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NEW DELHI : Dream11 plans to double its hiring of tech workers in the next 12 to 18 months, a senior executive at the fantasy sports platform said.

The company will look to hire data scientists as well as those with skills in functions such as data warehousing, big data architecture, machine learning (ML) and systems design, Amit Sharma, chief technology officer of Dream Sports, the parent of Dream11 said.

The company currently has 350 people in its technology team, accounting for 58% of its total workforce.

According to Sharma, hiring people skilled in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its various subsets is a “top priority" for the company as it plans to offer more personalized experiences to customers.

“We want the app to be more and more personalized for every user. That requires crunching terabytes of data and running models at scale to identify preferences of every user in real time, which is a challenge," he said.

Dream11 has a social media feature that uses ML to recommend profiles users would want to connect with. According to Sharma, the company wants to personalise every touchpoint in the app for its users. “It could be as simple as when you are trying to deposit money into your account, we would like to recommend the right amount for you," he added.

Sharma acknowledged, though, that hiring is not easy since the industry has been facing an acute skill shortage, especially for talent in emerging technologies.

To address the issue, Dream Sports has “aggressive" employee stock ownership plans (Esops) and also offers multiple buyback offers for employees, Sharma said.

Dream11 is the leading brand under Dream Sports, which became the first Indian unicorn in the fantasy sports sector earlier this year. It is also among a handful of profitable unicorns. The company reported a profit of 180 crore in FY2020. In November, Dream Sports raised an additional $840 million from investors Falcon Edge, DST Global, D1 Capital, Tiger Global and Redbird Capital at a valuation of $8 billion.

The company has gained from a boom in the fantasy sports sector since the pandemic-driven lockdowns began last year. According to an October report by FICCI-EY, India’s fantasy sports industry is expected to cross $2.5 billion in 2022.

In June, a report by KPMG pegged the value of India’s online gaming segment at 13,600 crore, and said it would grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 21% to 29,000 crore in the next five years.

Sharma said other than improving the Dream11 platform, Dream Sports also plans to scale up its other businesses, which includes more than 10 brands across the sports technology industry.

“The idea for us now is to mature and scale them next year. For instance, FanCode, which is the exclusive broadcaster of upcoming India's Tour of West Indies in Feb 2022, is expecting around 50 to 75 million users to come to the platform next year. We want to scale that platform and make sure it’s ready when that happens," said Sharma.

With travel reopening worldwide following the lifting of covid-related restrictions, the company also wants to scale its travel experience platform, called DreamSetGo, which takes sports fans around the world to have sports experiences. It has invested in other companies, including electronics sports (eSports) company SoStronk, which it aims to scale next year.

“In 2022, the various parts of the DreamSports ecosystem will start maturing," Sharma said.

He said Dream Sports will be keeping “a close eye on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and metaverse applications" but doesn’t have immediate plans to leverage these emerging sectors yet. Metaverse is a 3-dimensional virtual environment where users can interact using digital avatars through VR and AR devices.

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