As e-sports pitch hots up, online gaming firms rope in big celebrities

Online gaming is picking up steam in India and to put more focus on it, companies are roping in celebrities to promote e-sports.

Parth Sharma, General Manager of Ballebaazi.com, told Moneycontrol, “I feel the market is so huge right now. People have taken Virat Kohli and Dhoni. Dream 11, that associated with cricketer Dhoni to strengthen its leadership position in the online fantasy sports industry, is already a market leader. They are easily churning out Rs 5-6 crore a day in service fees, which is a huge amount. These companies are bringing in brand ambassadors so that they can take the first mover advantage.”

Recently, Mobile Premier League (MPL), a mobile gaming startup, brought on board cricketer Virat Kohli as a brand ambassador for a deal worth Rs 12 crore for a period of one year. The company, which is 10 months old, has around one million daily active users. It is aiming to bring this number up to five million after its association with Kohli.

Another online gaming company – PokerStars India – signed actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui as its brand ambassador. Experts believe that this will prove to be an optimistic move for the platform’s growth in the country. Despite its global presence, the company has been struggling in India.

Online poker platform PokerBaazi was associated with ace boxer Vijender Singh as its brand ambassador since Jan 2018. With this association, the brand intended to leverage his reputation as a serious sportsperson and position Poker as a sport that flourishes on sheer skill and talent.

Sharma points out another reason for these celebrity associations. “When brand ambassadors come on board, they bring in trust and credibility factor with them. A lot of these companies have already acquired a lot of users. However, the problem that they are facing is people not depositing money because of lack of trust. Hence, companies rope in celebrities to bring the trust factor so that people start depositing money for companies to earn. There’s no other way to make money for these platform as there is no advertising on their interfaces.”

Indian gaming companies, in recent years, have seen many celebrities from the film industry, cricket world and other sports come on board. Adda52, online poker and card game site, had roped in actor Minishha Lamba and West Indies cricketing legend Chris Gayle. Sunny Leone was signed by Ability Games, a software and game development powerhouse, for its online game 11Wickets.

For all the companies focusing on cricket, the time is right for a marketing push as two major cricketing events – the 12th edition of Indian Premier League, and the ICC World Cup – are around the corner.

The appetite for gaming in India is increasing and the proof of this is the growing number of game developing companies in the country, which has risen from 25 in 2010 to 250 in 2018, according to a recent Forbes report.

The report also pegs India’s gaming industry at $890 million and expects the mobile games market to be worth $1 billion by 2020. These numbers are encouraging global companies to invest in India’s gaming platforms due to which more money is moving through the industry.

Changing lives by education

Education is one of the most effective tools to break the cycle of poverty. How can the public and private sector work together to address the enormous challenge of ensuring access to quality education for the young people of Asia, Middle East and Africa?
While governments are, and should continue to be, the guardian of education systems, it is crucial to acknowledge and understand the potential of the private sector in supporting this key sector. Increased private-public partnerships in the education field have the potential of amplifying the impact of interventions supported through philanthropy and the international community.

Dubai Cares encourages partnerships between the public and private sector in the hope that this will increase the predictability and sustainability of funding, and broaden commitment to overall development goals, notably in the education field. We are a key player in a number of international platforms where public and private firms work together.

For example, public-private partnership is important to support ‘Education in Emergencies’. This support cannot be the sole responsibility of one entity — we should join our efforts for the common good.

A great example of this effort is ‘Education Cannot Wait’ — a financing mechanism for ‘Education in Emergencies’ that involves government, non-government, philanthropic and private sector in a concerted effort to make a lasting change for the millions of children and youth who are out of school due to conflict or crisis. Another recent example is our new strategic partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF) that aims to support the reskilling revolution with a push to provide skills to 15 million people by 2021.

Our aim is to build a network of public-private partnerships in 10 countries initially, to be up-scaled to a total of 15 national economies by 2020, over half of which will be developing countries.

Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is a priority for Dubai Cares. How does the NTD programme fit into the larger goals of Dubai Cares?
NTDs keep children out of school, parents out of work, and cause stunting and impaired brain development, locking societies into endless cycles of poverty. One of Dubai Cares’ strategic approaches to improving children’s enrollment and learning outcomes is through an integrated school health and nutrition model that is made up of school-based deworming activities, school feeding, and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) in schools. As part of Dubai Cares’ global efforts in fighting NTDs, 34.4 million children have benefited from our deworming activities in developing countries. Furthermore, out of the 34.4 million children who have received deworming treatment from Dubai Cares-funded mass drug administration (MDA) programmes, more than 2.8 million have also benefitted from integrated education and health programmes in countries like Palestine, Ethiopia, Angola, Vietnam and India.

How can leaders leverage leadership platforms like the ABLF to address the issue of universal learning in your opinion?
From my several field visits to Asian countries, I have noticed significant progress has been made in increasing enrollment, retention and completion rates and decreasing gender gaps. However, many children in some parts of the continent, are still out of school or do not have access to quality education.

I believe the ABLF is one of the platforms that can bring together governments, education stakeholders as well as partners from the private sector throughout the region to ensure education reaches the most vulnerable populations, that education systems work effectively for children, and that no child is left behind.

Suit yourself: why menswear finally smartened up its act

various catwalk suits arranged in a colourful line

The streetwear brand Supreme shocked the fashion world last year. No, it wasn’t the red-and-white logo-covered pinball machine, inflatable kayak or even the branded breathalyser it was selling. It was something so innocuous, so unexpected yet quotidian, the virtual opposite of a “shock tactic” in fact. Tucked away among all the hoodies, track pants and baseball caps typical of the much-hyped label, there was – wait for it – a classic two-piece suit. The item more readily associated with commuters and politicians than hoodie-wearing hype beasts had entered new territory.

It sent ripples through the streetwear community. GQ called it the Supreme piece they would most like to buy and, in an unlikely turn of events, suddenly trainer-hungry superfans were salivating over a blazer.

This isn’t just a standard suit, you see – it represents a shift in fashion, which has been dominated by streetwear for the last decade. Items such as hoodies, tracksuits and sneakers now populate menswear runways as a matter of course, and are sold for three figures by luxury retailers. According to the consulting firm Bain & Company, streetwear – once a niche sector – was forecast as one of four driving factors for an estimated 6-8% growth of the luxury market in 2018. Meanwhile, Supreme has gone from cult to serious fashion player. In October 2017, private equity firm the Carlyle Group bought a stake in the company. With the look moving from underground to mainstream, though, a streetwear saturation point has been reached. Enter the suit.

This season there were four major menswear designer debuts at luxury labels and all rallied behind the two-piece. At Kim Jones’s first outing at Dior, he gave the suit his blessing, with lightweight double-breasted ones in pastel pink and Big Bird yellow. Virgil Abloh, in a much-anticipated collection for Louis Vuitton, steered away from what might have been expected when looking at his streetwear-infused label Off-White, and instead opted for roomy tailoring in white, mint and candy-apple red. Riccardo Tisci, a pioneer of gothic-chic streetwear during his reign at Givenchy, showed tasteful, meeting room-friendly suits as part of his first Burberry collection. Meanwhile Hedi Slimane, showing menswear for the first time at Celine, presented his signature razor-sharp skinny suits in black.

The suit is obviously nothing new. It has been with us, in one form or another, for centuries – from French aristocrats’ matching redingotes and breeches in the early 1700s to England’s more conservative version popularised by Beau Brummell in the early 1800s and the preppy postwar American iteration championed by Brooks Brothers. Its longevity can be put down to its chameleon-like qualities. The suit has been spun in many different directions over the years, from the traditional (Gianni Agnelli, JFK Jr) to the foppish (Bryan Ferry, Wes Anderson) to the outright eccentric (David Bowie, André 3000). Then, of course, there are the myriad varieties seen in offices every day.

Razor-sharp … a model on the catwalk at Hedi Slimane’s first menswear show for Celine.

Interestingly, though, as its fashionability grows, the suit’s place in the corporate landscape is fading. Silicon Valley startup culture has ushered in a new age of casual dressing that makes off-duty clothes appropriate for the corner office. Two years ago, JPMorgan Chase announced that “business casual” was its new official everyday dress code. Last year, the business publication Inc. released a guide for companies to attract millennials with a more relaxed approach to workplace attire. With white-collar workers increasingly casual, the stuffy totem of adulthood and nine-to-five dressing that is the suit can be reassessed by a new generation of men who associate hoodies and trainers with the uniform of establishment figures such as Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel.

Andrew Cedotal, a 32-year-old Silicon Valley game designer, is an interesting case. He wears a suit or mixed suit separates, despite his notoriously casual environs – and likes what it semaphores. “Wearing a put-together outfit is a way of very easily communicating that you know how to build an organised and visually appealing presentation,” he says. “It’s a sign to people who are marketing experts that you know how to tell a story in a single glance.”

Cedotal is an outlier in the Bay Area, and can remember seeing only two other suit-wearers in the wilds of San Francisco. At companies he’s worked for, it’s mostly relegated to the legal team. In the tech industry, where “disruption” is a cherished value, he is in fact the rebellious one for wearing a throwback uniform. “I’ve had multiple people say that to me,” he laughs.

“Suiting suddenly feels subversive [in fashion],” says Brian Trunzo, senior menswear editor at WGSN, the global trend forecasting agency. “A traditional suit makes you do a double-take.” With social media feeds filled with streetwear, tailoring is unexpectedly fresh – and already enjoying the endorsement of fashion editors at the menswear shows, if street-style photography is anything to go by. Trunzo points to the range of new suiting options – from craft details at Calvin Klein and Dior to younger brands such as A-Cold-Wall* and Alyx marrying suiting with a streetwear sensibility – as ways in which the category is seeking a new audience. “I own 40-odd jackets and I haven’t worn one in years,” Trunzo says. “And the other day I found myself in a Rowing Blazers jacket and Nike Pigalle sweatpants, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what is happening? I’m falling victim to the resurgence of suiting.’”

Retailers are starting to see a spike in tailoring, too. Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter, says, “In an age in which streetwear has ruled the runway, traditional tailoring has definitely fallen by the wayside as men dress more casually.” Over the last two seasons, however, the online luxury retailer has seen increased sales in the suiting category, up 30% last winter and set to grow this season. “It’s exciting to see how many luxury houses are introducing tailoring again, but making it relevant for young, casualwear-focused men,” Firth says.

Michael Adebayo, a 32-year-old GP based in the north-east of England, is someone for whom wearing a suit is optional – but he often does it anyway, he says, “in a more relaxed manner, without a tie or pocket square. These days, seeing people combining a suit with trainers or even shorts is amazing.” Adebayo uses suits to stand out – “Velvet and natural wool fabrics are my favourites” – rather than blend into a crowd. “I feel I can take on any challenge when wearing a suit and, most importantly, it makes people listen.”

No wonder suits are proving popular far beyond corporate environments, then. In October and November last year, there was a 33% year-on-year increase for the term “men’s suits” on the global fashion search platform Lyst. “It’s hit the radar of the consumer,” says Marshal Cohen, an analyst at market research firm NPD Group. “Suit separates seem to be the place it’s going to start. We’re already seeing it in the numbers.”

This new era of suiting won’t simply be a return to the slim-fitted “suited-and-booted” movement of the early noughties when Slimane’s skinny tailoring for Dior Homme dominated, but will bring the swagger of streetwear into the more traditional world of tailoring. Look at the mint green, oversized Louis Vuitton double-breasted suit Kanye West wore (with no shirt and slide sandals) over the summer, or Michael B Jordan’s Off-White suit with a belted waist and bright orange armband. Then there’s the floral appliquéd Haider Ackermann suit – a mix of rock’n’roll and romance – that Timothée Chalamet wore at the Toronto film festival in September, or DJ Benji B, more usually found in a bomber jacket or hoodie, in a Virgil Abloh-designed, loose-fitting Louis Vuitton suit at the Fashion Awards in December. Footwear is key – see Stormzy, a tracksuit devotee, on the front of Elle’s February issue in tailoring and trainers – a surefire way to de-corporate any suit.

Of course, for some, the suit never went out of style in the first place. Finance manager David D’Costa, 31, wears one as his “work uniform”. “A mentor in my first job guided me through the basics of suit wearing and over time I’ve developed my own style,” he says. Despite the suit’s formerly fusty reputation, he says seeing hordes of suit-wearers crossing London Bridge in the morning rush hour can be “a thing of beauty” and is in favour of more creative suit trends making their way into the boardroom.

Thomas Henry, a 34-year-old strategy director at the creative agency Mother in New York, has worn a suit all his professional life, to give him a certain edge and add an authoritative balance to his youthful appearance. He remembers the Mad Men-inspired tailoring revival of a decade ago, but is the only member of his office to embrace the suit today, and doesn’t think that will change – because of the impact it makes. “A deep irony about the creative industry is that you spend all this time telling your clients to stand out, yet the people who work in the field have a deep insecurity about looking different.” Henry has no such qualms.

Brendon Babenzien, founder of New York-based brand Noah, which brings together surf, skate and music references with classic American menswear, is aware of this new suit wearer. He usually includes some sort of tailoring among his casual-leaning collections. “I don’t know anyone who dresses up or down all the time,” he says. His current version is a patchworked two-piece featuring tattersall, windowpane and micro-check plaids. “Our customer seems to really appreciate the way we do suiting and jackets,” he says. “We’ve removed some of the formality from it.”

London brand Casely-Hayford is built around the suit, but designer Charlie Casely-Hayford – himself a member of the new suit tribe – has noticed his customer is embracing it in a more relaxed way, too. “Our biggest market is guys who don’t need to wear a suit for their job, but they choose to,” he says. “We work with a lot of creatives and they wear suits in a totally different way from our more strait-laced clients.” Wearing a suit with a T-shirt and trainers is increasingly common, he says. “The overarching theme I hear from our clients is comfort and ease, and the idea of getting that from a suit.”

So are younger men finally ready to trade their sweatshirt uniform for suits? All signs point toward yes. But perhaps it’s not a comeback per se. “I teach at a couple of universities,” says analyst Cohen. “Some of my students come to class wearing suits. I say, ‘What are you all dressed up for?’ And they say: ‘This is me, this is my style. I discovered the suit.’”.

Relax Gaming signs with Max Win Gaming

Relax Gaming, the content provider and distribution platform, has enhanced the scope of its Silver Bullet partner program, striking a deal with Max Win Gaming.

Max Win Gaming will provide new and exclusive content, including the provision of two brand new titles in 2019.
The provider will also develop unique content for Relax Gaming as part of the agreement.

Daniel Eskola, CEO at Relax Gaming, said: “This agreement with Max Win Gaming is a great example of the positive market reception that our uniquely collaborative approach to studio partnerships is achieving.

“Max Win Gaming is an exciting new supplier with a strong history of proven delivery and we look forward to what it will deliver to the market.”

Martin Mitrovich, CEO at Max Win Gaming, said: “Relax Gaming’s commitment to open dialogue, clear route to market and commercial structure really appealed to us, along with access to an impressive level of regulatory expertise

“We’re excited to join the Silver Bullet partner program and believe the fit for our forthcoming content will prove to be a highly success one.”

Relax Gaming is a supplier aiming to offer fresh content and over 280 games. It has significantly grown its commercial footprint in recent months, agreeing numerous agreements with some of the industry’s most recognisable names.