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MOGO: the first Indian Esports company to list on the NASDAQ

Electronic sports, or Esports, are putting India on the world map. First, India's Esports team won a bronze medal at the recent Commonwealth Games (CWG) and now comes the listing of an Indian Esports company on the US stock exchange Nasdaq.

or MOGO's shares opened for subscription on the Nasdaq Capital Market on July 29 and closed on August 2 after which it became the first Esports company to become publicly listed in the United States.

The company raised around Rs 55 crore by selling 1.725 million shares at $4 apiece. Its share price more than tripled to $12.57 from its issue price, said Sunny Bhandarkar, CEO, MOGO Esports.

"It wasn't an easy journey as the company is relatively new. The main reason we listed on the Nasdaq was because we know that people in the US know how powerful universities are (in terms of sports). We knew that if we list on Nasdaq we would get more engagement from people," Bhandarkar told Moneycontrol.

MOGO Esports' journey started in 2016 when the Sports Industry of India (SII) introduced Esports to the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), an academic and sports body that represents 854 major universities.

SII is an American branding, marketing and sports promotion company that transferred its rights to business to MOGO in October last year. SII holds a 14.5 percent stake in MOGO.

MOGO is now building out and expanding the business created by SII, which is focused on the growing Esports industry, with emphasis on India and other South Asian markets, said Bhandarkar.

He added that the Indian market for Esports, particularly university Esports events, is one of the largest and fastest growing Esports markets in the world.

SII has licensed to MOGO the rights to develop, organize, promote and monetize mobile Esports events in collaboration with AIU as well as with another major university sports association called Elite University Sports Alliance of India Pvt. Ltd (EUSAI).

EUSAI has direct contracts with 73 Indian universities which allow it to organize and monetize a range of sports, including Esports.

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"We saw that Esports was not done in an organised way in universities and colleges. So, we spoke to the heads of universities to give us their Esports team and surprisingly nobody had any data on Esports players,” Bhandarkar said. “So, we started organizing open tournaments and kept a record of age, colleges. After getting data across all universities across India we realized that there are thousands of team. We took permission of university directors, vice-chancellors and we put together teams. We have organized five different events so far and we are expanding into more games."

Expanding Esports 

Since last year, the company has organised 27 Esports tournaments in India across games like Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) and Valorant, among others.

"We are looking to have 10 different games and this year we will have 70 tournaments. We will keep on expanding," the CEO said.

The company will also be launching its first Mobile Global South Asian Inter-University Esports championship with a prize pool of Rs 1 crore in September this year.

"The prize pool of games like PUBG (Player Unknown's Battlegrounds) and BGMI gave it a viral nature. So, we will also be keeping a substantial prize pool for our tournaments," he said.

Last year, Battlegrounds Mobile India Series (BGIS) by Krafton had the highest prize pool of Rs 1 crore. The total prize money in 2021 crossed Rs 20 crore, said a 2022 report by the consulting company EY and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Make in India 

Bhandarkar said that the company will be using the proceeds of the initial share sale for the prize pool, expand into more tournaments and to develop an Esports game in India.

"We have announced half-a-million dollars’ prize money to the best game developer in India and have already generated a massive interest within our partner universities’ students. While we do have games developed in India, they haven't got the exposure. So, we want to promote games from India because right now we promote games from China, the US, Korea. There is no reason why we can’t make an online multiplayer game better than other countries. We are looking at a pipeline of 12-14 months for getting a game developed in India,” said Bhandarkar.

MOGO is also looking to provide high school students scholarship in its 75 partner universities in India. The company will also hire 100 employees in India across streamers, coaches, statisticians and game developer roles.

Top Talent  

Bhandarkar said India has a strong pool of talent in the Esports sector from players to game developers who need encouragement, especially at the grassroots level. He said that Indian Esports team's performance in CWG gives new talent the confidence to explore the space.

"Looking at the number of people who play Esports in India there is a high possibility that we win a gold medal. A system developed for the grassroots level will be more motivation and players will have confidence that this can be a career path for them," he added.

India is expected to have 1 million Esports players this year, from 600,000 last year. It will be competing at the Asian Games, to be held next year, for the first time. Esports will be a medal event at the Games.

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