In India we have a habit of following the crowd. Be it the engineer producing factories that we call colleges, in purchasing the latest that Zara has to offer or the present start-up boom that has gripped the country. If something is a hit, we Indians don’t just do it, we overdo it. And some would say that poker is not very different in this respect. Just ask anyone who’s taken to the online version of the sport and they’ll tell you how spoilt they are for options. With multiple websites battling it out for supremacy and more joining in every day, it’s quite easy to lose your way and easier still to lose those trinkets that make you unique. But, this is precisely the notion that 2 young men – Vatsal Thirani and Kanishk Bansal are out to prove wrong with their venture FTRpoker.
The 2 friends first met in college in Manipal, where they both set out to become engineers. Kanishk, from Karnal (in Haryana) had never played poker before whereas Vatsal, who is from Gwalior (in M.P.) had had a brief introduction to the game from his brother-in-law who’d returned from the US after studies. And as fate would have it, their introduction was at a poker table itself. The game, then immensely popular in the college town of Manipal, was a small-stake Rs.200 buy-in and as Vatsal puts it – “Little did we know at the time that we would end up opening a poker website together one day”. The stakes kept getting bigger as college went on with trips to Goa following soon enough.
Post college though, both went their separate ways. Kanishk, who’d earlier changed courses in college to one which was more in sync with his poker dreams (Finance to be precise), left for Bangalore to pursue a career as a pro while Vatsal got into his family business in Nepal. Nearly 4 years passed until one day Vatsal got a call from Kanishk who was interested in exploring the possibility of opening a poker room. Discussions followed and over time FTR became a reality.
One fact these young founders have had to accept is that at FTR they would have to work twice as hard to achieve what other established players have achieved simply because they’ve entered an already competitive market. As a result, they’ve had to mark out what sets their product apart from the rest. “We see a lot of sites springing up with a limited vision only to make a quick buck and exit. That is harming the trust of the poker playing public in a big way. FTR is here to stay for a very long term. Our customer service, UI and response to the industry changes set us apart from the rest”, says Vatsal.
Having a clear vision has definitely helped. Another factor going in their favor has been the continued support of the IPF, who are also their partners in this venture. The 2 entrepreneurs are very keen to acknowledge the support they’ve received from various members of the community and one person they have a special place for is Mr.Amin Rozani who has mentored them from the very beginning and to whom they attribute much of what they know about the game.
All things said and done however, the journey has just begun. There have been a few bumps along the way and the lessons learnt have only spurred the desire to succeed. With the software now stable and good word of mouth propelling them on, the focus has shifted to acquiring a new and loyal set of customers. With plans to also enter the live gaming space in the near future, the options are aplenty. The potential even bigger. All eyes are looking eagerly to see whether they can deliver on the promise.