Exclusive interview with Shiva Nandy founder of Sky Esports

Owing to the growth of high-end smartphones at reasonable prices, and games such as PUBG Mobile, Free Fire, Clash of Legends, Call of Duty Mobile, PC and console games such as Rocket League, CS:GO, DOTA2 and Fortnite PUBG (different from mobile version), India has seen rapid growth in the e-sports Industry.

According to a report by BARC and Nielsen, the number of smartphone game users grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 60% in pre-COVID times to 68%. The amount of time spent on mobile games every week increased from 151 minutes before the lockdown to 218 minutes during the lockdown. Furthermore, there has been a rise in the prize pool across e-sports tournaments, attracting several players. As a result of this rapid growth, e-sports is increasingly becoming an attractive field for new players entering the market.

Founded in November 2018 and headquartered in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Sky Esports is an e-sports and gaming organization known for hosting major e-sports leagues, namely, Skyesports Championship, Skyesports Grandslam, Skyesports League, Skyesports Elite Club, Skyesports Skirmish Series, Skyesports Invitational Scrims, Skyesports Gaming Series. On June 2020, second edition of their annual flagship e-sports league, Skyesports Championship 2.0 crossed the milestone of 2 million viewership for Valorant pc and became the first South Asian tournament to do so.

Bizbehindsports got in touch with the founder of the Sky Esports, Shiva Nandy, to know more about the organization and e-sports industry. 

NOTE: Comments are edited for clarity.

What inspired you to enter into the esports industry and start Sky Esports?

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and gaming was something natural to me as we had LAN parties amongst friends growing up. Since I am from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, I wanted to build a community in South India and that was one of the main reasons for starting an e-sports organization. Now, we have become a pan-India e-sports organization and our tournaments are at the national level.

How has COVID-19 impacted the e-sports industry in India?

I do not think COVID-19 has heavily impacted the e-sports industry, online and e-sports tournaments. Content creation and gaming apps have grown 5 – 10 times. However, the same cannot be said for the [offline-driven] businesses and entertainment, they have been heavily affected by the pandemic.

Can you tell us about the online gaming ban in Tamil Nadu and will it affect the online gaming and Esports industry?

Government has banned online games involving betting and gambling. Esports is different from them. Esports is not gambling as there is no money involved. It is a competitive sport played on the online platform. We never take money from the players who want to participate because it is against our moral ethics. We get money from sponsors, they are the investors here. There are media rights as well. Hence, e-sports is not affected by the ban.

What marketing strategies do you use to reach out to people?

We do not have any certain strategies to promote, however, we target and reach first-time gamers and general audience because we do not want to focus only on gamers. For Esports to grow, it should reach to the first-time gamers and general audience and it should be not a closed circle.

What difficulties do you face when organizing an Esports league?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are numerous obstacles we are facing, for instance, the majority of our human resources are working from home and some are working from the office, [the issue of] communications, internet and production. There are no other major issues we are facing.

What steps are you taking to support streamers who want to make a career in e-sports?

That is secondary, however, as an organization, our first priority is to strengthen the grassroots. We support streamers through influential programs and product launch. We are supporting influencers by exposing them to the tournaments where they can explore their gaming skills and have an opportunity to play with professional players. Influencers, audience and players are of significance, thus, we need to focus on all aspects.

What is the landscape of the Skyesports League 2020?

The league follows the format of city vs city where participants who are high-profile content creators and professional players coming from Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Punjab, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Rajasthan compete. Duration is 25 days and is being broadcast in 7 languages – Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, English, kannada, Hindi and Bengali.

Who are your sponsors for the league? What do sponsors look for before partnering with an e-sports company?

Our title sponsor is AMD Ryzen 5000 and powered by Western Digital Black. We love this combination and I was expecting this combination to happen since last one year and it has finally happened for the ongoing Skyesports League 2020.

Sponsors always look for two things – what we are delivering and whether we deliver it. What we are delivering means how we are going to drive the audience and how we are going to brand the product and brands. There are a lot of things we need to work on.

What is the eligibility criteria for a team to participate in the league?

There are two eligibility criteria – you should be competitive and streamer.

What COVID-19 safety measures have you taken for the league?

50% of our work is happening from our production office and our casters are working from home using the cloud system. We are controlling everything through the cloud system.

Where is the Skyesports League 2020 being streamed?

We are streaming on YouTube and Facebook.

Despite being in a crowded field where new competitors are cropping up on an almost daily basis, Sky Esports looks committed to making a name for itself and the early signs are encouraging with good engagement driving a focused growth strategy. The company will be hoping to continue in the same vein while carving a healthy market share in the esports field.

By Mohit Edupuganti

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