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Charlie Baillie

Considered niche for a very long time, gaming influencers in India, as compared to the rest of the world, are slowly becoming more mainstream when it comes to showing interest in leveraging their community to build on other IPs such as setting up private labels, launching products and services and even merchandises amongst others, as per Charlie Baillie, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Ampverse.

In his views, Ampverse in other mature markets such as South East Asia is already in conversations about developing energy drinks or other consumer products with small creators. However, this in his views is a trend that is coming to India today, owing to the talent and audience that the nation has from a gaming and esports perspective.

“Today, Bollywood stars, cricket and sports stars, and fashion influencers who have been mainstream in India for some time have already gotten into the IP and label creation space along with merchandising. That being said, historically, gaming influencers have been seen as more niche by the average person in India and therefore such influencers don’t share the same level of popularity or fandom as the aforementioned creators, but that's going to change as India has already begun seeing gaming influencers cross over and be more mainstream in terms of culture,” he stated.

Having entered India in November 2021, by acquiring 7Sea Esports, Ampverse who has now expanded its roots in the country by entering into a 50:50 joint venture with DMI Finance to further bolster its presence in the country, will be catering to such needs of the gaming and esports space by offering data-driven, proprietary tech-enabled, and creative e-sports influencer marketing solutions.

That being said, Ampverse doesn’t just limit themselves by introspecting themselves to be in the gaming influence business, because that’s only a part of what they do, however their USP, in Baillie’s viewpoint is building strong IPs and communities, followed by developing tech-enabled products to connect to those communities. 

“There are a lot of people in our company who work with influencers and do a perfectly good job at that, but we're not looking to replicate that here. Instead, we're looking to build innovative new IPs and College Rivals is just one of them which we foresee giving us more longevity in the long term and then can we start to monetise and expand it in different ways since influencer business has become more transactional today,” he stated.

Earlier, it was only the metropolises or the core Tier I cities that were becoming home to gaming and esports content creators, but today, that has broadened massively, to an extent that the pockets of gaming influencers from Tier II and III are gaining pace in terms of die-hard following, especially due to the local dialect and relationships that they share with the viewers or even consumers in their region.

As per Baillie, the Indian market is at a very interesting time despite the hiccup posed by the imposition of a ban on Battle Ground Mobile India which had an impact in terms of slowing the market down for a while, but the esports market in India has starting to grow again and it just feels that India is on the cusp of the next significant growth of gaming, owing to its young and passionate population of gamers and mobile-first nature.

“Obviously BGMI is flourishing, but other titles like Valorant and even the CS:GO community and other titles are starting to build back up which in itself is a factor that proves that there's a lot of growth ahead for this region, and that’s precisely why we're really accelerating our investment in this market through this initiative, because we think now's a good time to really invest in India,” he stated.

Upon being questioned as to how is the India is different from the other markets such as Thailand where Ampverse already has set their operations in, from an influencer marketing lens, Baillie replied that while India has a very active gaming influencer market, what's great is that the nation exhibits more and more diversity, especially in terms of female gamers joining and gaining large popularity in the ecosystem herein.

He also mentioned that since one of the major challenges for marketers today is that the next generation or the youngsters don’t consume traditional advertising and are savvy in terms of blocking ads on Instagram or other digital platforms, the only way to really cut through and connect is through authentic content which is not just entertaining but also passionate. 

Gaming, in his views, therefore is one of the most effective ways to connect with such audiences at the core level, because if brands partner in the right way, then only can one leverage that authentic connection to actually impact their brand. 

Furthermore, the Ampverse CSO also stated that one of the things that really makes the gaming and esports category stand apart as a niche for influencers over other domains such as beauty, health, lifestyle, etc. is that a lot of gaming and esports content is livestream-ed and therefore there’s a sense of spontaneity and unique elements that allows gaming talent to build a different bond or a very raw connectivity with their audiences that's also authentic.

Commenting on the motivation behind entering into a JV with DMI Finance, Baillie stated that while India is a complex market because it is multi-layered, multi-cultural, multi-language, etc., for any foreign investor or someone who's looking to launch a business, it is crucial to be careful with how he/she approaches the market and for building a culturally relevant and an impactful business here, what’s imperial is the need to have good partners.

“We've been involved and interested in this market for a while, but what we've decided is if we want to really take our investment to the next level and really double down and invest in India for the long term, then we should do it with a strong local partner, and that's really the ethos behind why we partnered with DMI Finance from a JV perspective, specifically because despite being a fintech company, both of us have a shared interest around wanting to powerful build communities through gaming,” he said.

He further emphasised that while it's the Indian counterpart that has local market knowledge and is bringing in financial resources, it is Ampverse that has capabilities that are complementary in achieving the bigger goal.

In his view, because building the community is just a stepping stone to progressing to other layers, the recently announced collegiate IP- College Rivals is something that they have long-term plans for, taking into consideration that the first step is to get moving and then leverage the community that they’re building to launch other initiatives. 

“We’re going to be investing in original content format IPs and will be launching other professional e-sports initiatives in India, like we’ve been doing in other Southeast Asian markets where we've developed other tech-enabled products and services to connect with gamers, whether it be through physical merchandise, products or even digital in-game items,” he added.

College Rivals which also happens to be the first launch of an Ampverse IP in India is germinated from the fact that college esports specifically are underserved in the country as of now, and therefore the gaming influencer marketing company only found it prudent to add value to the college community in the pursuit of building up the esports community in the long run and 
not just looking to appeal to gamers but also build it as more of a lifestyle IP that has elements such as music.

In the long term, Ampverse, in Baillie’s spectacle, wants to become the leading or dominant player, or certainly, one of the global players, when it comes to building a business that is right at the heart of the emerging market growth in India and South East Asia.