Mobile Premier League - Online Mobile Gaming Platform
Founded in 2018, MPL became India's second gaming unicorn within 3 years of its inception.
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Founded in 2018, Karnataka-headquartered Mobile Premier League (MPL) is India’s leading eSports and online gaming platform. Through its app, it offers over 70 online games and allows users to participate in live tournaments and win cash.
MPL has been growing at a stellar rate ever since the coronavirus pandemic, as entertainment starved consumers move towards online gaming. In 2021, it became India’s second gaming unicorn after raising $150M in a Series E funding round led by Legatum Capital. It is now valued at $2.3B with more than 800 employees operating in 3 countries including India, Indonesia, and the US with 5 million daily winnings and a registered user base of 85 million.
The startup is supported by investors including Sequoia Capital, SIG, MDI, Moore Strategic Ventures, Composite Capital, Times Internet, Go-Ventures, and Base Partners. It has also received the ‘Best Emerging Gaming Company Award’ at GATO Award 2019 and the ‘Best Fantasy Sports Operator’ award at the Indian Gaming Awards 2019.
About Mobile Premier League: Website, Linkedin
Business Overview & Products
Mobile Premier League Offers 60+ games in the following categories:
The company operates across the US, India, and Indonesia with plans to expand to South Korea and Japan.
How It Works
MPL provides a platform for game publishers to connect players through its app. The platform does not develop its own games, instead, game developers publish their games on MPL under a revenue-sharing agreement. This allows them to monetize their games through cash tournaments and contests.
The app is free to join and allows users to either play free practice versions of games or participate in tournaments and matches where they can earn cash prizes. To enter tournaments, MPL provides $5 in bonus cash so that users can start playing immediately.
Entry fees differ from tournament to tournament but range between 25 cents to $6 mostly. The highest cash prize a player can win in a tournament is $40, while the highest pool prize is $1.250 which is then divided between multiple winners. Upon winning a tournament or contest, users can seamlessly transfer the earnings via bank transfer, or through UPI or PayTM. Upon referring the platform to a friend, the user receives a referral bonus.
The users can play skill-based games and win cash prizes in three different game formats:
During a tournament on MPL, users are supposed to submit their highest score in order to rank high on the leaderboard. For the final leaderboard calculation, only the highest score of each user is considered. However, users are allowed to play a game multiple times in a tournament.
There are some games on the platform that can only be played in 1 vs 1 mode that too against real players. According to the format of this match, whichever player finishes the game first or scores higher, wins the cash prize.
SuperTeam fantasy sports, a consumer favorite, allows players to create virtual teams and join contests for upcoming live matches. Users are awarded points based on the real-life performance of the players they have selected. Ultimately cash prizes are awarded to users whose selected players perform well in the live match.
Business Model & Pricing
MPL has a business-to-consumer (B2C) model where it offers over 60 skill-based multiplayer games to its consumers with the option of participating in tournaments and matches and winning cash prizes. The platform does not develop in-house games, instead, it gives freelancer developers a chance to publish their games on MPL under revenue-sharing agreements. In 2020 the company announced INR 10 crore ($1.3M) in revenue for 10 game developers on its platform in just one year.
MPL has multiple revenue streams including the entry fees it charges ranging between $0.60 to $6 from players whenever they participate in any game. There is also a hosting fee amounting to 20% of the total money raised by the participating players in tournaments. During the IPL T20 season, MPL also earned money by selling one-time purchase tickets of fantasy sports for $1.3. Once the ticket was purchased, users could play fantasy sports for free for all matches. Moreover, just like other apps, MPL also earns revenue through advertisements and in-app purchases.
In 2020, MPL’s reported revenue of $2.5M was a significant increase from 2019’s revenue of $500k. Its annual revenue run rate for 2021 was reported at $1.5 to $2B. In 2021, the company became India’s second gaming unicorn after raising $150M in a Series E funding round and is now valued at $2.3B. MPL’s Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) was reported to have been at $1B in February 2021.
2020 proved to be an exciting year for the company as MPL Sports apparel and accessories became the official kit sponsor and merchandise partner of the National men’s and women’s teams. With this move, MPL dethroned Nike and then went on to become the presenting sponsor for the hit reality tv show, Bigg Boss, thus elevating its popularity and exposure among the Indian audience.
The platform offers more than 60 games in India and over 30 in Indonesia, working with more than 30 game developers and studios to date. MPL was reported to have over 85 million global active users out of which 10 million were paid users. The company’s user base in Indonesia has reached 5 million and they aim to increase their user count to 300,000 in the US where they recently launched operations in 2021.
According to their website, the company has:
Over 60 games on its platform
250 million winnings daily
A user base of more than 90 million
Shubh Malhotra: Co-founder of MPL. Shubh founded numerous companies before launching MPL with Sai Srinivas. Right after graduation, he co-founded Capillary Technologies, a technology service provider, and then CREO Tech, a leading IT consulting and Solution Company. Later CREO was acquired by Hike, and he served as their Head of Engineering until MPL was founded.
Sai Srinivas Kiran G: CEO and Co-founder of MPL. Sai Srinivas, an IITian, started his career journey with Zynga, a gaming firm where he served as an Associate Product Manager. Working for a gaming firm is what encouraged him to ultimately launch his own esports platform, MPL. Srinivas also co-founded Base9, a company that organizes and promotes live events in India, as well as CREO Tech, a leading IT consulting and Solution Company.
History & Evolution
In 2018, Srinivas and Malhotra discovered a gap in the gaming industry after noticing there was no mobile platform to connect game developers to users. Hence they came up with the idea of paid entry gaming contests to resolve this problem. To test this idea, they organized game nights on their apartment’s rooftop where each player was given a device loaded with games, and after every half an hour competition their scores were displayed on a blackboard. As time passed, the number of participants grew and the duo decided to introduce an INR 5 entry fee and a winner-takes-all prize.
The session soon gained massive popularity and as a result, the two founders decided to launch MPL, a gaming platform where users compete for cash prizes. Within three months, the app hit 600,000 daily active users.
In 2019, the company’s app had 25 million downloads, making it the fastest-growing app in India. That year it expanded its operations to Indonesia and acquired Crevise, a product engineering consultancy firm.
MPL also became a broadcast partner for the popular cricket competition, Indian Premier League, and signed cricket star Virat Kohli as their brand ambassador. The startup was also recognized as the ‘Best Fantasy Sports Operator’ by the India Gaming Awards.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, MPL witnessed a great hike in its performance as users rushed towards entertainment platforms during the lockdown. Between March and the end of June, it tripled both its users and revenue. MPL Sports also replaced Nike as the official kit sponsor of the Indian Cricket Team.
In 2021, it acquired Gaming Monk, an eSports gaming platform, and became India’s second gaming unicorn after raising $150M in a Series E funding round. It is now valued at $2.3B and has expanded its operations to the US.
In 2021, MPL was criminalized in Karnataka after the enactment of the state legislation which prohibits money wagering and betting in online fantasy gaming apps like MPL, Paytm First Games, and RummyCircle, etc. The company has filed a petition against this ban and is currently awaiting a decision as Karnataka High Court has reserved its judgment after concluding all the hearings from petitioners.
The company has partnered with The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to create a mobile version of an Olympic-style shooting game. The aim to is encourage esports in India through this non-violent shooting game which will adhere to the rules set by International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) and hopefully groom prospective champions.
In 2021, India is currently the 4th largest online gaming market worldwide with 400 gaming startups at present accelerating its growth.
Mobile game downloads in India increased to 2.9 billion in July-September 2020 as the online gaming sector witnessed tremendous growth worldwide during the pandemic. People used gaming as a form of both entertainment and escapism and as a result, the industry raked $1.8B revenue in India alone in 2021. This number is expected to grow to $3.84B in the next 5 years at a compound annual growth rate of 21%.
In 2020, over 100 million users which amounts to 14% of all smartphone users in India joined fantasy gaming platforms. The fantasy sports industry witnessed a 3x increase in its revenue to $340.5M in 2020 and with its current rapid traction is expected to be worth US$ 3.7 billion by 2024.
Suggested Next Reads
The New Playtime: The Secret To MPL's Massive Mobile Success (Peggy Anne Salz, Forbes, April 9, 2020)
Mobile Premier League: many have won on the platform, but can the platform win the game? (Disha Sharma, Economic Times India, September 25, 2019)
AJVC Unfiltered 19: Is Mobile Premier League the Real Deal? (Mazin & Aviral, Founders Unfiltered, November 28, 2021)
Gaming Apps Block Access in Karnataka as Ban Takes Effect (Reuters, October 6, 2021)