We interviewed Ankit Panth – India’s first Red Bull Ahtlete, CS:GO Esports Player, Brand Ambassador of Intel & Alienware, and founder of Team Brutality, while he was at the at the Red Bull R1Vr1r Runes Tournament for Dota 2 held in Hyderabad.
Satyam – How was your experience at the Red Bull Dota 2 R1v1r Runes Tournament?
Ankit Panth- My experience was good. The stage they had this time around was much simpler, but the competition was much tougher – the matches I was seeing were very close. I’m hoping that the semi-finals and finals would be a great matchup because we have good players and this is a platform where they can showcase their skills.
Satyam – Red Bull’s doing great things! Do you think the esports industry is doing well in India? Multiple international brands are getting into the scene. Where do you think the industry is headed?
Ankit Panth- Yes, Red Bull is doing great things. Because what I have noticed is making a team in India is still very difficult. Red Bull puts up a platform where you can individual show your skill, while you are doing that there are a lot of other teams & organisations that could be keeping a close watch on you. So if you prove yourself on this platform, you will be awarded with opportunities soon.
As far as the growth of the Indian scene goes, I still think it will take time. It’s picking up now due to the PUBG Mobile craze, but we still need the consistency. Brands are jumping in, tournaments are happening but till the time I don’t see the consistency, it’s a 50/50 for me. The esports industry is picking up its pace, that’s the reason you see so many brands sponsoring these videos & streams. It’s becoming easier for me also to convince my parents. My parents are still only 70% convinced that this is growing now and can be taken as a career. The opportunities will keep coming as the players are coming and the teams are coming up.
The competitions will start getting more tougher, because once the brands come in, tournament prize pools increase, and there is media coverage. Everything is going smoothly now. It’s a good thing that I am still in the scene and playing because if I had missed this opportunity I would have regretted it later on, but luckily Red Bull is supporting me on my journey.
Satyam – I agree. So how does it feel to be a Red Bull athlete? How’s been your journey?
Ankit Panth- I still get Goosebumps when I hear the word that I am a Red Bull athlete, because I know how hard I worked for it. My relationship with Red Bull started 2 years back where they started supporting me in several ways. In my day to day life too, I also used to consume Red Bull. There’s been some stories, for instance once I was there in a club where my friends were my friends were partying and ordering drinks, but I don’t drink alcohol, so they told me to order a Red Bull, and over there when I saw the price I realised it was just out of my budget at that point of time, so I couldn’t order it. So there are these few small things that I make it a point to remember – I have kept doing this throughout my entire career, so I get motivation from these small things. At that point of time, I had made it a target that today I cannot afford it but eventually I will.
And then Red Bull gave me an opportunity, we had started working together closely. They kept sending me energy drinks initially, I even got a Red Bull fridge. But then once I remember I went to their office and I saw these Red Bull merchandise over there. So I asked one of the guys – Can I have a cap? They politely said, these caps & these merchandise are exclusive only to Red Bull athletes. So I did my research after going home, because normally what I had in my head was all the brands, they give their merchandise very easily. So why did Red Bull say no to me, while we had been working so closely? When I did my research then I understood that only Red Bull athletes can have this, it’s like a crown on an athlete, and you have to earn it. So that’s the point where I started working really hard, very closely with Red Bull.
Last year, when the Red Bull R1v1r Runes Tournament Finale was happening in Delhi, I was only there as a gamer. But on this year it was extra special because this year I was there as an official Red Bull athlete. The journey has kept progressing, and now everywhere & anywhere Red Bull can help me, they always do. I remember talking to them, telling them that I want to see major esports tournaments that Red Bull sponsors, I want to meet some of the players that Red Bull had signed. They were like, we’ll be more than happy to send you, just tell us wherever you want to go, and we will make it happen.
The tag line that they go with is – ‘Gives you wings’. After working with them, I actually believe in it, because they actually give your dreams the wings to fly. The things that are going to come next year are going to be pretty big, which I cannot reveal right now, but I’m sure my fans, the CS:GO community & gaming community of India would be very happy & proud to see what we have been planning together for the gamers, for myself, and for the entire Indian esports industry.
Satyam – What does your family feel about esports now, and how did they feel prior to your immense success?
Ankit Panth- Earlier they were pretty unsure, questioning me and everything. Will he able to take care of himself? Will he able to feed us and take care of us? And all those emotional things used to come to me every day, every night. They asked me things like, it’s your life, you have to live it, what’s your future, etc.
There’s a moment I remember where I told my mom that I can leave it right now if you want, but if it’s possible can you give me one more year? She agreed to it and she said “Okay, I’ll take care of it, you give your best and do whatever you want.” I remember I was so scared after saying that. If nothing happens I’ll have to leave my passion. And then suddenly, UCypher happened, I came on television, then after that I remember I became the brand ambassador of Alienware. Then this year I became the brand ambassador of Intel. Two months back I became a Red Bull athlete.
So previously the ratio that was very unsure, now the ratio has reached 70%. Because now they’re seeing a lot of money come into my bank account, doing events, promoting multinational brands, playing tournaments on big stages. All of these things are happening and also when I go with my mom to get vegetables and stuff, there are kids who come and they shout my name “Venom! I want an autograph, I want a picture with you!”.
My mom initially used to get scared that maybe the parents of those kids are going to come and tell her that Venom is spoiling my child’s future, tell him to stop gaming, but now it has completely turned around.
I was also scared, whenever I used to see a parent coming towards, I used to think that all these misconceptions gaming has, now they’re going to blast them on me.
But whenever a fan or their family comes to me to take an autograph or a picture, in front of my mom, they all say your son is doing a good job, he’s guiding & inspiring a lot of young people, he also tells them to continue studying and you can do this side by side, he tells the truth not like other people who deviate from the general things of life, but he tells his people & his fans the truth and that’s why we admire him, we don’t mind our kids taking him as a role model and inspiration. All these things when my mom hears, she feels proud about it and when she gets that smile on her face, it motivates me to keep going.
Satyam – That’s really inspiring. Would you say an aspiring esports athlete in India should go for their dream? What advice would you have for them?
Ankit Panth- If you are talented, give it time, and if you’re ready to work hard, because there are struggles. People might think, sitting behind the computer, you’ll get all these things. It’s not that easy.
You have to continue working day and night, there will be losses, you will lose tournaments, teams will shuffle, players will leave you, but you have to keep fighting and if you keep doing that consisteintly, then there will be a point where success will come to you and you will feel that all the hardwork has made it possible for you to achieve your dreams & follow your passion.
Satyam – PUBG Mobile is getting more attention in the esports industry, especially in India, because of its accessibility to pretty much everyone. What are your thoughts on that, and do you feel this is stagnating the esports world of other titles like CS:GO & Dota 2?
Ankit Panth- I feel it’s a good thing that PUBG Mobile has got so much attention. In the end it’s a game, and gaming is not just Counter Strike & Dota 2, gaming is a thing that makes you happy, helps you put your skill out there, make new friends, have a blast, have a good time. Due to PUBG Mobile I feel people have started searching more about games, about gaming, in India. A lot of fans that i have met today, they play PUBG Mobile and that’s how they told me that we started searching more about gaming in India, about gamers in India, and we got to know about you, we saw your Instagram, your lifestyle, inspired to become like you.
This attention PUBG Mobile gets, some people might get scared, thinking PC Gaming might die and mobile games will take over.. But that’s not going to happen. Mobile games have a seperate section which people enjoy, but eventually if you’ll want to go for higher end games, and right now smartphones are not ready to play those, in that small screen size. We PC Gamers play on 240Hz monitors, RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards, Intel Core i9 Processors, so I feel there is still there are some limiations when it comes to mobile, but if you compare it to PC there are no limits and its expanding at a huge level.
But the whole idea of this entire thing is that PUBG Mobile has started getting more people who didn’t believe in gaming, start to believe in gaming, and that’s the best part. I know that today, twelve year olds will easily be able to get a smartphone, but that is not because he wants to play PUBG. It’s because his family needs to give their kid a phone, to call their kid, it’s more of a security issue. And today, smartphones are pretty cheap so anyone can afford it, that’s why they’ll give their kid that, and if when the kids have that smartphone they can easily play PUBG.
When it comes to PC Gaming, it’s still expensive in India. So, only limited people have it with them. But I feel, eventually mobile gamers, after some point of time, once they get a hand of the PC Gaming world, they discover hundreds of games with beautiful graphics, performance and what not. It’s just about time when you get your hands on PC, and you’ll see the switch happen. So when you’re younger you might be playing mobile games, but what after that? At one point of time you’ll need to explore more right, and that’s when I feel PC is what you’ll go for.
There are so many titles that are running globally, which are there in esports competitions, in tournaments. And there’s only one PUBG Mobile, with one or two more games like Call Of Duty Mobile. PC has so many titles where you can represent your country, you can do so many things, so much more. We shouldn’t be comparing, we should enjoy the limelight that’s coming towards gaming, and people have started recognising gaming, started doing their own research, that gamers in India, gaming in general, and I got this experience today at Red Bull R1v1r Runes, where PUBG Mobile gamers came to me and started taking pictures, took my autograph, selfies, followed me on Instagram, and all of that happened. It’s a good thing, gamers are getting united in a way. And I like that.
Satyam: Let’s talk CS:GO. Valve’s done some gameplay changes & introduced new things. How do you feel about the new battle royale Danger Zone mode, and the changes they made to the SG553 & AUG this year?
Ankit Panth: I haven’t checked the updates since I’ve been travelling, but I’m just happy that the new update has increased the price of the SG553. I think in the next few updates, again, like they did with the AUG Meta, they reduced the firing rate, they will do the same with the SG553 also, and maybe increase the recoil too, and then I think it’ll be balanced, since I think right now the SG553 is overpowering even sniper rifles at some stages.
Satyam: What are your thoughts on the new remastered Cache? Should Valve do more of remastering the classic maps?
Ankit Panth: I still haven’t played Cache too much, maybe twice or thrice, and right now I feel it’s got too much green. I’m not liking it, because Cache used to be one of my favourite maps. I like the CT Ladder they’ve put in, I like the B site, the lamp boost, the one you can do solo, because that’s a good angle, I like the CT Car, I think there’s a section where they’ve opened up and you can now directly molotov quad from CT Cat. So there are some changes which I like, but that green is kind of bothering me, because maybe I’m not used to seeing so much? I like simple & plain open maps, but maybe once I play it for a month or two then I’ll like it and I’ll let you know, but right now the green is bothering me. Other than that, everything’s fine.
That concludes my interview with Ankit Panth. It’s been great knowing about his inspiring story to become one of the biggest esports personalities In India, he’s surely one of the most humble players out there.