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.


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.


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.”


Nazara officially announces Sportskeeda acquisition, delays IPO

Online gaming company Nazara Technologies Limited has officially announced that it has acquired a 67% stake in Absolute Sports Private Limited, the company that operates online sports media portal Sportskeeda.

Nazara has reportedly invested Rs. 44 crores for the stake in the sports content portal, valuing it at about Rs. 65 crore.

It was reported last month, that Nazara was on the verge of closing investments in Sportskeeda, real money quiz app Qunami and fantasy gaming portal Halaplay.

Apart from these, Nazara in the past has made investments over US$30 million in various startups such as HalaPlay, Nodwin, Next Wave Multimedia, Hash Cube, Mastermind Sports, Moonglabs Technologies, Bakbuck, CrimzonCode, InstaSportz and NZWorld. 

Confirming the acquisition, Nazara Managing Director Nitish Mittersain commented, “We at Nazara are building platforms for fan engagement across all aspects of sports entertainment, and we believe that this move will serve a triple play offering to the 100-million strong network through content, competition, and community across all emerging markets.” 

Mittersain added that Sportskeeda will try to focus on premium subscription content, going forward, apart from driving revenues through sponsorships and advertisements. He also stated that the company will focus on real money gaming as it has tremendous potential in India.

Commenting on the development, Sportskeeda CEO Porush Jain said, “Nazara’s acquisition and investment into Sportskeeda is an important milestone in our journey. From our modest beginning as a multisport blog in 2009, we have become a one-of-a-kind sports content platform. We have our eyes set on becoming the world’s largest multi-sport platform by leveraging Nazara’s geographical reach in the sports-crazy Middle East and Africa markets.”

Mittersain also told Mint that its plans to get the company listed had not fructified for the past two years due to weak market conditions and added that they had therefore decided to focus on growing the business at present, with the company planning to make a renewed attempt to go for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) early next year.


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.