Building A Fantasy Sports Platform In Bangladesh: An Interview With Sanzar Adnan Alam, Founder, Team Plan

Building A Fantasy Sports Platform In Bangladesh: An Interview With Sanzar Adnan Alam, Founder, Team Plan

Founder of fantasy sports platform Team Plan, Sanzar Adnan Alam, reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, talks about Team Plan, how Team Plan came into being, how Team Plan operates, its business model and product details, the state of Team Plan’s business today, its ambition going forward, shares his thoughts on the challenges of being a founder, the importance of patience in overcoming challenges and struggles of entrepreneurship and life and much more.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us about your background and elaborate your path to entrepreneurship?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

I belong to a business family where my dad and grandpa all were businessmen. My Grandpa used to run a machinery manufacturing company. The alarm you still see in most of the rail crossing in Bangladesh is developed by my grandpa. I always had the motivation to do something of my own and my family has always been supportive.

I did my Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Ahsanullah University. I have always been competitive in nature and was a regular participant in all kinds of Programming Contests, Hackathon and all.

Back in 2013, when I was a final year student we used to take part in all kinds of Underground Football Tournaments. I used to exchange my football boots with my friends and cousins. From that, I thought why not make a platform where other users could do the same? So, I started a C2C marketplace named Jomjomat in Bangladesh. It was a platform where users could post items they wanted to exchange. It failed for the same primary reason most of the startup fails: TIMING! I have learned that people not only need the right solution but also need it at the perfect time.

After my graduation, I started working as a Mobile App Developer at Datasoft where I worked till I went to the USA to do my Masters in Cyber Security from Stevens Institute of Technology where I worked as a Teaching Assistant for Computer Networking course.

After completing my Masters I came back to Bangladesh and started working as a Mobile App Development Consultant in ICT Ministry along with teaching part-time in IUB where I teach Web and Mobile App development courses. Recently, I have left the consultancy to concentrate full-time on my startup.

Future Startup

When and how did you get started with Team Plan? What motivated you to start Team Plan?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

I am a big fan of Manchester United since 2003/04 from when I started to follow the English Premier League religiously. I came to know about Fantasy Premier League around 2007/08 from which I started playing Fantasy game of English Premier League.

Back in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, there was this web site where they would ask users some in-game predictive questions and we were to answer those questions in 30 seconds and the winner would get 10/- mobile recharge. I loved that game.

During the 2010 Football World Cup, I still remember our newspaper gave us a special bulletin where we had to predict the winners of all the brackets and eventually predict the world cup winner. I was so excited to fill that up and send it to their office. I started to realize that I love these uncertainties, the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of things, which eventually led me to the world of fantasy sports. And I was hooked from day one.

Waiting for the perfect time to launch, I started planning about developing a local fantasy sports platform back in 2014 but decided to go against it and publish rather just an android predictive quiz app focusing on football world cup 2014 to test the market. We did no marketing and around a thousand users. We took it as a small win.

Future Startup

What went into building the initial operation of the Team Plan? How did you put together initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months of your journey were like and the challenges you faced.

Sanzar Adnan Alam

I started to build my team back in 2017. I took some personal loan to run my team. One of my close friends – Tanzilur joined my team who runs the show when I am not around or busy meeting with potential investors or clients.

Getting a solid team was a big ask at that moment. Luckily we found a gem like Fahad bhai who lead our technical team at that time. He already had 5+ years of experience working for local and international offshore companies. We were running more like an ordinary IT firm. Every now and then we used to brainstorm regarding what products we could come up with and from there came the idea of developing a local fantasy sports app and we started working on it.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of the Team Plan in terms of services/products you offer, how many users you have, the size of your business, etc?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

Before launching Team Plan, we had a similar season-long fantasy app for just English premier league games of season 2018-19. It was a completely free app where users used to come and make a team to win weekly mobile recharge. From there during 2019’s IPL season one of the largest telcos partnered with us and we launched a fantasy sports app with them for the 2019 IPL season. The user reaction was excellent. We were amazed to see the level of response, which encouraged us to focus more on our own local fantasy sports platform.

With the user feedback and experience gained from these experiences, we launched Team Plan this May 30 just before the Cricket World Cup and continued to cover pretty much all the tournaments. We have also added football in our platform and we offer daily/weekly/season-long free and paid contests. The entry fee of our paid contests varies from $0.1 to $1.5.

Currently, we have roughly 900 daily active users. Our users spend more than 40 minutes every day on our platform. Through our platform, we are giving our 22 million sports fans the chance to show their sporting knowledge and compete against other like-minded sports fans to win rewards.

Future Startup

What is your business model? How have you grown your revenue?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

From the paid contests we offer, we take 15-25% commission as a platform fee. Rest, we distribute amongst the winners.

Future Startup

How big is your team? Could you tell us about your culture at Team Plan?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

We have a small team of 5 people. We all are very much into sports and gaming. Whenever, there’s Bangladesh’s game going on be that cricket or football, our one desk will always be occupied showing the game. We kind of made a habit of playing one Counter Strike game daily. It has helped us increase productivity, morale, and employee engagement.

Future Startup

On average how many customers you serve per month? How have you attracted customers and grown Team Plan? Could you tell us about the strategies and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

We have more than 1900 monthly active users. We have tried both online and offline marketing strategies to grow. While Facebook boosting has helped us a lot, we have tried to reach out to our users by participating in different university events as well. Also, we have our referral program which has helped us to grow as well.

Future Startup

What are the lessons you’ve learned in terms of growing a business? What other entrepreneurs can learn from your growth journey?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

We have a long way to go in terms of growth. However, we have focused on building a strong foundation that means making our product as user-friendly and scalable as possible.

For any product to grow, one needs to understand the characteristics of the market. Being a sports fanatic and avid fantasy sports player myself helped me a lot to understand the needs of our current users along with ways to attract them into our platform.

Future Startup

Have you raised investment? If yes, how much have you raised? What are the plans now? What does it take to raise investment? What should founders who are trying to raise investment to be mindful of?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

We have been self-funded until now. I took some personal loans initially. Currently, we are managing the operational expenses doing various web/app works for other clients. But I have been talking with few potential investors and am expecting to close my seed round soon.

Founders need to be mindful of the person or institution they are taking money from. Just because you need money, don’t take it from just anyone. Do a very good validation first.

Future Startup

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What are the challenges now?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

We are working on such an area where the market, investors, regulatory body all need some kind of education. It has been my biggest challenge to convince them that fantasy sports is a game of skill and it’s not gambling. Fighting every day with payment gateway providers for the same reason. This being a mobile game/app, Bangladesh Bank’s rules and regulations are not in our favor at this moment as well.

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Future Startup

How do your sales and marketing work?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

We have a couple of ways to do sales and marketing. Apart from doing digital marketing, we do offline university and college level event activation as well. Our in-app referral program had been accepted widely by our users as well.

Future Startup

What are the goals for the future?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

Growth, growth, and growth! We want to make sure we keep our overhead costs as low as possible along with scale processes so that it stabilizes company income.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

Being a technical person all through, I had to learn through my ways on how to be a CEO. From learning to manage the revenue stream to the growth of the business to building and maintaining the brand to decide the product vision to manage the team, I learned that entrepreneurship is an all-consuming thing.

Future Startup

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous in the process of building Team Plan?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

The network! Being in this super small startup community, at first I felt lonely and lost. But when I started to mix with all these like-minded people, I started to realize how similar we all are. This network has been the biggest advantageous in the process of building the Team Plan.

Future Startup

How do you deal with challenges and stress that come with being a founder?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

My wife and my family have been the biggest strength in this bumpy ride. While I do try my best to enjoy this bumpy ride as much as possible but the stress of running the whole team has been a challenge! I try to share the stress with my wife and other like-minded founders.

Future Startup

What are your advice for founders who are just starting?

Sanzar Adnan Alam

Get ready to be alone, lose old friends and make new friends. Be patient as it will help you to get past your tough periods to welcome the good times. Last but not least, never give up! Take the plunge and persist. Anything is possible if you persevere!

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This story is made possible by our friends at Evaly, a leading digital commerce company based in Dhaka. Evaly is one of largest ecommerce companies in Bangladesh and has been changing online shopping in Bangladesh with its disruptive approach to digital commerce, learn more about Evaly here.

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