When it comes to developing a region’s esports scene from the grassroots level, tournament hosts and organizers indeed play a big part.
The Indian Gaming League’s (IGL) story in the nation’s esports landscape has been quite intriguing. From starting with a three-person team, they have grown exponentially to 25 in less than a year and have hosted tournaments in a plethora of esports titles.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda Esports’ Abhishek Mallick, Yash Pariani, the CEO of Indian Gaming League, opens up about the organizations’ struggles and his dreams and aspirations moving forward.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Q1. Yash, before we start, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what led you to conceive the very idea of the Indian Gaming League and bring it to fruition?
Yash: So I’ve always been a gamer. I’ve grown up in several countries, but I’ve settled in Mumbai for the last 15 years, and I’ve witnessed the phenomenon that is esports grow from its nascency to the behemoth that it is today.
About a few years ago, I went to the US and saw the size of the conventions and tournaments that occurred for esports. I realized its potential, especially in India, a country with a population almost four times the US, which should have a higher gaming population.
I came back to Mumbai and started researching, and there was no structure or platform. Even those that happened were labeled as a scam.
Gaming was extremely poorly perceived here, and that’s when we decided to formulate the platform and start hosting legitimate tournaments and changing the perception of gaming. That was how IGL was born.
IGL was one of the first in the scene. We researched and held offline tournaments along with a few online. Back then, we realized that India still hadn’t adapted to online as much as the west; hence, we would host more offline tournaments.
Once demonetization happened in 2016 and India embraced the digital age, things looked like they would be ideal for an online scenario.
Q2. How successful has the Indian Gaming League been ever since its conception? Especially in terms of community engagement and the number of titles that it has hosted tournaments in.
Yash: We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. During the early days of the pandemic, we saw a massive jump in numbers. And when the PUBG Mobile ban occurred, we saw a drop, followed by a surge, in users for Free Fire.
We’ve seen a lot of success, having hosted more than 2000 tournaments in the last 12 months. Also, our user engagement has been thriving and increasing daily.
We also have many successful and unique IPs that have been well received, such as the Call of Duty Women’s Cup and the India vs Pakistan Call of Duty series. We look forward to launching multiple new IPs this year across a broader range of titles.
Q3. What particular role do you play in the org? What’s your day to day like as the CEO of Indian Gaming League?
Yash: As the CEO of a start-up, day-to-day operations have been increasingly longer but more fulfilling. We’ve gone from a team size of 3 last year to above 25 all in less than a year,
The main task I oversee is how to ensure we see growth while retaining our current users. As simple as it sounds, it’s a lot more complicated and involves assigning and hiring multiple individuals to have the data collected, analyzed, and implemented while managing the current team and adding more game titles to the platform, as well as ensuring that we’re streaming daily.
Q4. Where do you see the Indian Gaming League in the Indian esports landscape at present and in the next five years?
Yash: We hope to have several million users and help push the boundaries of esports through large-scale events and reaching further into new audiences across different cities, and creating a sustainable esports ecosystem.
We aim to ensure that a gamer with skill will be recognized and identified to represent India across international tournaments.
With the inclusion of esports in the upcoming 2022 Asian Games, it will be mainstream, and top esports athletes would get the same recognition as their sports counterparts.
We aim to help identify them at early stages and keep them challenged by hosting regular tournaments.
Q5. How has the viewership and community engagement grown towards IGL’s live tournaments? Especially when compared to the org’s heydays.
Yash: Initially, during our first week that we had launched, we had to postpone a few tournaments due to a low turnout. Today, we have a different problem on how to accommodate even more players in a single event.
For that, we’ve created a platform on our website and can host around a couple thousand in a single tournament.
Q6. The COVID-19 pandemic did indeed do a number on offline tournament hosts. However, it also saw a rise in people taking up video games to kill time. This, in turn, increased viewership in esports tournaments as a lot more people were engaged and invested in these titles. How did the pandemic affect IGL tournaments in terms of both viewership and player participation?
Yash: The pandemic certainly gave a considerable boost to esports in general. It advanced interest, and users were able to game without any restrictions as that was the best way casual gamers would pass the time.
We saw a 300% increase for three months in a row when it came to our streaming numbers. That did slow down once the unlock happened, but we had built an established community by then that would still come back to watch our matches.
Player participation also increased to the point where, before the pandemic, we were hosting 4-5 tournaments daily. Today we’re hosting close to 15 events daily and aim to host 20 tournaments per day in the coming quarter.
Q7. What is your opinion on company expansion? Can fans expect the Indian Gaming League to widen its horizons in the coming days?
Yash: We have a lot of exciting things planned in the coming quarter. We’ll be launching our Championship Season 1 Cup as well as the Inaugural IGL Annual Esports Awards hosted by some extremely well-known people, along with all our regular IPs and daily scrims.
Q8. How far do you see the Indian esports scene growing in the coming months on both the mobile and PC platforms?
Yash: Esports is still in its nascency. This decade will be the one where it surges and remains, and with the rollout of 5G soon, expect an even higher number of gamers to appear. Multiplayer games will have almost zero latency, which will kick start a whole new segment of games for people unable to play before.