PokerDangal - India's largest Online Poker Gaming Platform

Vidhi Punamiya Vidhi Punamiya
Mar 04, 2021 11 min read
PokerDangal - India's largest Online Poker Gaming Platform

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by PokerDangal.

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 Poker Dangal in the year 2017.

PokerDangal - Company Highlights

Startup Name PokerDangal
Headquarter Delhi
Founder Varun Mahna, Varun Puri. Co-Founders – Karan Gandhi, Shashwat Jain
Sector Online Gaming
Founded 2017
Parent Organization Xeta Networks Pvt Ltd

PokerDangal - About and How it Works
PokerDangal - USP and Innovation
PokerDangal - Industry Details
PokerDangal - Founders and Team
How was PokerDangal Started?
PokerDangal - Name, Tagline and Logo
PokerDangal - Startup Launch
PokerDangal - Business Model and Revenue Model
PokerDangal - Startup Challenges
PokerDangal - Competitors
PokerDangal - Funding and Investors
PokerDangal - Acquisitions and Mergers
PokerDangal - Growth
PokerDangal - FAQs

PokerDangal - About and How it Works

PokerDangal is an online gaming platform that intends to redefine the gaming experience in India. Players possessing sharp gaming skills can leverage this online gaming platform to earn, evolve their game and play at a place and time of their convenience. PokerDangal offers a plethora of exciting tournaments and cash games to the players who want to put their skills to test in online Poker business. The prime objective of this venture is to build a safer, more reliable and pleasurable online gaming ecosystem for all the potential players.

PokerDangal - USP and Innovation

PokerDangal is known for its professional values of delivering the utmost customer experience, hence, it provides excellent customer support round the clock. Consumers can relish an ultimate poker experience complemented with high safety standards. The platform has been certified by i-Tech labs, Australia ensuring the highest standards for its users.

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PokerDangal - Industry Details

According to a study by KPMG in India, currently, a population of 8 million players play poker (physical + Online) in India of which roughly 3 million users are online. This number is growing rapidly. And currently, PokerDangal enjoys a prominent market share of 8%.

Globally the online poker industry rakes in more than $4 billion of rake. India has begun seeing the growth of the sport in the last 3 years and the next 10 years is believed to see this user base increasing exponentially. It is also estimated that roughly a population of 310 million Indian users would be playing online games by 2021. 41% of these Indian users would be playing skill-based card games. A typical profile of an online gamer is 18-35 year old male from Metros and Tier 1 towns.

PokerDangal - Founders and Team

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

PokerDangal Founders
PokerDangal Team

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

Varun Puri, Founder & COO - Puri has a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineer 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 - Jain has a Bachelor's in Engineering from IIT Dhanbad and has headed the position of VP Analytics for quite a few ventures like Box 8, Amazon, Mu Sigma, etc.

Karan Gandhi, Co-Founder - Karan has 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?

The first idea for PokerDangal struck to the founders from being consumers themselves. Varun Mahna was a keen poker enthusiast and started playing online in 2014. It was during this time that he realized that the services available are not up to the desired standards and on the other side the demand was surging. Varun met his engineering friend Varun Puri and discussed the potential of this business idea. Varun was quickly on board and saw the potential of this becoming a business that is both scalable and sustainable apart from being a business of the future.

Access to data, smartphone penetration and the ease of digital payments made this business idea even more alluring. In Feb 2017, Karan Gandhi and Shashwat Jain joined the team adding skill sets essential for the business. Shashwat has extensive experience in scaling startups and has unmatched data expertise. Karan understood the poker business as he is a long-term player and his knowledge of user behavior was unparalleled. And so together, the four of them started the venture in May 2017 and went live in Sep 2017.

It was a very tough ride filled with hurdles from 2014 to 2017. The major concern was to find the right team to execute the idea. Many of the peers whom the founders spoke to. were not sure about the sector or were not willing to take the plunge. The idea was appreciated by most however not many were ready to take decisive steps.  

In the months leading to the product going live, the founders came up with the GTM strategy and the proof of concept was delivered within 3 months of going live. With minimal marketing spend, they were able to achieve a concurrency on the platform and managed to scale their operations organically.

“We started preparing for our launch 6 months before actually going live. The business required a lot of innovation while planning the Go To Market strategy as we were a bootstrapped organization. The initial traction was the key for our survival and we had made an extensive plan to get these users to our platform. From our friends and family to our social circle, we leveraged our contacts for us to garner our first 100 users. Customized promotions were offered to these players which increased their potential for engaging on the platform.” Says founder Varun Mahna.

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PokerDangal logo
PokerDangal logo

The PokerDangal team wanted a catchy name and the one that signified high octane action. So the founders are big fans of Bollywood and the movie Dangal inspired them. There’s a line in the movie which 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. Also, their tagline is inspired by the movie as #AbDangalHoga is what the venture ideally stands for. The logo is a thoughtful mixture of a cute sumo who is ready for a battle.

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 behavior, 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 on-going 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 - Business Model and Revenue Model

PokerDangal has mainly 2 revenue streams.

  1. The first revenue stream is from the Tournaments the platform conducts. They charge a 10% service fee on the entry fee for a tournament.
  2. 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.

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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 it's 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 - 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.  

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PokerDangal - Funding and Investors

PokerDangal raised the First round of Funding from an angel investor in July 2018 for an amount of INR 2.5 Crore. 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.

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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.
  • 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.

How much is PokerDangal Funding till date?

PokerDangal raised First Round of funding from an angel investor in July 2018 for an amount of INR 2.5 Crore.

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. Average monthly turnover is INR 60 Crores. The monthly revenue clocked in October 2019 was INR 2.5 Crores

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

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