PokerDangal - India's Largest Online Poker Gaming Platform

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One great aspect of digitization is the fascinating online games that are taking on the world at a skyrocketing speed. It’s literally like being in this global village of the dream world. To make the online gaming zone more interesting and taking it on the edge, this group of four brilliant entrepreneurs namely Varun Mahna, Varun Puri, Karan Gandhi and Shashwat Jain launched PokerDangal in the year 2017.

PokerDangal - Company Highlights

  • Startup Name-PokerDangal
  • Headquarters-Delhi
  • Founders-Varun Mahna, Varun Puri, Karan Gandhi and Shashwat Jain
  • Sector-Online Gaming
  • Founded-2017
  • Parent Organization-Xeta Networks Pvt. Ltd.

About PokerDangal and How It Works

PokerDangal is an Indian online poker gaming platform. It is the flagship product of Xeta Networks Pvt Ltd, an online gaming company from Hatu, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The game, as goes its title, is a poker game, developed with an aim to redefine Poker in India. PokerDangal was founded in 2017 by Varun Mahna, Varun Puri, and two other co-founders, Shashwat Jain and Karan Gandhi. PokerDangal is currently registered in Kolkata and headquartered in New Delhi. It also has small offices in Kolkata and Chennai as well.

On, the users can opt to play a range of exciting tournaments and cash games in a safe game-playing environment.

PokerDangal is available for desktop users, along with the users of Android and iOS, where they can play three variations of poker:

Texas Hold’em Poker, the most popular of the variations in the world

Though the four card pot limit Omaha was already there even before PokerDangal, the five card pot limit Omaha was first introduced by PokerDangal, which has gone on to become the most favourite variation of poker on the platform now. The fast speed and the wide range of probabilities and possibilities are some of the factors that distinguish the five card variation from the rest.

“It appeals to the statistical and analytical abilities in people,” said Varun.

While playing any of the three variants of the poker matches in PokerDangal, the players can choose to play individual cash games or get involved in a tournament. Emotional control, analytical ability and strategy are 3 important characteristics that define a good player from the other players.

The online is at par with the physical game in nearly all thinkable aspects. However, there are only a couple of differences that exist between a physical game and the online PokerDangal. For instance, a player can change his/her strategy when playing a physical game of poker based on the observations from the other players. Another point of difference is that while on a physical game of poker an individual can concentrate only on one game whereas on online PokerDangal he/she can play multiple games together.

The guiding principle of PokerDangal is to enrich the online gaming industry in India along with extending a safe, reliable, and fun ecosystem for the players of the country.

PokerDangal - Industry Details

The online gaming industry is a brilliant example of a flourishing industry. With the emergence of fantasy gaming platforms and other gaming brands offering a wide range of games of varied nature to the audiences, the gaming industry looks at a bright future ahead.

The Indian online gaming sector has already reached $1.027 billion in 2020, which stood at around $543 million only in 2016, thereby showing a growth of ~17.3%. The current trajectory that it is exhibiting now would make the industry climb to $2 billion by 2023. Furthermore, the number of online gamers in India, which currently stands at 360 million, is estimated to grow to 510 million by 2022.

The online poker games, holding the hands of PokerDangal, have already started to disrupt the online gaming industry of India with huge potential.

How to earn money from online poker games in India

PokerDangal - Founders and Team

Varun Mahna, Varun Puri, Shashwat Jain and Karan Gandhi founded PokerDangal in the year 2017.

Varun Mahna, Founder & CEO - Varun pursued his MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and graduated in B.E Computer Science from BITS Pilani. Before PokerDangal, he was in the position of HR Lead at Star Sports.

Varun Puri, Founder & COO - Varun Puri holds a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering from BITS Pilani. This is not his first time being an entrepreneur. His first venture was Neevtech India which is a leading exporter of agricultural machinery to Europe.

Shashwat Jain, Co-Founder & CTO - Shashwat did his Engineering from IIT Dhanbad and has headed the position of VP Analytics for quite a few ventures like Box8, Amazon, Mu Sigma, etc.

Karan Gandhi, Co-Founder - Karan holds a degree in B.Com from Delhi University and has previously worked in big brands like Zomato and NDTV.

Currently, PokerDangal has a team of 25 people with the key members being Manan Sobti, Sahil Parakh, Anurag Upadhyay and Akshat Bharadwaj. This team is a close-knit unit with zero attrition in the last 2.5 years.

How was PokerDangal Started?

Varun Mahna, the founder of PokerDangal, was a student of BITS Pilani when he was first introduced to poker in 2005. Varun and his friend Varun Puri joined various poker groups and enjoyed playing poker during their university days.

Varun next joined XLRI Jamshedpur, where poker was again a favourite. With the passage of days, Varun’s love for the game only grew. He then went on to join Star Sports and this is the first time when his attention was drawn towards online poker.

Varun soon found his interest in online poker and switched to the online form of the game. Online poker was yet a new concept back then but had the potential to disrupt the gaming industry. To leverage this opportunity, Varun decided to found his own company along with his engineering batchmate Varun Puri, Shashwat Jain, Karan Gandhi under the name Xeta Networks, the parent company of PokerDangal, which eventually gave rise to the latter.

The founders and co-founders together invested close to Rs. 30 lakhs from their personal savings and initially started working from a friend’s house.

PokerDangal - Name, Tagline and Logo

The PokerDangal team wanted a catchy name and the one that signified high octane action. The founders turned to be big fans of Bollywood and the movie Dangal inspired them to get an apt name for their gaming startup. There’s a line in the movie that says that “Dangal is not only a physical battle but also a mind game where one has to out-think their opponent.” That is what stayed with the founders and that’s how they decided to call the platform PokerDangal, as it is a mental duel.

The tagline of PokerDangal is 'Where Skills Meet Fortune', which is built with an endeavour of redefining Poker in India. Besides, they also use #AbDangalHoga, which is again inspired by Dangal.

The logo is a thoughtful mixture of acute sumo who is ready for a battle. It is coloured in a mixture of blue and white and is ingeniously crafted where a silhouette of a sumo wrestler is embedded on one of the chips of poker along with containing the initials of PokerDangal “PD”.

PokerDangal - Startup Launch

“We provide an online poker platform available on iOS, Google Play Store and Desktop versions for the users. A user can download our app, create their account, complete their KYC and profile and start playing at a time and place of their convenience.” says the founder proudly.

Interestingly, users can also deposit and withdraw money in their bank accounts. The business of online gaming is differentiated on customer acquisition, customer retention and customer engagement. With PokerDangal’s core strengths of understanding user behaviour, data analytics, and operational excellence, the tea was able to outpace the market on each of these 3 levels. The prime success in this business depends on how well is the CAC: LTV optimized.

Since its inception, the team has made major changes to the product and the way they conduct business. The product has been upgraded multiple times post the feedback from the users. Also, they have consistently integrated the feedback to create a better product and this is an ongoing process.

“From a policy point, we made a big change in April 2018 when we introduced instant cash-out on the platform. A user can withdraw their money 24/7/365 and the money hits the bank account in less than 10 seconds,” said Varun Mahna.

PokerDangal - USP and Innovation

The USP of PokerDangal lies in the fact that the platform takes an interest to popularise poker in India and serves as a safe, interesting, and rewarding gaming platform for the existing poker players of the country.

PokerDangal was the first platform to introduce the five card pot limit Omaha. Furthermore, it also serves as a platform that allows the players to play at multiple tables simultaneously.

PokerDangal - Business Model and Revenue Model

PokerDangal has mainly 2 revenue streams.

The first revenue stream is from the tournaments the platform conducts. They charge a 10% service fee on the entry fee for a tournament.

The second revenue stream is from the cash tables, where the platform charges a 3-4% service fee on the amount wagered by the users on the tables.

PokerDangal - Startup Challenges

The toughest part for PokerDangal was for them to sustain the concurrent traffic on the platform. To make this happen, they came up with a brilliant “refer a friend” program which fueled the traction and incentivized players to refer their friends to play on the PokerDangal platform. Poker as a game is typically learned and played in a group and hence each user on the platform had a circle which the team leveraged to its benefit with this campaign.

So ideally PokerDangal made its users its brand ambassadors where they were getting tremendous value to refer their friends as well. Refer a friend as a marketing tool has multiple benefits – it is relatively cheap and it creates a very positive brand image for the consumers being referred. For the initial months, spends on this campaign were very limited but the team did a lot of strategic tie-ups to ensure that they are reaching out to the target consumers most effectively. As a part of the plan, they also tied up with some of the top B-schools and Engineering colleges in the country and promoted PokerDangal during their annual festivals and meets. Interestingly, those partnerships are still in place and PokerDangal is now the official gaming partner for colleges like XLRI, MDI, etc.

Also, one of the most challenging parts was when PokerDangal was just 6 months old and wanted to raise some funds to scale the business operations. The founder team identified that to sustain in the industry it is important to hasten their user acquisition which in turn required a significant spend. So they decided to reach out to a few angel investors to understand the sentiments about the industry and they got a lot of positive responses from the people whom they reached out to. And they were finally funded by an angel investor in July 2018.

PokerDangal’s biggest success was successfully implementing instant cash-outs which allows the users to withdraw their winnings in just 30 seconds to their bank accounts 24/7. This strategic shift was a huge change in the way the team conducted the business operations.

PokerDangal - Funding and Investors

PokerDangal has raised a total of Rs. 7.30 crores in its latest funding round. The funding stabilized PokerDangal and helped in scaling the operations optimally.

PokerDangal - Acquisitions and Mergers

In the first year, PokerDangal acquired a struggling poker platform named PokerMet. The team acquired PokerMet’s user base, assets and merged its operations with PokerDangal.

PokerDangal - Competitors

Some of the big players in this segment are Adda52, Pocket52, and PokerStars. The sector is very cut-throat and one has to be on their toes to stay competitive. The focus on providing a delightful customer experience is a key differentiator for this online gaming business. The users need a platform where they have complete faith and hence it is important to be transparent in the policies and actions. PokerDangal is amongst one of the firms to have the best customer support system and that was the key to their growth. Also, this was the first company in the country to introduce instant cash-out and 5 cards PLO which are hugely popular with the user base.  

PokerDangal - Growth

  • The registered user base of more than 2,00,000 players.
  • A monthly deposit of more than INR 4.9 Crores.
  • The business saw a 14x growth over the last 12 months.
  • The average monthly turnover is INR 60 Crores.
  • The monthly revenue clocked in October 2019 was INR 2.5 Crores.
  • Tagged as an EBITDA positive company.
  • Amongst the top 4 real money poker sites.
  • PokerDangal is about to enter the fantasy/rummy business.

PokerDangal - FAQs

Who are the Founders of PokerDangal?

Varun Mahna, Varun Puri, Shashwat Jain and Karan Gandhi founded PokerDangal in the year 2017.

What does PokerDangal Offer?

PokerDangal offers a plethora of exciting tournaments and cash games to the players who want to put their skills to test in online Poker.

How much is PokerDangal Funding to date?

PokerDangal has raised a total of Rs. 7.30 crores in its series A funding round.

How much is PokerDangal's Turnover?

A monthly deposit of more than INR 4.9 Crores. The business saw a 14x growth over the last 12 months. The average monthly turnover is INR 60 Crores. The monthly revenue clocked in October 2019 was INR 2.5 Crores.