If you were driving anywhere in Mumbai you must have noticed TheSpartanPoker.com sticker behind auto- rickshaws. It is hard to miss, the fast growing online poker platform pasted stickers on over 18,000 rickshaws in the suburbs of Mumbai. In South Mumbai, where rickshaws aren't allowed, they pasted banners on buses. Apart from Mumbai, stickers are pasted on 6000 - 8000 rickshaws in Ahmedabad and about 3000 - 4000 rickshaws in Bengaluru are carrying the banner.
Rickshaws on congested roads provide a good return on investment, believes Amin Rozani, managing director and co-founder, The Spartanpoker.com. "We have traveled in many cities to see what works where and we found that rickshaw advertising does not make sense in places with broad roads. In those places, we reached out to people via radio spots," Rozani shares.
The Spartan considers Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Hyderabad as its key markets, and with time and more revenue coming in the platform plans to promote itself aggressively in each of the markets. It's not only rickshaws and radio stations; the poker platform flaunts its various championships on giant hoardings in Goa, which is a destination for many poker professionals across the country. Association as title sponsor in college events also gives the platform a lot of mileage believes Rozani. TheSpartanPoker.com was the title sponsor of Mithibai College's annual event 'Umang' last year and this year, too, the partnership is set to continue. "When you have an Amitabh Bachchan standing in front of your logo it does great PR. It's a festival which features many celebrities, this year Shah Rukh Khan is going to be there, and then there are students who are potential customers. We are like any other e-commerce platform, we spend to garner eyeballs and enhance our brand value," Rozani adds.
Rozani and his team have cut out a plan to broaden their reach. The primary targets are the ones who are already playing the game. "All our outdoor activities are planned to get the MBA graduates, engineers and players who are already playing the game, on our platform. A part of our communication is also targeted to get new players into the game," adds Rozani.
TheSpartanPoker.com has over 1.5 lakh users in its database and to retain them with the platform it is important to offer them new and exciting tournaments, challenges and rewards. That's stage two of the marketing initiative. "Last month we rewarded one player with a Skoda car, last year the winner of the leaderboard challenge was awarded a Renault Duster, we host a millionaire tournament once a month where the winner and runner-up get Rs 20 lakh and 10 lakh each and there are many such tournaments going on throughout the year," Rozani informs.
The only platform with more players in its database than The Spartan at this moment is adda52. Owned by casino firm Deltin the platform claims of having over 1 million users. But if professional poker players are to believed, the total players playing the game in India would be much lesser than a million. "We aim to have half a million players in our database by the end of 2018," says Rozani.
He feels adda52 has a slight advantage over TheSpartan as the former has its very own venue to host live events and leverage the brand. "It is not that you cannot survive without it, but it is a value-add. Hosting a live event involves a lot of logistics and it's very difficult to make profits from a live event. It's just that people from all across come and you get to leverage the brand. What we do now is whenever we see someone hosting a live event we go and partner them," Rozani divulges.
Digital remains the most preferred medium for TheSpartan, but outdoor, including event sponsorship, is where most of the ad dollars are spent. TV is not a medium that the platform is considering at this stage, "I don't think our TG (target group) watches TV, and I feel they spend more time on digital. Also, TV is very expensive, for 1 impression on TV you need to pay around Rs 16 whereas on digital it is around 18 paisa," he informs.
Mumbai-born Amin Rozani was always a poker enthusiast, he started with two tables in a friend's garage, where players used to come and play their hands. He then booked a poker room at Deltin (a casino is Goa) and used to host the Indian Poker Championship (IPC). He has traveled around the world to figure out the best business model and has implemented them in his platform. The software on which TheSpartanPoker.com runs is leased from Russia and over 40 people monitor it at any point of time.
In terms of monetisation, Online poker platforms have two ways to make money. One is through tournaments. Every tournament has a buy-in or entry fee. However, sometimes, the cash prize the platform gives to the winners at the end of the tournament is more than the money it makes through entry fees. Which is why there's another way for these platforms to earn -
The other mode of making money is by taking a 'cut' from the total cash on the table. For example, say the total money on the table before the cards are unveiled (flop) is Rs 600, the platform takes a 'commission' of around Rs. 40. This method is more more profitable for platforms, as revenue is guaranteed.
The platform is no doubt rising as every tournament gets more entries than the previous one. Rozani's office cabin has a line on the wall that concludes it well "Good Things Are Happening in Poker".
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