The founders of a billion-dollar Indian company share tips for success

They launched a fantasy sports company at 22. Now it's worth $8 billion

Harsh Jain says he’s an “open secret” that he doesn’t use his own fantasy sports app, at least for fantasy football.

“I am still committed to fantasy football in the Fantasy Premier League, the reason we created dream11.”

Fantasy sports are online games in which players create virtual teams of representatives who track real sports players. They can earn points and win cash prizes based on how these players perform in the real world.

Fantasy football was already hugely popular in the UK in the early 2000s and Jain caught the bug while attending secondary school there.

After introducing him to his childhood friend Bhavit Sheth, they set out to find a fantasy cricket platform in India. Not finding what they were looking for, they created their own in 2008.

What happens if you get hit by the bus? Are you building scale and systems in a way… not dependent on [a single person] and… make a person make a decision?

hard jainism

Co-founder and CEO, Dream Sports

According to Jain, it’s the “first mover advantage” that took his company Dream Sports, the parent company of Dream11, to great heights.

“Once you and your friends are … connected through a network in fantasy sports, for an opponent to take you to play there, you have to move all your friends with you,” said Jain, who is also a director. Dream Sports executive.

“Because you have your leagues set up, all your friends are playing against each other.”

Dream Sports is not only India’s first sports tech unicorn, but the company also reportedly owns “almost 90% market share” in the country’s fantasy sports industry.

The 36-year-old men share three tips on how to run a successful business.

1. Unplug

If there is one “fundamental principle” that Jain and Sheth live by as leaders of their company, it is to make sure that your business does not depend on either one of them, they said. CNBC Do It.

Jain said, “What happens if you get hit by the bus? Are you building scale and systems in a way that does not depend on [a single person] and… make a person make a decision?”

That’s why the co-founders imposed a week of “off” for all Dream Sports employees, including themselves.

Harsh Jain (left) and Bhavit Sheth are the co-founders of Dream Sports, an Indian sports technology company that owns Dream11, the country’s largest fantasy gaming platform.

dream sports

“Once a year, for a week, they throw you out of the [company] system… you don’t have Slack, emails and calls,” Jain added.

“Because it helps you a lot to have that week of uninterrupted time and it helps the company to know if we depend on someone.”

Anyone who approaches another employee during “disconnect” time has to pay a fine of around $1,200, Jain added. That has been effective so far, the co-founders said.

“Nobody wants to be that idiot who called someone who was offline,” said Sheth, who is also the director of operations, with a smile.

2. Learn from rejection

Jain and Sheth said they heard “no” at least 150 times from venture capital firms when they were trying to secure seed funding 10 years ago.

“We went to all the Indian venture capitalists and they said, ‘This is an American concept. Fantasy sports are not prevalent in India… Why aren’t they raising money in America?'”

But it was just as difficult when Jain tried to raise money in New York and San Francisco.

“All the venture capitalists there told me to go back to India. ‘It’s an Indian company, raise money in India!'” Jain recalled. “Then I realized it was just a polite way of saying no.”

Instead of feeling discouraged, Jain and Sheth got fuel from the rejections.

Early-stage investors are actually looking for deeply passionate founders, [and products] with a big market.

hard jainism

Co-founder and CEO, Dream Sports

3. Shut out the noise

You are always fighting against something.

hard jainism

CEO and Co-Founder of Dream Sports

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