India wants to do with esports leagues what it did with cricket

Esports remains an industry that is still in the process of figuring itself out, but has taken some giant steps in the last couple of years, already capturing some of the biggest markers in the world like the USA, China, and Japan. In the budding Indian market, the co-founder and MD of NOWDIN Gaming, Akshat Rathee was recently quoted as saying that he would like to take Indian esports in the direction of the Indian Premier League – the world’s biggest cricket league which recently sold media rights for $6 billion, putting it among the top five sports leagues in the world just 14 years after its inception.

Given India’s population, it doesn’t seem a tall order to catch eyeballs, but just how easy or difficult will it be to build a whole market from what is essentially zero?

Indian Gamers Have Shown Resilience Lately

It’ll take some time for the industry to make the world’s second most populated country in the world an esports hub, but the Indian people have shown that they can overcome obstacles like accessibility in recent years.

When PUBG was banned in the country, it did not stop gamers from looking for similar alternatives. Even the lack of console and PC gaming in the industry has not been a hindrance, with gamers happy to spend hours on mobile games and use the cheap mobile data packs to access some of the biggest video games on the planet.

This number is only likely to increase with a growing middle class and a 5G network that should set in over the next year or two. With the growth of this sector, there have also been many success stories in the form of streamers who have gone on to build brands on YouTube and other means to set an example for those who might want to enter such an industry. With a population of around 1.4 billion, even a small share of that will go a long way to helping form a hub in the country.

Esports Still Not Recognized As A Sport

One of the more obvious challenges is that esports is still not categorized as a sport in the country. The Indian passport isn’t the strongest to begin with, which makes it even harder for Indian esports enthusiasts or players to make the travel arrangements that are necessary to participate in international tournaments.

There are other issues such as the ban of certain games, which might discourage developers and organizers from dealing with India. These, however, are legal and governmental issues. There are issues closer to home for a lot of individuals that make it a bit difficult to enter this industry.

Indian society remains largely conservative, and most of the esports enthusiasts are from a younger demographic. It will take a lot of convincing from the youth to get their families on board about esports being a worthwhile pursuit – particularly now and over the next decade or so, as the economy has taken a downturn.

Some of the reservations are certainly valid. While there are success stories from the Indian esports scene, those advocating for a career in this industry because of these success stories might be falling prey to survivorship bias. There are systemic challenges that will have to be overcome, and the solutions might have to come from within that system.

A League Like IPL Would Make Sense For India

There has been a growing awareness that to make things work in this industry, much of the work will have to come from within the country. There are already talks of projects that will allow for more Indian game developers and games, and the idea of an IPL equivalent for esports comes from a similar strand of thought.

For any of this to be achieved, the Indian government will have to provide a lot of support – it can’t just be lip service, it’ll also have to come in the form of finances. Rathee of Nodwin Gaming seems to be taking the lead with regards to this esports league.

What can’t be denied is that there’s certainly an appetite for a competition of this sort, and an acceptance from even those who are a bit skeptical about esports that there’s no stopping this growing interest for video games in India. It’s all about finding a workaround now – and maybe, like the IPL, investors from Bollywood could lead the way.

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