Siddharth Raman on how use of AI/ML is making a huge impact in sports

Sportz Interactive, a sport-focused digital solutions provider, covers 1,500+ matches across sports and leagues every month. In an interview with Adgully, Siddharth Raman, Deputy CEO, Sportz Interactive, says that the company’s future focus is on growing the business at a double digit percentage, which “we’ve done for two years and counting”.

“With 600 ‘players’ (we don’t call them employees) and 150+ clients (Indian and globally), we are on the right track in terms of overall growth and in being an employer of choice in this domain,” says Raman. He also talks about Sportz Interactive’s journey so far, the state of fantasy gaming in India, the use of AI/ ML in the sports industry, the increasing relevance of non-cricket sports items like Kabaddi, football, and Kho Kho, and the evolution of Data Capture. Excerpts:

What does the future hold for Sportz Interactive and the industry at large? How has your journey been thus far?

Sportz Interactive (SI) is a sport-focused digital solutions provider with a comprehensive portfolio across data, content, and technology. Our products and services are used by leagues, federations, publishers, technology companies, broadcasters, fantasy platforms, brands, and rights holders across the globe. Our journey began in 2002 out of a garage, with a passionate bunch of sports lovers who collected live cricket scores and then went on to expand our portfolio over 20+ sports. Now, we cover 1,500+ matches across sports and leagues every month.

As for the future, our focus is on growing the business at a double digit percentage, which we’ve done for two years and counting. With 600 ‘players’ (we don’t call them employees) and 150+ clients (Indian and globally), we are on the right track in terms of overall growth and in being an employer of choice in this domain.

What is the state of fantasy gaming in India? Are we tapping the segment to the fullest potential? What are the challenges?

Fantasy gaming has had humble beginnings, but it has evolved to a multi-billion dollar industry today in India. As per a report by Deloitte and the Federation of Fantasy Sports in India (FIFS), the industry boasts a market size of Rs 35,000 crore and a user base of 13+ crore. By 2025, it is expected to grow to a phenomenal Rs 165,000 crore. At Sportz Interactive, we already work with a diverse set of stakeholders that also include gaming operators and daily fantasy players – all through the lens of enhancing the sports fan experience.

We have our gaming suite and games that cater to all kinds of fans; and a roadmap that is focused on adding more products and bettering our existing offerings. In India, factors such as increased smartphone penetration, improved internet connectivity and a tech-friendly audience have encouraged the growth of fantasy gaming. Although fantasy gaming was boosted by cricket and its World Cup in the early days, we are seeing sports like kabaddi, hockey and basketball now also in the fray, along with smaller tournaments.

Could you tell us about the use of AI/ ML and Metaverse in the sports industry?

As far as the Metaverse is concerned, it is still early days in India, and I wouldn’t like to comment on it extensively. The use of AI/ML is already making a huge impact in sports. For example, at Sportz Interactive, one of our offerings – ‘Automated Highlights’ – is backed by artificial intelligence and machine learning. We are able to provide fans with content in real-time. The moment a key action or event takes place in a LIVE scenario, it is made available as a highlight clip; and when the match is done, multiple highlight clips can be generated for editorial use in an efficient manner.

How has sports in India evolved beyond cricket?

We have seen positive signs and trends for a couple of years now when it comes to non-cricket sports getting a lift. The franchise-based league format has proven to be a viable business model when a long-term vision is also involved. After the success of kabaddi and football, sports like volleyball and kho-kho are beginning to make their presence felt.

From Kabaddi to IPL to football and Kho Kho, how does Sportz Interactive works effortlessly across various sports/ leagues/ brands?

A lot of it has to do with our culture at Sportz Interactive. We are passionate sports fans who come to work every day to make life better for people like us, which is why the sport really doesn’t matter. As long as we are making life better for fans of sport, that is the foundation on which we start operating when it comes to any league or brand.

How have you seen the evolution of Data Capture?

The process of Data Capture has definitely evolved over the past 4-5 years, probably even over the past decade. Where we initially needed a large team to manually capture live data as the matches were taking place, now a lot happens on the back of computer vision and artificial intelligence and machine learning. Because of that, we are able to automate a lot of that process and reduce human dependence for that. And this will only continue with time – making machines take over lower value work, while human intervention could be focused on higher value on the spectrum.


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