Cricket is massive but Esports has huge potential in India, feels Parimatch
Betting heavyweight Parimatch is relatively new to India, and is just getting a hang of the sports scene in the country, while trying to come to terms with the huge popularity of cricket. Still, it has co-sponsored the Pro Kabaddi League—and was shirt sponsor of the Tamil Thalaivas in that league—and is looking to add more sports to its India portfolio. Anton Rublievskyi, CEO, PMI, and Dmitry Belianin, CMO PMI discuss all of this, and give their views on the potential of Esports in India.
- Is legalizing betting an option that could be considered, and if so, why?
Dmitry: We would like to see the legalisation of betting in India with a proper legal infrastructure to monitor operations. Yes, India is a highly populated country hence introducing and imposing certain rules sometimes gets a bit difficult, keeping the different sentiments in mind. But in the long run, if betting is legalized in a proper way, it can become a great revenue source for the country.
In our opinion, legalising betting can provide the tools to protect players from scam operators and fraudsters, and enable payment providers to speed up processes within the industry. Legalisation will also help grow the industry and remove the “stigma” around betting and gaming.
- Parimatch is a big name in the sport segment. So, which sports are the major contributors to the company’s business?
Dmitry: It’s not a secret that cricket is the king of all sports in India. And I don’t feel like this sport can actually compete against any other sport in the market. We found cricket very interesting. Me personally, I like Kabaddi as a sport. So, this is something which went surprisingly well for us during the Pro Kabaddi League season.
But, as Anton mentioned, we not only sponsored the league but also supported a Kabaddi team, Tamil Thalaivas—we got one of the biggest sponsorships for them. So, of course, these are like the primary requirements when it comes to user engagement and our interests. But then, as I mentioned, we’re looking to get into other sports within India, sports that are very new to us. Globally, our company was a pioneer in Esports, and we supported the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as the first betting company ever to step into sponsorship. We are looking to do the same in India. And right now, we’re in the process of developing a few more entities for India. Esports is something that might not have been covered by anyone in the market, but we will be the first to step into that niche.
And as I mentioned before, Esports is also a very interesting category and not many brands actually know how to work with this category, in that niche. So, we’ll be targeting this as well. But, when it comes down to the various other sports in the country, all of them have a very small and niche audience, but most of the audience engages very well with these sports. So I feel like this year will be very interesting for us as a company in terms of sponsorships and teams. So, we’ll be exploring a lot of new properties this year for sure.
Anton: I would like to add a small thing. Inside our team, like last year, we’re probably not discussing anything except cricket because everybody was saying that Esports is very small in India. But, if you see the numbers, India has a population of 1.5 billion, and any niche sport—if we’re talking about volleyball or mixed martial arts (MMA) or any other sport—would have millions of fans. So, there can be 20 million or 30 million fans of Esports in India—this is the whole population of Ukraine. And if you are talking about any niche sport, that’s still a small percentage of the overall interest in sport, but it’s still a huge amount of fans. And as a company, we are having a focus to work with the smallest sports because we see that there is potentially a big window there.
2 What are your growth and expansion plans?
Anton: Parimatch is a private company and not a public company, so we’re not in a position to disclose our numbers, but we are quite a big company in different markets—in the Ukraine market, and in the Asia market as well—and we’re growing. Last year, total growth of Parimatch as a group was more than 150 percent.
- How many employees does the organisation have in India? And are you planning to scale up?
Anton: We have zero employees, and until legalisation and licensure is in place in India, we’re not planning to have any employees in the country. However, we do have Indians as employees but in our offices in different countries.