The Rooter app allows its users to make live predictions on games and chat with like-minded sports fans in their vicinity
There is nothing quite like having fellow fans rooting, shouting and cheering for your favourite team or sportsman. Substitute fellow fans with friends and the setting with home , a TV and copious supply of chips, cold drinks and beer, and you get a high like none other.
But for most people all that is in the past now. The mobile or tablet has killed that kind of camaraderie, in the name of personalisation.
Thirty six-year-old Piyush, a sports enthusiast, clearly remembers the 2007 T-20 World Cup final between India and Pakistan. He fondly recalls how he watched the match with a whole crowd of cricket fans and cheered for Team India throughout the game.
But he also remembers noticing the fall in the number of sports fans assembling together to watch a game since then. “The personalisation of the consumption of content has changed a whole lot of things,” he says.
Piyush also recalls seeing a huge business opportunity amidst this loss. The computer science graduate from Delhi University decided to make use of his over 13-year-experience in marketing and advertising, working with companies like Swatch Group India, Dish TV and FCB Ulka.
During those days in marketing and advertising, he observed a huge market growing around sports, on which companies were spending millions of dollars. The aim of the companies was to pull the sports fans towards their brands.
He thought, “Why not revive the engagement of fans around sports, give them something to cheer for?”
Around December 2015, Piyush came up with an idea for a platform that would connect sports enthusiasts in a manner similar to how Tinder operates. He observed that if such apps could do so well based on the highly volatile premise of an individual’s tastes and preferences, an app that was based on the theme of sports, which has a universal resonance, was bound to do well.
Now, he needed a co-founder with a technical background, one who could convert that idea into a tangible product. During this time, he interacted with a lot of people, and eventually met Soham Sinha, a computer science graduate from NIT Durgapur, who was part of the founding team of Letsintern. Today, 29-year-old Soham is co-founder and CTO at the company.
During mid-2016, the duo introduced their minimum viable product. In September, with a team of five, they launched the final product, Rooter. Piyush, co-founder and CEO of Rooter, says,
“We are a social fan engagement platform that connects sports fans and engages them during live sporting events.”
He adds that the key feature of the platform is the live match prediction game, which engages fans during a live match and also connects them with other fans in their vicinity.
According to Piyush, the platform at the moment offers engagement for football, cricket and tennis. With its focus on smart technology, it takes sporting interactions beyond generic social media platforms by allowing sports fans to connect through live match predictions, pre-match quizzes and live match chat forums.
During a match, users can make live predictions about any of the three sports. And when the prediction matches with the results, users earn points, which they can redeem with the partnered online platforms like Amazon. Users can also engage in chat forums with like-minded fans.
“Our purpose is to rekindle the lost enthusiasm of sports fans by bringing them together on one platform,” says Piyush.
The platform, which started with a small in-house investment from the two co-founders, raised an undisclosed amount of funding in October 2016. The funding round was led by Bollywood actor Boman Irani, with participation from Prantik Dasgupta and Dhruv Chitgopekar, who is a partner at Kwan Entertainment.
The funds secured were used to grow the team, which now is 15-member-strong, as well as to create strategic partnerships with various sports platforms, teams, fan clubs and associations.
Piyush says that he has also planned various revenue models for the sustainability of the business.
“We have devised revenue models such as brand advertising, a lead generation model for companies, sponsorship and a commission-based model on coupon sales.”
He adds that he has acquired around 50,000 customers on the platform, with an average time spend of 16 minutes per day, which is going to be a key driving force behind the monetisation process — the popularity of the platform will entice brands to associate themselves with it.
He expects to start the process of revenue generation from March 2017.
Sports market opportunity
The sports sponsorship market in India is poised to be worth $4 billion by 2019, with brands and franchises increasingly trying to create a community and connect with recreational sports participants.
Nike and Puma both launched their version of pick-up football apps to drive participation. Adidas recently acquired Runtastic for $240 million. The sports apparel and equipment market, meanwhile, is currently growing at a CAGR of nearly 25 percent.
The target groups for all these sectors are similar, and there are synergies such as co-branding, marketing, sponsorship and cross-selling that will further bolster the recreational sports space.