“Gamers today work very differently, they love to interact with each other because they find peace in the fact that they can talk to someone relatable, someone who behaves like them…plays like them.” Sagar Nair, CEO, Qlan, knows exactly why the world needs a dedicated social network for eSports fans and gamers, especially since social networks like Facebook do not fit in the current landscape anymore.
Nair, who is in his early 30s, alongside Navin Talreja, CBO and Prashant Pandey, Co-founder & Community lead, started working on Qlan late last year after realising that the current social platforms – be it Linkedin and Instagram do not recognise gaming as a profession despite the eSports boom happening worldwide. “Gamers want to be recognised and that is as basic as them being able to call themselves gamers,” he said, adding that gamers now want to be validated for who they are, and sadly traditional platforms do not acknowledge it.
“We thought a feed could break through the clutter of an Instagram where you can find anything and everything. A platform like ours will justify what gamers are really looking for in a social network,” Nair explains. Qlan is currently in the beta stage and will soon be live on both Android and iOS platforms.
Nair says the problem with existing social networks is that even if a platform has a community of gamers – most likely they are scattered and barely interact with each other. But what Qlan is trying to do is to bring all those skilled gamers, including eSports players, into one single platform. That way they are surrounded by gamers with similar interests and skill sets, something you won’t find on Linkedin and Instagram.
The pitch for Qlan is to develop a complete social network where gamers are empowered in such a way that they take their first step to becoming a professional eSports player or gaining skills to make a career in the gaming industry. From the very beginning, Nair was clear he wouldn’t want to create Qlan as yet another alternative to platforms like Twitch, where the focus has been on watching or broadcasting live or prerecorded videos of gameplays. Nair calls “Qlan” a cross of Linkedin and Instagram, a social platform made for gamers.
The team has come up with features that will not only connect a gamer with another gamer but also help her understand how diversified the gaming community is, Nair adds. For instance, gaming profiles allow them to showcase their skills, in-game talent, and much more. Nair trashes the common misconception that gamers don’t do anything else: “Gamers can be designers; they also dabble with casting, do video editing, and some are good at writing and want to be eSports journalists.”
Nair describes the eSports community in India as “hyperactive” and “most engaging.” “Indian competitive gamers are hungry. Given the right opportunities and the right platform, I am confident they will start ruling the global scene,” he says. The esports market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46% to touch ₹11 billion by 2025, according to a report by professional services firm EY.
Qlan wants to be seen as more open and broad-based with casual gamers being part of the platform too. Nair says since the games that one can onboard on your profiles are largely eSports titles such as League of Legends and Call of Duty, the focus right now is to cater to the eSports community. As users start flocking to Qlan, Nair says they will start to branch into other verticals of gaming like casual games, story-based games, or solo games.
“Content is a big piece on Qlan,” Nair explains, underlying the focus on the text, image, and short-form videos for up to 60 seconds. After the profile builder, Qlan will work on a chat feature and an AI-based matchmaking feature that uses artificial intelligence through which gamers discover squads and organisation profiles. The plan is also to add the discover section on the app where users will be able to filter the role they are looking for and get connected with profiles with similar roles.
eSports is a lucrative market, not only for the players, but for brands and advertisers. Nair has identified a mix of subscription and a freemium model to make money on the platform. Users can access most features for free but the paid membership will give access to some extra features like a performance tracker or the ability to show how many Instagram followers they have right now. Then there is also a concept of virtual coins which will be rewarded to those who are most active on the platform.
Although Qlan is a fairly new platform, Nair says the social network he is creating has a certain advantage to brands and advertisers because of the targeted audience. “These guys [brands] promote their tournaments on Instagram, Facebook or on Discord, but the algorithmic limitations that an Instagram puts on them, even if I have built the following of say, 10,000 people, a post organically may only reach out to 15 to 18% of my audience.”
So if a brand advertises on a gamer’s handles, the campaign is reaching out to a targeted set of users, in this case, the entire gaming community which includes eSports enthusiasts, mobile gamers, console gamers, PC gamers, and professionals who are associated with gaming. Nair and his team have discussed the possibility of native content and advertising but that will only happen once the platform has a sizable user base.
eSports, like traditional sports, can rake in big money. Tournaments now generate millions in ticket sales and boast huge amounts in prize money. Nair says there is a full-time career to be made out of eSports and that’s exactly where Qlan comes in. “We want to start facilitating job opportunities. It will be a straightforward two-step process for a job provider to put outposts and job seekers can apply to those jobs just in one click. The app does the rest by profiling them,” he explains. The average age of an eSports player is between 13 and 25. “Our target group isn’t LinkedIn savvy…they wouldn’t understand how to maneuver their way through LinkedIn.