Have you ever been completely consumed by an idea? I don’t mean the regular kind – a pursuit of a hobby or a very interesting project at work. The kind I am asking you about is the one that does not let you sleep; that does not leave your thoughts any waking moment. The kind that makes you bunk your engineering classes and convert your dorm room into a workstation.
Chitresh Parihar, Kumar Harsh Srivastava and Johny Jose had a similar idea. They understood way back in 2010 that gamification could be integrated into every aspect of people’s lives.
Even as the corporate world faces the issue of very low employee engagement rates (close to only 13%), strategic teams of companies continue to disregard the importance of collaborative work environments and the emphasis on employee motivation. Playlyfe aims to break down the barriers that impede the adoption of gamification in any company's functionality.
Playlyfe tackles some of the most fundamental problems of gamification. On the platform, anybody can launch a concept for a gamified system, from design to implementation with zero technical skill. Whether it is to drive businesses for big companies or to get people to work out more, Playlyfe allows you to go from a game design on paper to a completely functional app in a matter of minutes. It gives you immense flexibility and power to design, prototype and revise your game design over time.
“We aim to create a world where what you do is more important than what you have or who you are. We want to empower people to effectively track, manage and share their progress and achievements in every sphere of their life. Hence the name Playlyfe, which implies that life is a game and we are all players,” says Chitresh Parihar one of the Co-founders.
Early days of Playlyfe
The team has been working on developing this idea for over four years now -- since their college days. Harsh and Johny were batchmates and roommates at LNMIIT, Jaipur, and worked on several projects together. Johny and Chitresh worked together at AIESEC, Jaipur. The team initially came together in the summer of 2011, when Johny told Harsh and Chitresh about his idea for making a tool for tracking volunteer activities in AIESEC.
They shifted into Harsh's room in the college hostel, and turned Johny's room into a workstation with four computers buzzing all day. They bunked most of the classes to dedicate all their time to the idea.
Harsh and Johny have been hardcore gamers and programmers since the age of six. Building out a gamification platform was a natural extension of these interests. Chitresh has always had an inclination towards business since the age of 10. He had a robust and intense experience of working in various teams and leading them, along with his expertise in business, organizational & leadership development. Together they seem to have got the perfect balance of business & technology experience.
Johny had already made up his mind to pursue Playlyfe full time while he was still in college. He consequently did not sit for any campus placement selections. Chitresh had recently finished a presidential term at AIESEC and subsequently received offers from three startups and one of the big media houses. But even before receiving these offers he had already committed to Johny. By the time Harsh sat for placements, he had already committed all his time to Playlyfe, so it was not hard to reject the offers he received.
After graduating from Jaipur, the three decided to startup in Delhi in 2012. The team worked out of Delhi for a little over a year. In December, India's first Gamification Conference, Gamified 2013, happened in Bangalore. Johny was a speaker at the conference.
“After the conference, we felt that Bangalore's IT Infrastructure and the crowd is better -acquainted with gamification compared to any other city in the country. Also, Johny is from Bangalore itself. So it made a lot of sense for us to shift to Bangalore,” Chitresh explains the shift.
How does Playlyfe work?Playlyfe offers a complete gamification engine which users can use to easily create their own gamified systems online. Besides the default application, there is a provision to facilitate the integration of these gamified solutions with any existing website, with the help of their REST API.
The platform is primarily built on AngularJS for the front-end and NodeJS for the back-end. Several database systems, including MongoDB, Redis, Cassandra and Couchbase are used for various purposes.
Once you sign up on the website, you can create a game in the ‘Playground’. You have the option of hosting your app natively on the playlyfe platform or on an external website with public or private access. The user has the flexibility of assigning player roles, defining processes for the players, and creating scoring parameters.
Who is using the platform?
The use case scenarios are primarily in the employee engagement solutions that increase the employee engagement in companies ranging from a small to an enterprise level company, customer engagement with the loyalty programs on websites and in the field of employee/volunteer training within companies/organizations.
“Our target audience is global. Initially, we intend to outreach to the demography of 18-40 years and especially to the strategic teams of the companies/organizations,” Chitresh tell us.
“We are working with a limited number of clients, corporates as well as NGOs. We aim to provide them a rock solid experience of using Playlyfe to enhance their organization's efficiency, and honestly, we are not looking forward to increase our clientele right now. We will be working with our existing clients to enhance their experiences and once that works out well, we will look forward to scale up and market ourselves on the open canvas,” he adds.
There are a lot of companies who have begun offering gamification solutions in the market over the last few years. Most of them are based in the US. The biggest platform at present is Badgeville.
“Most of the solutions provided by our competitors are focused on specific verticals. We've created a generic platform with which anybody can create any type of system for any vertical. At present, however, we're focusing mainly on the use of gamification for employee/volunteer engagement. We plan on building up products on top of our platform in different verticals over time,” Chitresh explains.
Revenues and fund-raising plans
The business model is currently customized for companies and not-for-profits and is aimed at providing affordable solutions. The team does not have a revenue focus and wants to be adept at delivering a good product and customer satisfaction first. Playlyfe is not looking to raise funds as of now. The team is bootstrapped and intends to be so in the near future.
A take on gamification and Playlyfe
Gamification is a $800 million industry and is projected to be $5.5 billion by 2018. According to the latest research, more than 70% of the world’s largest 2,000 companies are expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by the end of 2014.
Corporates increasingly understand the benefits of keeping their employees engaged and productive. And gamification can prove to be a substantive measure in keeping the attrition rate in check.
Playlyfe finds itself at the very core of the solution to the problem. The team is well-balanced and suited to grab a big share of the market.
3 important learnings
a) Be open to feedback - While working on the platform for two years, you get caught up in your own work and can't see it from a different perspective very easily. We learnt that keeping an open ear to what others around us (friends, family & customers) are saying always helps.
b) Go slow to grow fast - It is quintessential for a startup to understand, practice & redo, multiple times to make the base conclusive. It's very easy to get deflected while looking at the growth of the startups around you, but you've got to realize the depth of your startup & have full faith in its profitability & growth.
c) Connect - While you're in a startup stage, it's absolutely exciting to know, learn & share our thoughts with like-minded people. Keeping the idea to yourself will not be as helpful as it will be to connect with others. You never know which world changing idea you might come up with during coffee with friends.
Starting up brings with it more than its fair share of stress. “Whenever we get stressed out, we take time off to play DOTA. We also experiment in cooking our own food and watch episodes from our favorite TV shows to refresh ourselves and attack the problems with a new vigour,” says Chitresh.
“The potential of gamification to change the world is our biggest source of motivation. People have already been successful in using gamification for researching breakthrough drugs (Fold It), fighting depression (Super Better) and we feel privileged to be able to create something that would allow others to use gamification to solve really hard problems.” The team has their vision carved out.
What do you think about the scope of gamification? Would you like to use this platform? Hit the Playlyfe team with your suggestions and feedback. We are eagerly awaiting your comments.