Mainstreaming Virtual Cricket Leagues in Vernac Audiences: A ShareChat Experiment

Sohil Bansal
Nov 9, 2017 · 7 min read

For 2 straight months, a cricket frenzy gripped nation stays glued to their screen for 3 hours of what has been rightly described as “non-stop entertainment” aka IPL. One thing that remains constant year after year is the space which IPL has exclusively crafted for itself in the mind of Indian audiences. And perhaps what is representative of this great Indian civilization, the space in the people’s heart has no boundaries criss-crossing language,caste,creed & the urban-rural divide.

For better engagement of the audience IPL introduced its official Fantasy League in 2012. People could choose their favorite players and get rewarded on the basis of their live performance. However, the service was entirely in English and was a complex website with a difficult point system. To mitigate this problem, and tap the huge potential of Indian users, we at ShareChat conducted a little experiment “The ShareChat Cricket League”. The experiment targeted a selected user base, which was shortlisted based on their interests & analyzed using the patterns of posts uploaded by users and tags opened by users related to cricket and IPL. True to our theory we received an astounding response, with recurring participation of above 5000 unique users out of a total set of 10000 users. The total points accrued by different users varied from a high of 2500 to a low of -9, thereby demonstrating the diverse nature of the league.

As is with all events happening on the ground, we created different tags for the IPL in which people could post,share,like or comment on different types of posts, thereby engaging users and at the same time creating a sense of a wider community entangled through small networks. With the ShareChat Cricket Star League happening on such a wide range of audiences, the data generated through it has given us many interesting insights, and one such is the Popularity Index which is used for measuring the popularity of IPL in audiences during different stages of the league. The popularity index takes into various factors like the comments, posts created, likes & shares with appropriate weightage to each factor and gives us a good insight as to the dates during which audiences participation was more lively and the excitement levels were high.

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  • As expected, IPL tends to be more popular in the starting and the final phases of the league. While there is a sense of expectation in the starting it gives way to supporting your favorite team to the hilt in the final phases of the tournament, thereby having a high rating in the popularity index. Another thing to note is the way the index frantically rises and then falls in a similar way during the final stage. Since the final 4 matches are structured to generate high curiosity and adrenaline levels, the index rises almost exponentially in the final dates and the falling actually occurs on 23 May, 2 days after the IPL has finished.

To sum up the popularity of IPL, the posts shared from ShareChat related to IPL had been viewed by more than 1.35 Crore people on Whatsapp, while it received more than 3 Crore eyeballs on ShareChat itself. To add to this, there were more than 48k posts related to IPL and the IPL tag was opened more than 6 lakh times so as to keep oneself up to date with the happenings from the tournament.

Another interesting empirical observation of the user behaviour was that the users preferred to ask scores from other users in comments, rather than searching on the internet, thereby showing a remarkable dependence and confidence on ShareChat community. Another interesting trend was seen specifically in Gujarati language, where users would pick a scene from the match and make funny memes by adding their comments on the photo, and later posting it on ShareChat. A screenshot of such a “meme” is attached in the end.

It was only due to the user’s interest in the IPL, that ShareChat Cricket League has been a resounding success. To keep things simple and make the IPL interesting we asked 3 set of questions from the user, based on which they would get points and subsequently their rank.The first question went out before the match, in which users were asked to pick their favorite player from the match who would fetch them the maximum points. The users were asked to select one player from a total of 5 players. The second question went out just after the start of the match and the users were asked to predict the total runs scored in that match. The user picked one out of 4 possible ranges, mainly (200–300),(301–325),(326–350),(351–450), and in the third question the user picked up the team they thought was most likely to win the match.Due to the continuous and spirited participation of the users, we can also investigate how the popularity of the players as well as the teams stacked as IPL season matured. The below graphs show the Popularity Index of the teams and players in different weeks of the tournament.

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  • The above graph gives various interesting insights. The first and foremost has to be the constantly high levels of support for RCB despite its abysmal campaign. Nothing represents this more than the fact that during the 2nd week the support levels for the RCB were more than 3 times RPS, who eventually went on to play the finals and enjoyed twice the support of GL. While RPS, initially had low levels of support, its support base started rising dramatically in the business stages of the tournament vis a vis Week 5&6. This was almost similar to the performance pattern of RPS in this season. Players like Rahul Tripathi came out of nowhere, and helped the team cruise through some important matches. Imran Tahir, who took plenty of wickets was not even picked in auction and went on to join the team only when the IPL took off. And then in the final stages Jaydev Unadkat really came into his own finishing as the 2nd highest wicket taker in the whole league.Thus as the weeks passed by, not only did their team combination got better, they also started enjoying high levels of support, as shown by the ShareChat Team Popularity Index. Another interesting observation is the fact that the top 4 people in the graph are from the same teams that reached in the qualifying round, with Guajrat Lions and DD both being in the bottom in people support as well as in the league table.
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  • The above graph shows the how the popularity of different players varied in different stages of the tournament. Virat Kohli, as the poster boy of Indian Cricket remained constantly popular enjoying the highest popularity ratings, despite having a subdued tournament according to his standards. This was perhaps one of the reasons that RCB enjoyed high popularity among various teams as it was lead by Kohli.

David Warner, being the highest run scorer was the 2nd most popular player in the league.

  • Another intriguing result that the numbers gave us was that in the matches where chasing team won, our users had a much better prediction rates (~56 %) than the matches where the team who batted first won (~44%). There were 5 matches in total in which the team getting less than 30% of the popular vote won, and 3 of these matches involved RCB, with RCB chasing in all 3 of them. Nothing summarises the fall of the RCB batsman this season than these numbers. Infact of the 5 matches, 4 had been those in which the team batting 2nd had disappointed! The users expected the winning team to chase those runs but they were unable to do so.

The winners of the league was Mr Vishnu Sharma from Barnala, Punjab who happens to be 60+. The 2nd ranked was Mr Sonu Meena who come from the remote village of Dhaba, Kota, Rajasthan. In this time and age, when breaking barriers is what is defining India, its people like Mr Vishnu and Sonu who are at the forefront of it, and we at ShareChat are proud of providing a platform to them.

We had partnered with SportsKeeda for the IPL in which they would create a Match Post about the upcoming match and the users would engage with each other in the comments, often asking live scores from other users. The experiment is a clear demonstration of the fact the first time internet users are interested in the concept of Fantasy League. The product needs to be shaped in such a way so as to cater to vernac users. By merging these leagues with a layer of social network like we at ShareChat have recently experimented, the results can be astounding. This is an interesting opportunity which fellow entrepreneurs can explore by focussing on this emerging segment.

By: Ankit Bansal & Prakhar Singhal

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