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Can Virat Kohli propel the Mobile Premier League?

The eight-month-old startup has disrupted the online gaming space by roping in the Indian skipper, but can it keep up its aggressive pace?

Rajiv Singh
Published: Apr 23, 2019 03:41:25 PM IST
Updated: Apr 23, 2019 03:44:37 PM IST

Can Virat Kohli propel the Mobile Premier League?
  Speed thrills. Indeed it does. Ask Sai Srinivas Kiran and Shubham Malhotra, co-founders of Bengaluru-based Mobile Premier League, who seem to be on a high-octane drive. “E-sports is a sector in which you have to drive fast to survive, much like Formula 1,” reckons Kiran, chief executive officer and co-founder of the eight-month-old digital gaming startup, which lets users play games such as cricket, carom, pool and bike racing.  “We have grown exponentially.”

MPL, he claims, has more than 20 million players and over 30 games. It reportedly raised $5 million from Sequoia last year, and is about to close a fresh round of funding soon.

Started in September last year, MPL disrupted the segment by roping in Virat Kohli as it as brand ambassador, which pits it against MS Dhoni-backed Dream 11. However, while Kohli’s endorsement gives MPL an edge in the cluttered e-gaming market, Kiran contends that there is another crucial differentiator: MPL offers a platform for game developers. Rather than building their own games, he lets on, MPL provides a showcase to a community of entrepreneurs and game developers around the world.

MPL’s eyeball-grabbing campaign features a dancing Kohli, a catchy jingle and a fast-paced film. “Interestingly, the signature dance step is Virat’s own idea, not something he learned from the choreographer,” says Hari Krishnan, president at Mullen Lowe Lintas Group, the creative agency behind the campaign. “He got the mood of the song instantly. When he broke into a jig, it was magic,” he adds.

The theme of the campaign, Har galli se niklega hero [a hero will emerge from each street], aims to brings out the essence of India, devised especially to reach audiences in metros and small cities. Har galli se niklega hero, says Krishnan, is an exaggerated celebration of the spirit of gaming. “Virat is the best person to present these gaming heroes, embodying the spirit of both the competitiveness and the fun,” says Krishnan.

The startup was scouting a national sporting hero to honour the everyday ‘heroes’ who play and win on the MPL—bringing Kohli on board, says Kiran, was a no-brainer. “His warmth, universal appeal across age, gender and region was the clincher. Our games are simple, and appeal to players across genders, skill levels and age groups,” adds Kiran.

Kohli versus Dhoni: Who is a bigger draw?

By roping in Kohli, MPL has not only pitted itself against MS Dhoni-backed Dream11--which recently claimed to be the first gaming company to turn unicorn—but has also upped the ante by positioning itself as ‘India’s biggest gaming platform’. Dream11, its biggest rival, interestingly dubs itself as ‘India’s biggest sports game.’

Ask Kiran who wins the Kohli vs Dhoni showdown, and the entrepreneur ducks the bouncer. “If you torture data long enough, it will admit to anything,” he grins. “Frankly, we are not worried about who the biggest is. The focus of the company is to build the best gaming platform for gamers and developers.”

Eight months, over 20 million users, and another imminent funding round…is MPL over-speeding? Kiran is aware of the potential pitfalls of this velocity. “There are real risks of making one wrong turn at high speed, but that does not stop racers from getting into their cars and competing,” he says. Like Kohli, he says, it is about marrying speed with consistency.

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  • anonymous

    The app is riddled with constant hackers, the only form of customer support is a useless AI interface or mail both of which seem to serve no help to distressed users , no response on mail. The real question we must ask here, \" should we let a company that takes money from the general public run without govt intervention so as to perform cyber audit on the integrity of the app or should we just pray and hope that the creators and the development team are not doing anything wrong with the money taken from teenagers who often find no remedy\". Although a great idea such kind of company must be regulated so as to make sure that the general public is not defrauded by either negative outsiders or their own developers who have complete control of the app\"??

    on Apr 23, 2019
  • Aaditya

    Literally a great product and what an execution. MPL is one of the fastest growing product we have ever seen.

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Sanketdabhade4444

    Kohli will take MPL to new heights. Sabse badhiya games hai, my favorite is Fruit Ninja. I really want to meet the CEO and thank him for this game.

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Sahil lone

    Mpl is an amazing app...I really won lot of money here.Thanks to the brand ambassdor king kohli and whole team for making such a good product

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Divyarup

    I love this mpl app so much because of it\'s excellent games and instant payment.I also like virat kholi because he is my inspiration to play this game and I earned 10k from this game.

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Narendra Adhikari

    This is a lovely game launch by mpl I love to play it always and really thankful to the team of mpl for giving such a wonderful game All the very best guys..

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Foji

    Mpl mast aap

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Ramesh singh

    Bohot achi game h mpl Mai 200 rupees jita hu or Mai ye game 11 months se Khel raha huni love this game

    on Apr 25, 2019
  • Akash

    Mpl application bhut achi app hai.... Meri mpl me feverite game candy brust hai.. Me daily mpl application use karta hu.....

    on Apr 26, 2019
  • Gursewak

    Mpl is One of the best game in the all other gaming app I am won the 20k rupees paytm in my wallet

    on Apr 26, 2019
  • Jashan

    Mpl is good app my favourite game is break breaker and I am earn to 10k paytm cash very easily

    on Apr 26, 2019
  • Zazam khan

    Very very nice app my best app best earning app Is app se bhut earning hoti Hai ye bhut aachi app Hai he is the best app mpl app Hai very nice app

    on Apr 26, 2019
  • Zazam

    Mpl app se bhut earning hoti Hai ye bhut aacha app Hai is app me game khel Kar earning kre hai ye bhut aachi app hai

    on Apr 26, 2019
  • Anonymous

    This is a great app which is allowing millions of Indians easy access to entertainment and a chance to hone their skills at e sports. Start ups are most innovative when left to themselves to grow rather than by govt regulation.

    on Apr 26, 2019
  • Anonymous

    Again, start ups are most innovative when left alone and not bogged down by govt regulations, especially by regulators who do not even understand tech, much less the gaming space. Not to mention, the app is only available to adults...So like teenagers are not on it. Clearly, you need to use the app first before commenting on it.

    on Apr 26, 2019