Esports has evolved from a niche global phenomenon to a recognised sport that is a hotly debated topic around the Olympics, followed by actual sanctioned Olympic events. At Tech Collective, we have been observing the industry and are seeing strong growth through increased events, competitive tournaments and a strong Southeast Asian pool of brands and teams.
In fact, the popularity of esports has exploded in Southeast Asia. According to research, Southeast Asia is the industry’s fastest-growing region, with more than 9.5 million esports enthusiasts, with 2.8 million in Vietnam and 2 million in Indonesia. This trend will likely continue to grow as more brands jump on the bandwagon, as well as investments into the industry continue to increase.
You can review some of our previous coverage on the esports industry when it comes to esports startups, the use of AI technology in the industry and the growing sport as a whole in Southeast Asia.
We decided to look at the people behind the strong growth in the region. We look at seven influential figures in esports in Southeast Asia that are at the forefront of this growing industry.
Drew Holt-Kentwell from Catalyst Esports Solutions
Drew is the founder and CEO at Catalyst Esports Solutions, an esports marketing agency working with former and current clients like Lenovo, Razer, OpTic Gaming, National Youth Council.
Prior to setting up the agency, he had a long and storied history in the esports arena starting as far back as 14 years ago as a competitive player, esport event organiser and team leader for UK team – Reason Gaming UK. He also dabbled as a journalist, before heading to Asia to lead the global esports team at Razer. He was at the forefront of the evolution of esports sponsorships guiding the industry in setting the tone for team contracts, how social channels were run, relationships with teams, and apparel and merchandising.
To add to his already impressive resume, Drew also co-founded Chaos Theory, a professional esports team, with great results in the Clash Royale League Asia and helped Indonesia become a force to be reckoned with in Clash Royale. Drew is also on the board of the Singapore Esports Association, the country’s official NSA for esports and helped oversee and plan the qualification of the Team Singapore Esports athletes for the SEA Games.
Ivan Yeo from Evos Esports
Ivan Yeo is the CEO and Co-Founder of EVOS Esports, a funded Singapore-based esports organisation.
With US$4.4 million raised in their Series-A round, EVOS Esports is one of the largest esports organisations in the region. At the helm is Ivan, who has had stints in Barclays and is also currently leading investments at YSS Capital Management.
Under his stewardship EVOS Esports is invested in Dota 2, League of Legends, Arena of Valor, Mobile Legends and Point Blank and mainly operates across 3 markets, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. EVOS Esports, in such a short time, has become one of the most recognisable esports brands in Southeast Asia. Currently it sponsors 13 teams consisting 62 players to compete in six major titles, according to a recent IGN article.
Allan Phang from AirAsia Allstars Esports Club
Allan carries multiple hats at AirAsia and is the Allstars Engagement and Internal Branding and Team Manager of AirAsia Allstars Esports Club.
In this position, Allan is in charge of educating the different departments within AirAsia about esports and embracing the community, as well as ensuring the airline connects with their evolving customer base.
Where Allan differs from the rest of the group is his non-esports backstory, but has stepped into the role with both feet. With a strong entrepreneurial background, he is using that experience to create a new culture and movement within Southeast Asia’s best low-cost carrier and bringing esports into the mainstream. AirAsia is also looking to tap into the potentially lucrative esports tourism market as the industry continues to grow in popularity.
He has already had a significant impact, with AirAsia recently being the main strategic partner of the World Electronic Sports Games Southeast Asia Regional Final in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2019.
Carlos Alimurung from ONE Esports
Carlos Alimurung leads one of the newest and most active esports organisations in Asia, ONE Esports.
This is the esports brainchild of leading mixed martial arts brand ONE Championship, which is incidentally one of the largest martial arts organization in Asia. Formerly the Chief Business Officer for Battlefy, Carlos was chosen to helm the newly minted esports division as One Championship continues to grow their presence in the world of sports. Before that, Carlos worked for Univision, where he served as the senior vice president of Corporate Business Development.
Carlos identifies himself as a lifelong gamer and a supporter of the esports community. In his new role, he has a significant challenge in hosting tournaments across Asia – such as the recently concluded ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore and the ONE Esports Dota 2 Invitational Jakarta held in April.
Ronald Robins from Mineski
Crowned the father of Philippine Esports, Ronald “Rhom” Robins is the CEO of leading Filipino esports organisation Mineski.
A one-time leading Defense of the Ancients (or more commonly known as DOTA) player in the region, Ronald has deep roots in the esports industry and is spearheading the movement to bring more money into the industry and help gamers earn. Since retiring from the competitive scene, he has focused his energy on growing the local competitive scene through the Mineski Corporation.
He continues to be the figurehead of the esports scene in The Philippines and a recognised figure in the global esports industry.
Santi Lohthong from Thailand E-Sports Federation
As one of the leaders of the Thailand esports scene, Santi Lohthong is the president of the Thailand E-Sports Federation (TESF).
It was under his leadership that the Sports Authority of Thailand, gave approval for esports to become an official sport in the country. As a result of this landmark ruling, esports can be set up officially as an sports association. His work at the federation has helped spur growth in the local esports scene through its nationwide and local competitions.
Through his work at TESF, Santi has been one of the main faces of Thai esports and brought legitimacy, recognition and sponsorship to the local esports industry.
Giring Ganesha from IESPL/Kincir
Giring Ganesha is the President of the Indonesia Esports Premier League (IESPL) & Co-founder KINCIR.Com.
Better known as Giring Nidji [link in Bahasa], he has been extremely active as the head of the Indonesia E-Sports Premier League (IESPL). From organising the 2020 President Esports Cup, which apparently attracted 180,000 participants, both local and from abroad, puts his organisation as one of the leading esports companies in the region. Through his numerous tournaments and strong roots in the esports scene in Indonesia, Giring has been one of the stalwarts of the local esports scene. His efforts have continued to grow the presence and acceptance of the Indonesia startup scene on a regional level.