4 Minutes Read
Anuj Gupta (cover image) is a visionary who took a calculated risk in 2011 and fought all odds to bring online gaming to a level never seen before in India. This IIT Delhi alumnus is the driving force and the man behind India`s largest online poker site – Adda52.com.
By his greatest accomplishments, some might assume that the stars were perfectly aligned but no, success was never serendipitous. In reality, the stars were not aligned for him; rather, he shot for the stars. It wasn’t just recognizing an opportunity to become the only operator offering legal online games of skill as Gupta admits that convincing the ecosystem about the legality of Poker in India was a tough task. But, man did those efforts pay off with Adda52.com getting acquired by gaming and hospitality giant Delta Corp for a whopping ₹223.9 crores (paid partly in cash and rest in equity)!
Gupta took some time out from his busy schedule to speak to PokerGuru about his journey towards setting India`s biggest online poker site.
This savvy businessman is a leader, pure and simple. From tying up with World Poker Tour to merging with the only BSE listed gaming company Delta Corp, he’s definitely doing something right, so let’s find out what that is and rewind –
Hello Anuj, thank you for speaking with PokerGuru. Please tell us about your journey at Adda52.com especially the early struggles and the angel funding you picked up.
The idea was sprouted in the year 2011. Zynga on FaceBook was tasting success in the Indian market with its free poker game and lakhs of Indians were getting hooked. Mohit Agarwal and I recognized the opportunity and wanted to introduce the players to real cash games. Similar sites existed in the international forums, but Indians were unable to enjoy the game due to murky laws for money transfer. The answer of having an Indian poker site seemed ideal and Adda52 was built on the dream of giving lacs of Indians the FIRST legitimate platform.
The going was not easy in the beginning as it was difficult to convince the ecosystem about the legality of Poker in India. We had to literally educate our investors, banks and everyone around by showing the legal framework. We had to educate the people about the difference between gambling and games of skill.
We received angel investment from eminent names in the Indian online investment ecosystem.
Please share the early struggles of the brand enroute its journey that saw it becoming the biggest online poker site in the country.
We started with a single game in 2011 to over four most popular variants in 2017. The journey took us from a few thousand players in 2011 to over 12 Lakh + registered players in 2017. What started with players winning 2 Lakhs monthly in tournaments, to the collective guarantees running in 5.2 Crores in Oct 2017.
We used multitude channels to build these kinds of numbers. We use unconventional marketing methods like car branding, auto branding, movie tie-ups like Mary Kom and Bajirao Mastani to launching the first and longest running team of poker pros.
We have also tied up with World Poker Tour® for an exclusive license of products and services in India. And in fact, have brought Indian players a chance to experience international tournaments with WPT India.
How did the collaboration with Delta Corp come about?
We conducted our first joint event that was the Deltin Poker Tournament (DPT) series in 2016. During our interactions, management on both sides realized that there would be synergy in joining hands in the long term. The talks began eventually culminating to the merger.
Please tell us about the changes introduced after the Delta Corp merger. Please elaborate as to how Delta Corp team is helping in making Adda52 bigger.
Synergies exist within existing business and the opportunity to deploy funds for newer growth areas like rummy and daily fantasy. We now have a bigger platform to operate with and take larger calls to grow the nascent poker industry in India.
How has the partnership with Adda52 and Deltin Royale poker room been after it was re-branded as Adda52 Live?
The changeover has been seamless, and the casino management has been happy with the few processes that we have introduced… but it is still a work in progress.
Please share your views on the possibility of the world’s biggest site PokerStars coming to India with a dedicated Indian client? How do you think that will affect the current Indian operators?
Any credible competition today that improves the perception of poker is welcome. There will be a lot of exciting learnings for all Indian operators as they are likely to do some things differently.
Please tell us about Adda52 team pros and celebrity pro Minissha Lamba. Are more celebrity tie-ups in the pipeline?
Our poker professional team currently consists of Nikita Luther, Kunal Patni, Amit Jain and Tarun Goyal.
a. Kunal Patni was an Investment Banker for almost 12 years before joining as an Adda52 Pro Live in 2015.
b. Amit Jain is a Mumbai based Businessman and one of the most experienced player in the poker circuit who joined Adda52 Pro Live in 2015.
c. Tarun Goyal was a software engineer before he turned to Poker as a profession. He joined Adda52 Pro Live in 2016.
d. Nikita Luther is the newest edition to Adda52 Pro Live and she is also the COO of Poker Sports League (PSL).
We are always constantly evaluating on how to improve the effectiveness and size of the poker pro team.
What is your outlook on the current poker scene in the country?
It has picked up momentum, but different operators should now work together with the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and expand the pie to the next level.
Please share your views on the various poker leagues coming in India.
Too early to comment on all leagues. Poker Sports League (PSL) is the only league I see giving opportunity to a larger poker audience to participate in the most popular and mainstream format of poker.
Please tell us about the rummy variant. How has the response been? Are plans of venturing into other skilled games like fantasy sports in your radar?
Yes, as stated earlier, we plan to add focus in both rummy and fantasy sports. Adda52 Rummy is gaining traction and we can see strong numbers there.
Where do you see Adda52 five years down the line?
We aim is to create the largest Poker eco-system that is committed to providing the players the best poker experience across all platforms in a safe and secure way.
With so many domestic sites cropping up, what differentiates Adda52 from the others both existing and new operators?
As you stated, we are India’s biggest online poker site. This is both in terms of no of players and tournament giveaways. We are constantly innovating our homegrown software and migrating to newer technologies to provide the best possible environment to play. We do market research to understand player behavior and enhancing the user experience.
We are legally complaint and adhere to strict ethical and business policies.
Any parting words or anything you would like to add?
Follow your Gut, but look at data first.
Gupta signs off!