One of the biggest stories coming out of Indian esports in 2020 has been the entry of North American brand, Team SoloMid. With a storied past in the North American League of Legends scene and a legacy as one of the top esports organizations in the world, TSM’s arrival in India was met with excitement and hope. Of course, TSM isn’t the first international organization to step into the Indian PUBG MOBILE space with Fnatic having set up shop in late 2019. However, while Fnatic is known to be an organization that experiments with new regions, TSM has largely stuck to North America and in some cases, Europe. TSM went for a different approach than Fnatic, tying up with local organization Entity Gaming (ETG) and have since fielded a roster under the banner TSM-Entity.
The TSM-Entity Partnership
The partnership gives Entity Gaming international exposure and a glimpse into the workings of an internationally established organization like TSM. ETG’s Chief Executive Officer Neerav Rukhana told The Esports Observer that he feels that the partnership with TSM is the right step for his organization. “It will help us understand other ecosystems and how to thrive in this fast-paced, ever-evolving industry.”
For TSM, Entity Gaming brings in years of experience in the region having operated in India for well over three years now. It gets to establish its brand among a relatively new audience without having to make key hires and start from scratch. Talking about the partnership, TSM’s Director of Esports Operations Donald Kim said, “Working with Entity gave us a strong base to work from in India, which greatly eliminated typical logistical challenges that are frequently found in a new market. They helped us to truly understand the unique ecosystem that is Indian esports, and how to navigate it effectively and efficiently. They helped set us up for success.”
India with its massive focus on mobile esports and a local ecosystem of tournament organizers is certainly different from other regions. One particular challenge is the interaction with fans which can often be difficult for these young players to deal with. While the fans can be incredibly passionate about the game and their favorite players, this very same behavior also has a tendency to manifest itself in dangerous ways. From hateful comments to threats, top players in the region have had several notable incidents when dealing with fans and the community. Most players are completely new when it comes to dealing with fans and often end up making the situation worse. In fact, incidents like this are quite common, much more so than any other established ecosystem.
Having organizational support is crucial in these situations as TSM-Entity Manager Siddhanth Joshi explains: ““I think more than good facilities like infrastructure, a mentor is important. The big factor is that most of the Indian PUBG MOBILE superstars are kids with no idea how to deal with love and hate. An experienced hand that can guide them through these phases of life ‘faster’, which is important for a collected mind that can focus.”
TSM-Entity on Measuring Success, Building a Brand and Expanding
While Entity Gaming was already the reigning South Asian champion in PUBG MOBILE before TSM’s entry, the partnership has further cemented its place as the region’s top team. The squad has had a terrific run in recent weeks with second-place finishes in both the PUBG MOBILE Pro League South Asia League Stage and the Finals. The team also won the recently concluded PUBG MOBILE India Series, taking home just above $26K USD in prize winnings for its efforts. Its players are considered the top names in the region and the team’s ability to go toe-to-toe against international competition has led to many labeling it as the primary contender to bring home an international trophy for the region.
ETG’s Chief Gaming Officer Varun Bhavnani says that the organization prioritizes performance over anything else.
On the marketing side of things, a look into the TSM-Entity social media channels shows a distinct lack of content. At a time when more and more esport organizations are investing in content and brand building, the move is surprising. Even though content has been limited on official channels to updates and results, the players themselves have been showing good growth. Bhavnani says that player-driven content is something the organization has seen success with and sees the consistent numbers on players’ streams as a huge win for the organization. In fact, TSM-Entity’s star player Jonathan Amaral recently crossed a million subscribers on YouTube.
“Winning has and always will be our utmost priority, it’s the only way to quantify success in esports. We believe if you are focused primarily on performance, content and branding is a natural byproduct.”
TSM seems to echo a similar sentiment. “Competitive success is the biggest metric we use to measure success,” said Kim. “Audience and brand growth are priorities as well, but equally as important is the building and sustaining of a successful team. At TSM, we know that each and every aspect of the ecosystem, from the player to the organization to the league, is connected. They all work together to help the other, and if PUBG MOBILE and esports as a whole grows in India due to our presence there, that is a win for us.”
Despite its competitive success and popularity in PUBG MOBILE, TSM-Entity is yet to announce a new partnership or sponsor arising from this specific venture. Rukhana explains that it is in talks with brands for sponsorships but also wants to collaborate with existing partners for both TSM and ETG. One of TSM’s partners, Mountain Dew is already a well-established brand in Indian esports with multiple activations over the last few years. Others such as Lenovo and Logitech have also been involved in the region, with smaller but sustained activations in the esports space (Lenovo is a client of AFK Gaming).
Having originally built its brand on the back of PC game titles, ETG has not forgotten its roots. Rukhana and Bhavnani hope to continue building the organization with new roster acquisitions but like most businesses, are waiting out the pandemic. When asked about what we can expect from the organization, Rukhana said that plans had to be slowed down a bit.
“Due to the current situation, we have currently paused on acquiring new teams. As an org, we like to take a more hands-on approach on any talent we onboard and take a more responsible role in their development. We have a lot of things in the pipeline, few of which have already been initiated. You can be certain of one thing, we aren’t focused primarily on just mobile esports, we are still very much rooted to revive our dominance in PC gaming, all our decisions so far are backed by logic not emotion.”
Shounak Sengupta is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.
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