Dream11’s SVP Analytics - Arun Pai shares his journey exploring the intersections of Mathematics, Engineering and AI

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Introducing Arun Pai, Dream11's Senior Vice President, a tech genius with a diverse background. Arun's professional journey spans two decades with tenures at Johnson & Johnson, IBM, and Flipkart Internet Pvt. Ltd. Beyond tech, Arun is a true blue sports fan, fond of teams like the New England Patriots and Mumbai Indians. From the historic 1990 World Cup win of the German Soccer Team to the victory of the 2007 T20 winning moment of the Indian Team, Arun enjoys reflecting on his favourite sports moments.

In Arun, Dream11 discovers not just a leader, but a dynamic force uniting technology and sportsmanship, driving innovation with humility and dedication. He believes in embracing diverse domains which paved the way for his transition from a world of engineering to his passion for sports. In this #BeyondTheAlgorithm, Arun unveils the intricate data stack powering Dream11.

Let’s go back to the very beginning. What inspired you to pursue data science/ engineering?

Since my formative years, I have always been driven by curiosity.  Life’s myriad forms and expressions have always fascinated me to delve deeper into mathematics and its applications in mirroring nature—think Golden Ratios, Fourier Series, and the like. As the era of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence unfolded, this further transformed into a yearning to unravel the intricacies of large-scale, complex computations. This innate curiosity gradually evolved into a journey of creative exploration, weaving together Engineering, Science, and AI.

What motivated you to join the sports technology industry? And what exciting problems are you solving?

Intrigued by challenges, I thrive on exploration, driven by the passion to shape better experiences. This spirit has enabled me to innovate across diverse domains, from pioneering pharmaceuticals to advancing anti-counterfeiting technologies and digital commerce solutions. I believe this has enriched my expertise, from strategy development to successful commercialisation.

With India’s dynamic evolution in the sports, fitness and wellness sectors, plus a technologically connected Bharat, my lifelong passion for sports naturally aligned with the burgeoning Sports Technology industry. It was an ideal opportunity for an industry growing through its nascency to rekindle my curiosity and creativity.

Sports tech grapples with some of the most complex issues in Consumer Tech, including product selection, pricing strategies, personalization, and even hyper-personalization. Addressing these requires an in-depth understanding of spending science and consumer behaviours, encompassing user intelligence, causal sciences, reinforcement learning-based reward systems, and connected experiences.

team-beyond-algo

Please share a moment when you felt like you’d hit a home run at Dream11.

Dream11’s greatest asset lies in its talent, whom we fondly call Dreamsters. They possess an insatiable curiosity and an unwavering commitment to offer users a world-class experience. With such a collaborative, cross-functional landscape, home runs happen by design. It’s not about a single leader driving that home run, but about a full team navigating through challenges and achieving success together. While my journey at Dream11 continues to evolve, I can proudly say there have been several instances where the team has delivered incredible results. These include Automated Player Pricing, Spends Intelligence, Personalization Offerings, User Journey Science, Contest Generation Intelligence, Guru Ranking, and the transition to a fully React Native app, among others.

How do you and your team work towards building a world-class user experience for sports fans on the Dream11 app?

It all starts with identifying the problem. We aim to tackle a process by carefully analyzing data and aligning it with user research to understand its significance. Objective prioritisation becomes imperative given the breadth of such problems. Parallelly, building a world-class experience necessitates defining the product offering, its visual representation, discoverability, and how it could evolve over its lifecycle. The team shapes these decisions collaboratively through rigorous experimentation, carefully isolating the effects of cross-experiments. Moreover, diverse capabilities are employed to simulate, optimise, and drive ML on the edge.

team-bonding

What makes Dream11 different from other technology startups?

DOPUT embodies Dream11’s culture: Data-driven, ownership-focused, with a strong emphasis on effort, perseverance, and transparency, all focused on the user. This translates into our approach: every initiative begins with understanding the root problem, formulated and solved through a data-driven analysis. We embrace rapid experimentation and a ‘fail fast’ mindset, ensuring that our hits, misses, and learnings are shared across the organisation.

What do you think about Mumbai becoming India’s next technology hub in India?

Mumbai has always been the entertainment and financial capital of India, home to many premier sports clubs and boasting one of the largest public transportation networks globally. Ambitious projects like Atal Setu, Mumbai Coastal Road, and Navi Mumbai International Airport enhance connectivity within the city and its suburbs. Renowned for its safety and vibrant nightlife, Mumbai hosts premier educational institutions such as IIT Bombay, VJTI, UCT, NITIE, and St. Xavier’s, positioning it uniquely in the tech space. As the third largest base for tech startups in India, Mumbai fosters innovation, housing several of India’s unicorns and soonicorns, including Dream11, the world’s largest sports fantasy company. Associations like TEAM are committed to further enhancing the city’s tech ecosystem, progressing the vision towards Mumbai becoming the top technology hub in India.

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