Reports suggest that students were paid Rs 100 to fill up seats at ESL One Mumbai.
The article has been updated with new statements.
ESL Mumbai has been the biggest esports tournament in the India. This was the first time top tier international Dota 2 teams competed on the Indian soil. The tournament has received widespread appreciation, and rightly so. According to reports, everything was on schedule, the production was top of the line, and there were a decent number of attendees. Except, we have received reports and allegations that considerable number of attendees were college students, who were paid to attend the tournament.
The allegations were first made by Rohan Parte, a well known face in the Indian community, on a gamers’ group. The post had a comment by another member, where he posted a conversation, from a Whatsapp group titled ESL One. He also commented that he understood then why a group of 50 people was being made. As we can see, a certain Priyanka Kukreja gives instruction on how to claim the tickets.
Following this, we reached out to Rohan Parte, and he gave us a link to a Google form, which he claims was used by the “ticket distributors” for the students’ details. Following the link shows that the form wasn’t available anymore.
Since this was not enough for us to put up an article, Rohan put us in contact with a person who had indeed received the tickets for ESL Mumbai, and wishes to be anonymous.
The person informed us that Priyanka had reached out to them since she knew that they were into gaming. The anonymous source also told us that they knew each other since they were both campus reps for the same brand. Priyanka in turn, put the source in contact with a certain Adarsh Chetan, who claims to be from Insider.in, which is was the ticketing partner for the event. Priyanka was handling the guest list for Mumbai and was the manager of the group, while Adarsh was handling the whole thing, the source claims. The source also claims that there were several other groups, and when they joined the group, it had around 70 members.
Adarsh gave the source a link to the form (forms.gle/BrpTedwH9kzV1EJc9). We typed out the link, and it takes us to the same page that Rohan’s link took us to.
The person has also provided us the following screenshots of the conversation.
The source said that they were given the tickets after they reached the venue and told them that they were from “The Experimental Hub”. Once there, the person claims to have overheard a conversation between Priyanka and person wearing the “ESL uniform everyone at the ticket booth was wearing”. The ESL employee allegedly asked her how many people had come from the “guest list”, and Priyanka replied around 24-25, the source claims.
The source also claims that they “knew for a fact” that one of the Nodwin employees knew about this.
They refused to name the employee, but went on to say that someone had already told the employee what was going down.
The source did get the free ticket to the ESL Mumbai, but they are yet to receive their money, they say.
We contacted Gautam Virk, Executive Producer, Nodwin, regarding the allegations.
He said, “If we were paying people to attend ESL one, then my ranks would have been full. You can watch the tournament and ranks were not even remotely full.”
“No such thing happened. No one was let in by ESL staff by giving money.”
One being asked if he knew Adarsh Chetan, he said he did not.
Update: In lieu of more statements and allegations received by us, we decided to take down the article until we had contacted all the involved parties and had a clearer picture.
We were later contacted by Priyanka Kukreja herself, who shed more light about the case from ESL Mumbai.
She told us that she had worked as a Social Media Campaigner in the past, and was hired to bring in “influencers” for the event by Adarsh. She also says that she had no idea regarding the details or what exactly was going on, since she is not a gamer herself. This caused her to ask Adarsh for the same, who in turn did not have exact details regarding event. This made Priyanka inquire about him to a contact who actually works for Insider.in. Her contact denied any knowledge of the event, or Adarsh. Adarsh, she claims, had no clear picture regarding the whole fiasco as well.
Further, Adarsh directed her to Krrish Dutta, who claimed to be working for ESL and had hired Adarsh. In a voice note that we received, Krrish tells Priyanka that she would be paid Rs150 for every person she brings to the event, and it would be at her discretion how much she wanted to pay them out of the money she received. He said that he “would not interfere”. The people would have been paid at the ticket booth once they had checked in by saying that The Experiential Hub had sent them.
As we can see in the screenshots below, after the group chats were leaked on Social Media, Adarsh contacted her and said “I paid you guys and you are obviously supposed to pay them (the people she brought in) a share”.
She further told us that she was also given an offer to work at ESL One’s ticketing booth and manage the guest list for the event. She was instructed to report to a NODWIN employee at the event, whom she refuses to name.
We received unconfirmed information regarding the name of the employee later that day, and when we went to her with that name, she backtracked and said that she had not met anyone from Nodwin.
In conversation with her, Priyanka gave us a name of a person who had not been paid and took the issue to a Nodwin employee at the event.
We contacted the person, who wishes to remain anonymous, and he confirmed the incident, yet refused to name the employee. On asking if the employee had any idea about what was going on before he told them, he said he was not sure.
Priyanka also told us that she was contacted by the owner of The Experiential Hub, Monika Rawat. As we can see from the screenshots below, she told Priyanka that ESL had been contacting her regarding the incident.
We later talked to Monkia Rawat regarding the incident at ESL Mumbai.
She denied any knowledge of the event. She said that she had no Idea that her Company’s name was being taken, and she had come to know of it three days prior to the date that this article is being written.
When asked about ESL contacting her, she refused, saying that nothing like this happened. On being told that we had received info about the conversation between her and Priyanka, she said that no such conversation had taken place. When we further pressed her, saying that we had proof and screenshots, she asked for them. We refused, but instead read out the statement regarding the same. She said that she had lied to Priyanka since she had not been picking up Monika’s call and wanted to urgently talk to her.
We also later got on call with Krrish Dutta.
He said that he did not work for ESL, but used that statement since he was temporarily working on this Social Media Campaign. He said he was approached by a company for this campaign. He refused to name the company. He did however, confirm that he was told by the company to pay the campaigners as well as the people that they brought in for the event.