Gary Ongko: Founder & CEO of BOOM Esports

Gary Ongko Magani Boom Esports
Magani unites tradition with the new; reimagining the traditional batik shirt for the needs of our contemporary society. We combine Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage with the latest innovation in performance wear material to build the ultimate durable and comfortable shirt for the modern Indonesian man who is constantly on the move.

As we celebrate Indonesia’s heritage, we also celebrate the individuals who are unintimidated by the sweat and hard work required to defy challenges, push boundaries, and move Indonesia forward.

Meet the #MaganiMen who have inspired us that with grit and endurance, there are no limits to what you can achieve. #NOSWEATNOLIMIT


#MaganiMen: Meet Gary Ongko, Founder & CEO of BOOM Esports. BOOM is now one of the leading esports teams in Indonesia and Gary continues to strive to put Indonesia on the global esports map. Learn how Gary is growing BOOM into a global esports team. 

Gary Ongko Magani Boom Esports

Why did you start BOOM? What was the motivation?

I started BOOM because I followed esports my whole life and I also used to compete in CS 1.6. When I was finishing my master’s degree in the US, esports started really taking off in the West. I figured esports was definitely going to eventually catch up in Indonesia and decided to take on the opportunity.

 What is the biggest challenge you faced when starting BOOM? What is the biggest challenge you are facing now?

When I first started, it wasn't that hard since Indonesia only had two pro teams: RRQ and EVOS. They both provided a gaming facility house and salaries for their players. Automatically, I became the 3rd best team since I provided similar facilities to RRQ and EVOS at the time. Nowadays, the hardest thing is to build a reputation based on the game you play.  

When I was in college, I offered Astralis back then, half a million, 100k per player but they turned me down. Same with G2, which was known as Titan previously. They all rejected me. They ended up taking lower deals at the time because the team they decided to join already had an established reputation. Since BOOM was unknown at that time and didn’t have a reputation yet, the players were hesitant to join.

I can understand since there are alot of cases where organizations are unprofessional, and as a player you don’t want to be stuck in a unprofessional organization with a bad contract. So to get good players, it’s not necessarily who can pay the highest, but if you can pay on time and get the trust of the world players to know that you are a professionally run organization. The DOTA scene helped me then, and at the time allowed me to get the Brazilian players to join BOOM, which all helped in acquiring the teams which I couldn't before. Baby steps.  

COVID has been hard for esports across the world, not just in Indonesia. Sponsorships have been cut and there have been tournament delays and cancellations. Hopefully once COVID is over, it will allow us to compete at the highest level in the global stage again.  


Gary Ongko Magani Boom Esports

What is your vision for Boom?

When I started BOOM I always wanted to bring Indonesia on the map. I thought to myself -- how come Indonesia is the 4th most populated country, and we don't have these athletes we are proud of? By law of numbers we should have athletes who should be global stars. So since then, I believe I am lucky enough where BOOM’s DOTA team achieved that, 5 full Indonesians, qualified to the minors. I feel like this really put us on the map in terms of the global scene since the team now receives recognition globally in Hong Kong and in the U.S. At the same time, I also realized to grow the team we need to let go of boundaries. As such we acquired a Brazilian CSGO team, so we are not just an Indonesian local team but a global team. That is why we rebranded from BOOM ID to BOOM Esports. 

What would you do differently if you could start Boom all over again? 

I would still start with CSGO and DOTA, since those are the games that I knew. Without those games, I probably wouldn't have BOOM. For instance when someone asks me why I acquired this CSGO brazilian team, I just wanted a really good world-class CSGO team. At the time I didn’t know it would do well, but at the end it all worked out. 

Something I would do differently is first: I would have given up the full Indonesian dream team earlier if I could be honest, because I felt I was forcing myself to have Real Madrid with 11 Indonesian players, which is impossible. So I figured that it would be better to be a global team instead, and hopefully bring young players to learn and emulate from these players and grow the Indonesian players from there. Because it's impossible to hope that the Indonesian players would be as good or can compete without prior training, and also because the scene was new. 

Second: don’t take mobile games as a joke. When mobile games first came out in 2017 with the first Mobile Legends in Taman Anggrek, I didn't believe in it. I underestimated it since I assumed no one would play on their phone. I probably would have told old Gary to keep an open mind, since look how big it is now. 

Esports is all the hype now and there are so many opportunities in this space, but as one of the pioneers in the esports industry locally, how were you able to push for progress?

I feel like the rise of esports in Indonesia has been from the early teams, like EVOS, RRQ, and BOOM, since we were the first three. Factually from what I know, RRQ has been around for a long time 7-9 years, but people didn't know them until 2 years ago. EVOS came in 2016, and then BOOM came in about a year later. So it went from a monopoly by RRQ, to a duopoly between RRQ and EVOS, and then BOOM came in to break that market. What I notice ever since BOOM, there are a lot of pro teams like mine, having a gaming house and paying salaries. I would like to think BOOM has played a part where it is actually doable to beat EVOS and RRQ. When more and more organizations start growing it will allow esports to become a legitimate career path for young people and the opportunity for players is greater. As such it also has the bonus effect for esports being recognized by the government as a legitimate sport and business platform. 


Gary Ongko Magani Boom Esports


With everyone so focused in mobile games, why did you focus your resources in PC games?

I’m going to be honest -- it’s what I knew and it’s where my passion is. Not taking away any passion I have for my mobile team, but in the beginning I only knew the PC scene. For mobile, you are controlling 1 device. But if you are playing a PC game, you are controlling 3 devices: 1) eyes on the monitor, 2) 1 hand on keyboard 3) other hand on the mouse. Because of this, I feel like the skill ceiling in PC is definitely higher and there are more magical moments. At the end of the day, globally, PC gaming is the largest scene in the world. Mobile is the next big thing, but it’s concentrated on developing countries in Asia and South America. For me, it comes back to why I wanted to make BOOM in the first place, which is wanting to have an Indonesian team and brand that is recognized globally. The world currently only cares about the PC scene. In Indonesia, BOOM might not be the biggest esports organization, but we are the biggest in the PC scene. 

Tell us a fun fact about your industry that outsiders wouldn't know.

All the owners are friends. We drink together, party together, we have a WA group together where we talk trash to each other everyday. That is probably the one thing people wouldn't expect, since our fans have a sense of rivalry with the other organizations. 

Since esports is so new, it's not the time to be greedy. If I can help RRQ or whichever organization get a sponsorship, even though they are my competitor, technically the industry is getting better by me doing so. It's like a trickle down effect whereas the organizations get bigger, prize pool gets bigger, money flows in, it will have a trickle down effect to BOOM itself. 


Gary Ongko Magani Boom Esports

How do you balance passion and business?

I mean I feel like I'm in a lucky position where my passion is my business. It gets hard sometimes because when you are so passionate about something, and when you have to make a business decision it gets hard sometimes since there are alot of emotions involved. Because of this, I have to thank my team. I feel like BOOM has a good mix of people from esports and professional corporate backgrounds. My sister, Brenda, also helps me operations wise, which helps me balance things out and see things from different perspectives. I feel like Brenda and Tito, our Head of Marketing, do not have esports backgrounds but they are able to make decisions purely from a business perspective without too much emotion attached. OJAN, who has been my Day 1 General Manager, and myself then gives perspectives from the gaming passion side. This way our combined team of different backgrounds can have balanced discussions and decision making to push BOOM forward as a business.

What about Magani resonated with you?

First of all, in this industry I don’t wear formal wear everyday. I wear informal clothes. Nowadays it’s becoming more acceptable to wear informal clothes in formal settings, for instance sneakers. For me, batik has always been my preferred way to dress for weddings and formal occasions, since I prefer to wear batik than a suit. Now with Magani -- it’s NEXT LEVEL. Now we have batik that is not only comfortable, but also sweat proof. Just from those selling points alone the product appeals to me. Also, the vision to start something new resonates with me when I made BOOM. So many people doubted me when I first started BOOM because it was new and unfamiliar. I feel like it’s the same with Magani. Batik has been around since forever but why did no one ever make comfortable batik before? You are disrupting the scene with a wild and great idea, and are people going to accept this? It’s interesting to see the similarities between Magani and BOOM. 

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Gary Ongko Boom Esports Magani

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