How Asian Games nudge made IITian gamer Hemanth Kommu a national esports champion

Hemanth Kommu studies mechanical engineering at IIT Guwahati and will represent India in Pro Evolution Soccer at the world championship in Israel in November.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Gaming with academics is not a popular combination. And when it does mix, it usually carries a negative connotation.

But there’s one young Indian who is breaking the stereotype of gamers not excelling in studies, or scholars not being good at gaming.

Andhra Pradesh resident Hemanth Kommu is a student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and is also the national champion of the hit football game Pro Evolution Soccer (PES).

The 24-year-old Kommu is pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at IIT Guwahati and simultaneously preparing to represent India at the 2021 Esports World Championship in Israel.

But, three years ago, competing professionally never crossed Hemanth’s mind.

The Asian Games nudge

Before esports was included as a demonstration event at the 2018 Asian Games, where India was represented by JauntyTank and Tirth Mehta, Hemanth Kommu was just another casual gamer who played on weekends for fun.

And although Kommu played PES since his uncle gifted it to him in 2007, the thought of competing in tournaments never struck him.

But as soon as he heard about the Asian Games news, Hemanth knew it was his calling.

“I came to know through a friend that PES was a title at the Asian Games… I loved the game very much, so I thought of giving it a try,” the IITian recalled.

Kommu, who was pursuing his bachelor’s degree from IIT Bhubaneswar at that time, began researching about gaming in India, which revealed a whole new world to him.

“Asian Games gave exposure to PES... I came to know that these kinds of competitions were happening, and I understood the esports scene in India.”

Pandemic, a blessing in disguise

Casual gaming along with studying is a manageable job for many. But to compete professionally while studying at an IIT, the task gets tougher.

“Before the pandemic, the tournaments were mostly held offline, so it was impossible for me to go somewhere else and participate,” Hemanth Kommu said. “It’s very difficult to attend classes and do assignments.”

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened, which shifted the lectures from offline to online, forcing Kommu to attend university from home. But this also gave him time to play more frequently.

“Whenever I feel exhausted with academics, I play PES. I do not watch any TV series or any other entertainment. For me, PES is the only form of entertainment.”

What Hemanth Kommu didn’t realise is that the habit of relieving stress through gaming was also training him to become one of the best players of India come the next national championship. And so he did.

Like the rest of the world’s preference of online mode, the gaming nationals in 2021 also took place entirely online.

Kommu, who goes by his gaming name Peshemak7, connected from his residence in Vijayawada and defeated the much more experienced competitors to qualify for the regional qualifiers of South Asia.

There, he beat the champions from Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Maldives and Sri Lanka to confirm a spot at the world finals.

“This is the game I have loved to play since my childhood days and it's great to be able to represent India at EWC,” Kommu enthused. “I am also playing a good amount of online matches as part of my preparations to bring laurels for our country.” 

Kommu will now travel to Eilat, Israel in November in pursuit of the world title.

Despite his meteoric rise in the gaming world, Kommu still aims to complete his education and get a job in his core field, aerodynamics and propulsion.

“I haven’t thought of going full-time into esports. I want to focus on studies and do it parallelly. I can never play for five hours straight”

But knowing how Kommu doesn’t train specifically for any competition, it won’t be a surprise if he gets on the top of the podium next year too, this time as a working professional.