear on three key areas for growth. The first was to grow users in India and internationally and expand MX Player’s markets by increasing the watch time on the app. Secondly, he spoke of deploying data in creating strategies for content and the third area was to identify new business areas. Gandhi had spoken about these key focus points in an interview with e4m in May 2022.

With Gandhi at the helm, MX Player emerged as the fastest-growing OTT platform in India. As per’s “State of Mobile Report”, released in January this year, MX Player was India’s most-downloaded OTT app and the third most-downloaded worldwide in 2022.

Industry observers shared that Gandhi had bigger plans. “He has been striving to take the AVOD model to the next level and crack the Bharat market, which largely relies on cost-free entertainment options,” an industry expert said.

He was also instrumental in acquiring the Lionsgate library for international content, industry sources said.

MX Player has over 650 advertisers on its platform, Gandhi had said last December, explaining how his “team goes into smaller markets and gets new advertisers”.

Under his leadership, the platform was able to launch several new initiatives in the last one and a half years. Among them was MX Advantage, the self-serve ad platform targeted at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It allows new advertisers to log in and place ads on the platform. MX Player also helps brands design their ads.

Another feature, launched in October 2022, was MX Live. It helped creators monetise content. MX Live works on a D2C model that allows content creators to interact with fans through live sessions. Users can even buy MX coins and MX tokens.

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