Exclusive: Deepak and Jaya Chahar talk about their newly launched fantasy gaming app TFG

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India cricketer Deepak Chahar is set to enter the fantasy gaming space with his wife Jaya Chahar. The couple, through their gaming technology company JCDC Sports Pvt. Ltd., have come up with a digital cards-based fantasy gaming platform called Trade Fantasy Game (TFG). The venture marks the international cricketer’s debut as an entrepreneur. Deepak and his wife are the co-founders of the newly incorporated venture, with Jaya holding the position as the CEO.

The all-rounder, who will be returning to cricketing action after being sidelined for the most part of last year, is also the brand ambassador for TFG. We caught up with the entrepreneur duo to know more about their fantasy gaming app and the venture, as a whole.

Following are the edited excerpts of the interview –

Tell us about why you decided to venture into the fantasy gaming category? How did the idea come about?

Deepak – The idea came when I met Jaya a few years back when she was working with Airtel, heading two business divisions. So, when we decided to be life partners we realised it was very difficult to even meet each other if she was working for another company. I was going to travel a lot and if she is working somewhere and she has to go to the office it would be difficult to meet. Also, she always wanted to do something of her own so we decided we should do something together.

We discussed a lot and came to the conclusion that we have to do something where I can also contribute. I understand the game completely. I am myself a gamer and have played various games online. I interact with a lot of middle-class people, especially boys and have a fair understanding of their preferences. And so, we came to the conclusion that we should get into fantasy sports as I can contribute to the gameplay as well.

There are some other digital collectibles platforms which have launched in India as well now. Can you share how your venture compares to them? How similar or different is it to them?

Jaya – It’s very different. The number one differentiation is that we are not built on blockchain, unlike most other platforms. The number two is ours is a 6-player-a-team format. (Deepak describes their product as the T20 version of fantasy sports). Hence, it is much easier and simpler to create a team. It inculcates the same fantasy sports team rules such as salary credit which has always existed in the fantasy sports market. There is also team creation which already existed in the market but ours is simpler. So, we have kept the rules and regulations of fantasy sports very similar which you will see in other digital collectibles or NFT-based platforms.

Deepak – NFTs are very expensive. Therefore, our focus is on the masses. At the beginning we will be offering the player cards along with the contest entry fee. Most of the fantasy sports players come from middle-class families who cannot afford to buy NFTs. So that’s how we differentiate with other platforms in the market. What we offer are digital collectibles which are not NFTs and available for cheap.

Jaya – Like Deepak rightly said, we don’t have NFTs. They are digital player cards. You pay the contest entry fee and get player cards for the team that you have made.

Can the users trade the cards just like how they can trade NFTs?

Jaya – Currently, in the minimum viable product (MVP) version the users will not be able to trade them. However, in the future we will be offering different features and elements around using these players cards on the platform. It would be in terms of fantasy clashes, trading of cards and the likes.

Deepak, this venture marks your debut as an entrepreneur. How does it feel? Any advice from someone which you are following?

It’s a very different experience. In the last one year I have learnt a lot about business from Jaya. I always wanted to do business, learn about it. But being a cricketer you do not get much time to focus on other activities. When Jaya came into my life, we used to talk about her work which she was doing with Airtel and other companies. When we started together, I learnt a lot. After cricket, this business is something that I have given a lot of thought and energy to. It’s been an up-and-down journey in the last one year. We have discussed all the minute details, did a lot of trial and error. For example, how the cards and the logo should look like. In fact, it took us around four months to just be able to merge digital cards into fantasy gaming. It was a big task. So, all in all, it’s been an enlightening journey for me. I hope to learn a lot as it is just the beginning for me. In fact, I have even started reading about business to fast-track my learning.

Have you raised or intend to raise funding or investments?

Jaya – Currently, we are bootstrapped entirely. We are 100% stakeholders. Having said that, we were waiting to launch for us to look at the right partnerships and investors. Now will be the right time that we will be open to those conversations. We had a couple of offers at the concept stage as well but we didn’t take it up as we wanted to shape the venture into the idea that we had. We wanted to go out there and launch in the market and create a proof of concept (PoC) and then get open to investor talks

How are you going about marketing the app?

Jaya – To begin with, Deepak is the brand ambassador. We have created a hybrid strategy wherein we focus 80% on online channels including content marketing and social media. The idea is to leverage the ecosystem in and around Deepak as well. We have got a bunch of next generation cricketers on board for our launch campaign which will start from February 23. We have already started a pre-engagement activity which you can see on social media as well.

Essentially, we intend to drive our downloads in the launch through social media and content marketing. For that purpose, we have made quirky and fun videos which talk about the features of the app, what users need to do on it and other similar things. We believe that our high relevance audience is very much there on social media and that’s where we want to reach out to them at first. Having said that, moving forward we will take the route of offline channels as well.

What are the targets that you have set for this venture for the next one year? What do you intend to achieve?

Deepak – We wanted to have a good product to begin with. It matters a lot in any business that you have a good and stable product so that you can then build on it. Just like in cricket, if your basics are good and you can play Test cricket you can also play the limited-over formats as well. In the same way, we decided to build a strong product first and add new features subsequently. The idea is not to complicate things for the users initially.

Jaya – We want to reach one million downloads by the end of the next fiscal year 2023-24. Having said that, as Deepak mentioned, the product will remain our focus. Though one can go through the marketing route and devise a major user acquisition strategy we feel going slower is not a problem as long as the product is fantastic. We are very much focussed on user feedback as well and intend to be agile when it comes to changing our strategy in relation to product development. Also, we have got a set strategy for the next four quarters.

Apart from downloads, the second metric that we would judge ourselves by is the retention rate and the engagement on the platform. We are also looking at generating revenue but I feel it will start flowing in once the product is in good shape. Also, with India being a price sensitive market our endevour is to give a premium experience at a sweet spot of pricing. Our business model is driven by that, and as mentioned earlier, we want the app to be affordable for the middle-class.

Your company JCDC Sports Pvt Ltd is a gaming technology company. What other areas of the gaming space interest you which the company might think of venturing into?

Jaya – To be honest, we are very driven by launching more games. That is our North Star metric. But having said that, it is always viable to concentrate on one product, make it market fit, give it the success that it requires and then move on to others. So as a plan, we would first focus on TFG, bring other sports into it after cricket, try to utilise its maximum potential and move on to other gaming segments.

One of the sectors that really excites me is casual gaming. It is something that we have also done in TFG. The second sector is motion gaming. I am personally a console gamer. I would love to get into that. But, again, it takes a different skill-set to build a game like that. So, yes, these are the two sectors that I would love to get into.

Lastly, Deepak, you are now fully fit and ready to make your comeback to competitive cricket. Can you throw some light on how the last year or so has been for you going through rehab?

It’s been difficult. I got two injuries – stress fracture and quad grade 3 tear. I almost had to get operated for the latter. They are major injuries for fast bowlers. But looking at the brighter side of things I got time at my disposal which I utilised for my venture. When you get injured, you get time to think about your skills and review your basics. Every now and then you need to revisit your basics but when you are injured you get time and opportunity to do so and improve your game further. So, I did that. I have been focusing on my fitness. I went to Rishikesh and performed yoga, meditation and pilates. When you are playing you don’t get much time to work on your body. So, it was tough but as an athlete you have to come back stronger, be it from failures or injury. I truly believe in that and want to do the same and I can’t wait for the start of the IPL on March 31 now.