Business Gaming

Nazara pledges to invest $20 million in startups in 2020

Social gaming and sports content company Nazara Technologies Limited has announced its intention of investing upto US$20 million in select startups in the gaming and sports ecosystem in the Indian sub-continent, Africa and Middle-East over the next one year.

The company  aims to act as a catalyst to further expedite growth of gaming; esports and sports content across emerging markets. Nazara plans to infuse risk and growth capital in the selected startups besides offering mentorship to the founders of the startups that it invests in.

Commenting on the strategy, Nazara Technologies CEO Manish Agarwal noted, “Looking at the explosive growth in the interactive entertainment and sports ecosystem, Nazara has decided to up its aggression on investing in the emerging market ecosystem and support early stage startups accelerating the growth of these companies and of the industry at large.”

The company noted that it had already invested over US$50 million in 13 startups in the last two years. Nazara recently acquired majority stake in real money quiz app Qunami, daily fantasy sports platform Halaplay, sports news website Sportskeeda and preschool education app Kiddopia.


Quizistan: Where knowledge and cash go hand in hand

One of India’s fastest growing quiz platform “Quizistan” is happy to announce its new feature where players are allowed to play against each other 24*7 for real money. The feature is called “Challenge a friend” or “Challenge a Random Person”.

You can enter your friends username and send him a challenge. If you don’t have any friends online on Quizistan, you can send the challenge to a random person. You can challenge any amount ranging from Rs. 5 to Rs. 5,000, where 4 questions are asked and whoever gets more points wins the challenge and has an option to immediately withdraw the money to his/her Paytm account.

The new feature requires Team Quizistan to have a large pool of questions. They claim to have more than 3,00,000 questions of their own and have an in-house team of content writers who curate more than 50,000 questions each month.

Quizistan which is a product of Inquizitive Games Private Limited is a real money trivia platform which was launched in September 2018 and has since gathered more than 7,00,000 downloads. Quizistan currently has approx 75,000 to 80,000 monthly active users. More than 1,000 live tournaments are hosted each day in a gap of one minute which gives users the chance to play at any point of time. The entry fee of the games range from Rs.10 to Rs.10,000. On an average each daily active user plays around 4-5 games a day.

The live tournaments that are currently held on Quizistan are easy to play. You open the application, chose the tournament of your choice, pay an entry fee and get ready for the question to be asked. You answer correctly and you win money. You get an option to immediately withdraw to your Paytm account or you could place a request to withdraw your winnings in your personal bank account.

The number of questions asked on live tournaments on Quizistan range from 1 to 8 and the tournaments are on different topics ranging from Maths, Cricket, Jumbled words, Bollywood, etc. (More than 150 topics)

Former ISB Hyderabad Graduate and co-founder of Quizistan, Harshdeep Sethi mentioned that the reason for the success of any real money game is cost of customer acquisition, revenue generated and customer retention. We acquire users through innovative ways of marketing at a low price. We generate good revenue from them over a period of time and our retention is great as well.

Our biggest achievement in the past 14 months is that we formed a passionate team and we’ve got the perfect combination of Acquisition, Revenue and Retention. Launching the “challenge a friend” feature would increase our retention and revenue by multiple folds. We have a bunch of exciting new features coming up as well example a “Quiz Poker”. We will be the first ones to launch it in the industry and forecast it to be a game changer.

Another reason for our success in such a short period of time is that we understand the need of our customers and keep changing our product accordingly. We understand that not all users would be good at Maths or Science or Gk, so we create specialized content which gives everyone an equal chance to win money. For example: If India and Pakistan are playing a cricket match today, then we would create a quiz around it. This gives a chance to anyone who watched the game to come and play the quiz. We call it being “Relevant”.

Disclaimer: This article is a sponsored post and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the authors of this website. Readers may treat this as an advertorial. 


Feature: Qunami co-founder Seemant Shankar talks about growth of real money quizzing and gamification of education sector

Founded in 2015 as a sports news and content app, Sports Unity (later rebranded as Qunami) has become one of India’s leading trivia and quizzing apps, with over 200,000 registered users, with Nazara Technologies recently acquiring a majority stake in the company for Rs. 7.5 crores.

In this interview, Qunami co-founder Seemant Shankar talks about the hyper growth of the app in the past couple of years, its recent tie-up with filmstar Hrithik Roshan, synergies with Nazara and how the company plans to foray into the education sector in the near future by introducing quiz games for school and college students.

Full interview:

Q. Can you tell us more about Sports Unity and Qunami and why you decided to start this venture?

Seemant Shankar (SS): Sports Unity was founded in June 2015. It was the brainchild of Mr. Purrshottam Bhaggeria, an avid industrialist, whose vision was to make Sports Unity the leading sports news, scores and discussion app, where fans can discover and communicate with each other based on their interests and location.

By July 2016, Rishiraj Shrawat and myself joined the Sports Unity team, to further enforce the vision of making a mobile application that is ubiquitous and scalable enough to capture a sizable market share of the smartphone user community.

Sports Unity grew tremendously in the past couple of years. The user base started to show signs of rapid growth due to the addition and refinement of features within the application. Within just 4 months of my joining, Sports Unity’s user base grew from 500 to nearly 7,000 users.

The Sports Unity team paid a great deal of attention to user feedback. One of the key methods of acquiring those were from closed user groups where new features were discussed and alpha tested. During one such interaction, the team realized that sports enthusiasts took great pride in their domain knowledge. Trivia became the natural progression towards increasing interaction between sports enthusiasts. In order to validate this hypothesis, the team created a section that was dedicated to trivia which was only available on a pre-registration basis and active on select days of the week.

User engagement increased 7x on trivia days and the team decided to pivot Sports Unity to a Sports Trivia app. During this period the team took a bold decision of adding real money within trivia (Something that was never before tried by any trivia app in India). It was an extremely risky proposition as gambling laws in the country were very fuzzy and poker and fantasy sports apps were facing multiple lawsuits.

Fortunately, some landmark judgments by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and various state high courts, declassified games of skill from the ambit of gambling paving the way for rapid legal acceptance of real money gaming apps like poker, fantasy, trivia, etc.

It was time to scale the idea and touch a larger set of audiences by introducing general quizzing. Sports Unity transformed from a niche cricket-based news and scores app to real money cash-based trivia app and was re-branded to a general knowledge Qunami to cater to a wider appeal.

Today, Qunami supports 100,000 monthly active users each of whom spends an average of 20 minutes per day on the app. A typical cash playing user on Qunami stakes upwards of Rs. 300 a month, which bolsters the trust and transparency Qunami has been able to establish within its community.

Q. Qunami recently joined the Mobile Premier League (MPL) platform and started offering quiz games on MPL. How has the response been to the integration of Qunami with MPL?

SS: We are a part of MPL for the past few weeks and the experience is very thrilling. Due to the tremendous increase in traffic on our app on the very first day of joining the MPL platform, we had to upgrade all our servers to handle the surge of traffic. We broke the record of the highest grossing app on the first, as well as, second day of launch!

I think the most appreciable aspect of MPL is their team’s dedication to making stuff work. Everyone, including Shubh and Sai is so hands on. Decision making is quick and fluid and they are not afraid to try out new ways to provide a better experience to users and thereby increasing revenue.

Q. Do you think game developers and gaming apps joining platforms like MPL helps in reaching out to a wider pool of players?

SS: Absolutely! One of the biggest fears of a gaming studio is to fail in reaching out to users. Its not just the number of users that MPL provides us with, its also their quality. MPL has everyone from casual gamers to hardcore enthusiasts. Your game will appeal to one of more segment of users and, using the collected data you can really refine your app’s gameplay logic to better suit business.

Q. Recently, Nazara announced that it had invested Rs. 7.5 crores for a majority stake in Sports Unity. How do you see the association with Nazara helping Sports Unity?

SS: Nazara, along with the money, brings with itself a very vast rolodex of contacts that can be great partnership candidates for Qunami.

For example, just recently we have tied up with Hrithik Roshan to see if Qunami can be a medium to bring his fans together on a common platform. Hrithik Roshan will reach out to his fans to increase their HRX Cred on Qunami, doing so, we will be able to acquire a huge user base who would potentially convert to cash playing users. If this works for us, Nazara can bring many such associations to us.

Q. Finally, can you tell us more about Qunami’s future expansion plans and how you see the digital skill gaming space evolving in India?

SS: Qunami has a lot of interesting features coming up. We are shifting our focus entirely on collaborative and network gameplay where you can associate with up to 4 other friends and form teams. Your team will compete with other teams to win cash rewards that would be finally split between your team members. Collaborative gameplay would also have communication features like voice and chat built in to increase interactivity and excitement.

Having said that, we are also exploring a new variant of Qunami called Platina which provides serious multiplayer quizzing for school as well as college students covering their course material. This gamification of education would totally revolutionize how the education sector as each student on the app will also be representing their institutions giving way to a cult like adoption.


Winzo Games launches 10 new games on its platform

Ahead of Diwali, real money skill gaming platform Winzo Games has announced the addition of 10 new arcade games like metro surfer, stupid birds, car racing, space hunter, bear run, howzzat, fly balloon and rummy on its platform, taking the total number of games available on the app to over 40.

The company also launched a special feature; WinZO Social- an initiative that helps connect nearby players, top players by their performance and creating gaming challenges amongst random players.

WinZO Social also has its indigenous chat with audio video capability. The company noted that this AI enabled initiative will help WinZO to curate personalized gaming experience for each user.

Commenting on the development, Paavan Nanda, co-founder of WinZO Games, said: “It is really exciting times for Mobile gaming industry in India. The industry is evolving everyday working to build a more conducive mobile gaming ecosystem and changing the entertainment landscape, it is no surprise that the gaming space is getting increased attention and investment, not just from within the industry, but more recently from traditional financial markets and even governments.

WinZO’s social multi-player skill gaming platform clocked 50 million gaming minutes every day and has been able to successfully monetize this engagement. The company is growing 50% month on month. On one hand, large OTTs platforms are struggling to monetize in India, but WinZO is facilitating the first-ever M&E transactions from the T2/T3 audiences.”

Winzo Games claims that their app has seen over 10 million installations till date and an average user makes 20-25 micro transactions per month on the platform. The app is currently available in over 10 Indian languages and the company plans to introduce 6 more languages this year.

Founded as a trivia quiz app two years ago by Zo Rooms and Zostel co-founder Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore two years ago, the company recently received $5 million in a Series A funding round led-by venture capital fund Kalaari Capital (which has also funded fantasy sports website Dream11) and Hike Messenger.

The company has set an ambitious target of reaching the 100 million registered users mark in the near future.


Feature: MPL CEO Sai Srinivas Kiran G talks about his vision of creating India’s leading esports platform

Last year, serial entrepreneur and IIT Kanpur graduate Sai Srinivas Kiran G, along with his friend Shubham Malhotra, started an esports platform called Mobile Premier League (MPL) that hosted several games developed by third party developers on a single app.

Backed by marquee investors such as Sequoia Capital, Go Ventures and Times of India, MPL has, in a short span of one year garnered over 30 million registered users on its platforms and offers a wide variety of games such as chess, quiz, carrom, fantasy sports and rummy on a single mobile app.

In this exclusive interview, Srinivas, the company’s CEO and co-founder discusses how he and his team created an all-encompassing content-driven esports platform.

Full interview:

Q. In a short span of one year, MPL has become the leading gaming and esports platform in the country. Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea of MPL originated and the reasons for the phenomenal growth and success? 

Sai Srinivas Kiran G (Sai): My co-founder Shubh Malhotra and I would regularly discuss ideas for our next venture after our first startup got acquired. Mobile gaming presented itself as a great opportunity. There was no platform that could host games and connect game creators to gamers. And thanks to cheap data and smartphones becoming economical, gaming leapfrogged straight to people’s handsets. So you could say the idea behind MPL was to have a dedicated mobile-first gaming platform. 

You’re very kind to compliment us on our growth and success (laughs). I think the big reason why users and developers love our app is because of the ease of use. If you’re a game creator, it can take you less than 7 days to publish your game on our platform. And you start generating revenue from day 1. Similarly for users, it’s a simple yet secure process to sign up, and you can start competing and winning immediately.

Ultimately, a platform’s success is about the value it creates for its developers and users and I’m glad to say we are consistently doing that. 

Q. MPL is perhaps the only platform in the globe that has a diverse set of games ranging from chess and quiz to rummy and fantasy sports. Can you share some details on the most popular games on the MPL platform and some stats about the same?

Sai: First of all, big shoutout and kudos to our game developer community. They have been making some amazing games for our platform and we are looking forward to getting more games from them and partnering with more game creators. We have managed to get close to 40 games in total on MPL since our launch merely a year back, which is great, given the magnitude and scale of our user base.

We have a very talented tech team that works with our developers to get these games out and make the experience great for our users. We are constantly looking out for more such talented folks to join us so we can keep adding great games to our platform. 

That being said, we have had quite a few popular titles on MPL. Quiz, launched recently, saw two million games being played within the first three weeks of its launch! Our users have won close to Rs 80 lakh in total prize money too.

With these numbers, our developer partner can stand to make Rs 1 crore in revenue per year, just from this one stream. You may already know about the speed chess tournament we hosted in July, where 1.2 million games were played in 12 hours. So all kinds of games are doing well on MPL. 

Q. Apart from gaming, MPL has started other interesting initiatives like audio shows. Can you tell us more about the non-gaming initiatives that MPL is focusing on?

Sai: We are a platform driven by content. Gaming, audio, video, we are progressing towards becoming an all-encompassing platform. And going by the phenomenal response to our audio shows, this resonates with our audience. Our users have earned Rs 25 lakh hosting audio shows on MPL in the first two months of it going live. 

Q. What do you see are the challenges on the legal and regulatory for esports and online gaming and what is the best way to combat them?

Sai: I am no regulatory expert but what I can tell you is that fairness and therefore, recognition of skill is a central tenet of what we do here at MPL. We have a data driven approach to ensuring that only such games that test skills to the fullest are available on MPL.

We also have a very robust system in place now for weeding out fraudsters and making sure that the most skilled players play and win on MPL. Esports players, our ‘digital athletes’, deserve recognition at par with any other sport. They practice as hard and play to win. 

I think it’s about time the industry comes together and adopts a common standard for fairness, skill and the like, and we are working through various industry bodies on those aspects. 

Q. Finally, your parting thoughts on MPL’s plan and vision for the near future and the direction in which esports and gaming is headed in the country?

Sai: Esports in India and across the globe is on the cusp of a mainstream revolution. It looks like it could well be a medal event at the Olympics even before cricket! Given the global opportunities that are mushrooming, we at MPL believe India is poised to grab the chance. We need the right support system for esports players and developers alike. And MPL provides the platform for the entire system to grow on.

We want to keep adding to our games, making the platform a mini-app store where game creators can publish their games and users can compete and win, playing these games. Overall, we want to play our part in developing gaming and esports as a viable career option for developers and gamers alike.


Nazara invests Rs. 7.5 crores in Qunami, acquires majority stake

Online gaming and content company Nazara Technologies Limited has announced that it has invested Rs. 7.5 crores in Sports Unity Private Limited, the Delhi-based company that operates real money multiplayer quizzing app Qunami.

Apart from Nazara, Vaibhav Gaggar, a Delhi-based lawyer and managing partner of law firm Gaggar & Partners also participated in the investment round.

Qunami has over 3 lakh downloads and 40,000 monthly users playing up to 30 minutes per day and has crossed over 1 crore transactions.

The news about Nazara investing around Rs. 7 crores in Sports Unity, apart from making investments in Sportskeeda and Halaplay was first reported by Inc42 in July 2019.

With this investment, Nazara has acquired majority stake in Qunami. The company stated that is investment in the quizzing company is a strategic move in addition to Nazara’s investments and diversified presence in various areas of gaming including esports, fantasy sports, digital cricket gaming, real money gaming and infotainment among others.

Commenting on the development, Seemant Shankar, co-founder of Qunami noted, “Quizzing attracts audiences of all demographies and possesses a massive potential to scale. Nazara, a partner with a rock-solid reputation and international spread and carrier association within 118 countries creates the key alignment to Qunami’s vision of global expansion and opportunity to skyrocket Qunami’s success metrics.”

Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Technologies Ltd. added, “We at Nazara are very excited with the quizzing space and are confident that Qunami will leverage Nazara’s network to grow into a large consumer centric internet brand and build quizzing as one of the leading real money gaming categories in the emerging markets.”


Real money gaming platform WinZo secures $5 million Series A funding

Real money skill gaming platform, WinZo, which just last week announced a US$1.5 million fund to encourage local game developers, has announced that it has secured US$5 million in a Series A funding round led by Kalaari Capital and Hike Messenger.

“WinZO’s social multi-player skill gaming platform is a one-stop entertainment destination for Bharat. We have been receiving phenomenal traction, and are very excited to emerge as India’s most loved household brand for the next 100 million users,” said Paavan Nanda, the company’s CEO and co-founder in a statement.

“WinZO’s team has achieved a strong product market fit and is all set to disrupt the vernacular entertainment space. We led company’s seed round early last year, and are highly impressed with the team’s growth trajectory and strong execution,” said Rahul Garg, Principal, Kalaari Capital. 

Kalaari Capital, which has also backed India’s biggest fantasy sports website Dream11, had also participated in a seed funding round of WinZo.

Founded as a trivia quiz app two years ago by Zo Rooms and Zostel co-founder Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore two years ago, WinZo Games (earlier known as TicTok Games) offers more than 30 real money skill games including fantasy sports, space warrior, quizzes, carrom, virtual cricket, virtual basketball etc. on its app-based platform in ten languages, namely English, Hindi, Bangla, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, and Bhojpuri.

The company claims to have garnered more than seven million registered users till date and has set an ambitious target of crossing the 100 million registered users mark in the near future.


WinZo Games announces $1.5 million fund to promote Indian game developers

Gurugram-based esports and real money gaming platform WinZo has announced a US$1.5 million (Rs. 10 crore) fund to support and groom local Indian game developers.

The games produced by the indigenous developers will be added by Winzo on its platform, the company added.

Commenting on the announcement, Paavan Nanda, Co-founder, WinZO, said, “Through this fund, we are looking to partner with Gaming Studios as well as independent game developers by offering them an infrastructure to develop top quality content and a powerful platform to monetize their games from day one. A sector gets disrupted when the best brains of the world work actively towards unlocking its potential. Through this initiative, we look forward to interacting with highly enthusiastic and top-notch talent, keen at creating a dent in the global gaming ecosystem”. 

He further added: “WinZO’s social multi-player skill gaming platform clocked 100 million gaming minutes every day and has been able to successfully monetize this engagement. The company is growing 50 per cent month on month. On one hand, large OTTs platforms are struggling to monetize in India, but WinZO is facilitating the first-ever M&E transactions from the tier 2 or tier 3 audiences.” 

Winzo Games (earlier known as TicTok Games) counts venture capital firm Kaalari Capital as one of its investors. It offers more than 25 real money skill games including fantasy sports, space warrior, quizzes, carrom, virtual cricket, virtual basketball etc. on its app-based platform in ten languages, namely English, Hindi, Bangla, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, and Bhojpuri.


Nazara invests in Sportskeeda and Qunami, ups stake in Halaplay

Online game publisher Nazara Technologies Limited is reportedly on the verge of closing a Rs. 36 crore deal to gain majority stake in Absolute Sports Private Limited, the parent company of leading online sports content and news website Sportskeeda.

According to an exclusive report on online news portal Inc42, Nazara is proposing to acquire 118,000 equity shares of Absolute Sports in a cash plus stock deal.

For the acquisition, Nazara is paying an issue price of Rs. 10 to purchase shares from existing investors, promoters and key managerial personnel and is additionally also offering the existing shareholders of the company a total of 491,100 shares of Nazara Technologies at a premium of Rs. 724 per share. 

According to the Inc42 report, Nazara is further planning to purchase equity shares worth Rs. 7.09 crores in Sports Unity Private Limited, the company that operates the real money quiz app Qunami.

The deal is proposed to be an all stock deal with Nazara allotting 34,900 shares to non banking financial company, Azimuth Investments, which had given a Rs. 6.25 crore loan to Sports Unity, apparently to convert Sports Unity’s debt into equity.

According to the regulatory filings to the Registrar of Companies (ROC) cited by Inc42, Nazara is also looking to increase its stake in fantasy sports HalaPlay to 52.53% by acquiring Kae Capital and Kalysta Capital Fund’s stake in the company in a share swap deal.

In exchange of Kae Capital and Kalysta Fund’s 26,080 shares in Halaplay, they are being offered 315,900 shares of Nazara Technologies, which will take their combined holding in the gaming publisher to 1.14%.

Earlier this year, Nazara had participated in a Rs. 40 crore Series A investment round in Halaplay, along with gaming and hospitality company Delta Corp. Delta Corp had also divested its fantasy sports portal LeagueAdda and transferred it to Halaplay as part of the deal.

In the past couple of years, Nazara has aggressively invested in real money as well as social gaming startups including CrimzonCode, Kenyan real-money betting company NZ World Kenya Ltd, NextWave Multimedia, MasterMind Sports, Truly Social, NODWIN Gaming and Moong Labs.

Nazara has also indicated its interest in either starting or acquiring online poker, rummy and other real money skill games in India.


Paytm-backed Gamepind rebrands itself as FirstGames, looks to raise $30 million

Paytm-backed real money gaming platform Gamepind has decided to rebrand itself to FirstGames, as per a report in the Economic Times.

Gamepind, which is a joint venture between Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications Limited and Alibaba Group owned gaming technology provider AGTech Holdings, is also reportedly looking to raise further capital of US$30 million to expand its gaming platform and scale it with more games.

One97 Communications and AGTech had infused US$16 million in Gamepind Entertainment Private Limited last year.

Gamepind (now Paytm FirstGames) has claimed that in a short span of less than one year, it has garnered over 30 million registered users on its platform.

The company offers casual games such as ludo, snake wars, badlands, 8 bnall pool as well as skill games such as rummy, fantasy sports, trivia and live quiz on its platform as well as on the Paytm website and mobile app.

Gamepind is reportedly currently clocking Gross Merchandise Volume of Rs. 20 crore monthly, which it hopes to increase to Rs. 28-35 crores during the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup.

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