“Zynga’s largest studio outside the US is in India,” says Shan Kadavil, Zynga India

zynga“We are finding a great melting pot of talent in India”

Zynga, a social game making company, now almost synonymous with Farmville, had a roller coaster ride before it went public on December 16, 2011 with a valuation at $7 billion. At one point before the IPO, it was speculated to be valued at a whopping $ 20 billion, which was way more than even Electronic Arts, a traditional gaming company. The share prices have now stabilized at close $12 per share after opening at $10. Their games such as Hidden Chronicles and Scramble with Friends have become popular.

Head Farmer (Country Head) of Zynga in India, Shan Kadavil, over the past two years, has managed to scale up Zynga’s India operations. By developing and retaining a great workforce, Shan has maintained the startup spirit, which has served Zynga well. YourStory engages him to get the roadmap for Zynga and pointers for new startups.

What is the plan for growth in terms of users/gamers in India for 2012?

With 240 million monthly active players globally, Zynga’s mission is to connect the world through games.  We want to grow the market for everyone and that includes India.  Our most popular games such as FarmVille, CityVille, CastleVille, Hidden Chronicles and Scramble With Friends are also popular in India and we look forward to connecting more people in this market throughout 2012 and beyond.

How big is the team at Bangalore office? What are the hiring plans for 2012 and for which roles are you majorly hiring?

India is one of the world’s top talent destinations for technology and creativity, and we want to continue leveraging that. After setting up Zynga India in 2010, we launched Zynga’s largest studio outside the US that works on global game development and operations.  Zynga India currently has more than 200 of the best and brightest engineers and creative professionals from India and around the world.  We will continue to recruit engineers, product managers, game designers, artists and senior management to scale Zynga’s global games to hundreds of millions of players.  We are finding a great melting pot of talent in India including an international mix of experiences and backgrounds that are enabling us to hire many great people.

How do you see India fitting in Zynga’s global strategy?

Our mission is to connect the world through games and India is an important market for us – we are firm believers of being everywhere.  Zynga India is working on global projects including technology for the global business and our office here is the only cross-functional office outside of the US.  India will continue to be an important part of Zynga’s global business.

What are your views on the gaming ecosystem in India? We did recently come across a bunch of startups trying to build interesting games. Do you see more of that happening?

India has a critical mass of experience that has reached the point of product development – it’s a very encouraging time for start-ups.  There is a small but growing game community, which is capturing the imaginations of players and is combining creative and engineering talent.  I definitely see more of that happening in India in the near future.  What is important for this industry to thrive is the mentoring and training they can receive from industry leaders such as Zynga or other gaming companies that are involved in end-to-end creation of games, and that encourage a start-up environment as part of their company culture.

How has the response for games been on platforms other than Facebook, say on Google+ and mobile?

Zynga has a vision of a billion people playing together.  We want to be where players are and that means being across platforms such as Facebook, Google+, Tencent, and mobile such as iOS and Google Play.

We want to create an Internet treasure – something you can’t imagine life before and you can’t imagine life without.  Zynga recently launched the Zynga Platform as another step in this direction, which has been designed to bring players what they have asked for – new ways to play and more people to play with.

Is mobile a big strategy for India?

ShanMobile is an important part of Zynga’s overall business strategy, which includes India.  We have a growing portfolio of mobile social games for both iOS and Google Play including recently launched Scramble With Friends, Dream Pethouse and Dream Heights.

Currently, we have more than 15 million people playing our mobile social games each day.

What have been some of the popular Zynga games in India? Any interesting usage patterns there?

A range of Zynga’s most popular games are also popular in India including FarmVille, CityVille, CastleVille, Hidden Chronicles, Words with Friends, Zynga Poker, and Mafia Wars.  India is following the global trend of a new type of casual game player.  Social games offer fun entertainment, which inspires more people to play and provides a connection with your friends whenever you play.

According to Appdata.com, Zynga has the top 5 games on Facebook including CityVille, Zynga Poker, Hidden Chronicles, CastleVille and FarmVille. This data is the same globally as well as for India.

Are you trying to build any games for India with local focus?

Our games are created for a global audience to inspire more play and to connect people with friends and family every day.  We love to hear stories about a grandmother playing FarmVille with her grandson who lives in another city or two friends living in different countries connecting through Words With Friends. The stories are endless as 54 million people play Zynga games each day.

How according to you is Indian gamer’s psyche different from users elsewhere?

Social games and the notion of playing together has been around for centuries – based on the human need to be a part of a group and be expressive.  The psyche of players across the world is the same – they want to connect with their friends and share meaningful experiences with them no matter where they are.

What is exciting about your role at the helm of Zynga India?

For me, it’s exciting that we have the opportunity to bring play to the mass market.  Zynga India is helping to make this vision possible by contributing to the development and operating technology that is powering the company’s games at the global level.  Above all, what gets me up in the morning is the incredibly rich talent and the quality of colleagues I work alongside and seeing them emerge into new leaders both within Zynga and the industry.