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Two serial entrepreneur dads and one game developer are the faces behind the successful Bengaluru-based Zebu Games

Aparna Ghosh
27th Jul 2015
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Zach Gold, a Stanford grad, like many other graduating seniors, set out to explore South East Asia over the summer. He, along with his friend, Akshai, decided to backpack around Thailand, Indonesia and India.

Their entire trip was almost everything they expected - great marine and wild life, good food, and the sights and sounds of these countries. In India, they made short trips to Mysore, Coimbatore, and Chennai.

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Zach had played a lot of board games and mobile word games during his college life, and was looking for something new. Akshai introduced him to Wordmint, a word game developed by Zebu Games, but what he didn’t know was that he was going to be hooked on to it soon.

The remaining trip was all about Zach and Akshai competing with each other trying to ‘mint’ as many words as they could. They even went to the extent of creating a Whatsapp group to discuss individual scores with family members in Los Angeles – who were also hooked by then.

Zach was just one of the millions of mobile game adopters across the globe.

Mobile games are becoming a big deal, with a market size of over USD 12 billion, according to a recent report from newzoo.com, which tracks the global game industry. This could be due to the steady growth in the mobile market.

According to another report by Global Mobile Game Confederation (GMGC), the global mobile market reached USD 24.5 billion in 2014, and is expected to grow to USD 40 billion by 2017.

While games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush have seen the most downloads (between 100 million and 500 million), and word games, like Ruzzle, and Words With Friends, have both seen over 50 million downloads each.

This is the story of Zebu Games, one such mobile games startup that wants to tap into this opportunity.

Sometime last year, two dads, K Srikrishna and Bikash Chowdhury, decided to start a mobile game studio in Bangalore. Neither of them was new to the startup ecosystem, and Bikash’s previous experience in InMobi was what paved the way to set up the company.

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“The idea came in mid 2011. It was when I got into the system I realised how huge the mobile business was. I could see how publishers with small teams were making tens of thousands of dollars everyday. Also, I knew that it can be scaled to a massive extent,” said Bikash.

The idea for a mobile game came a little later when the duo brainstormed on how to use publishing platforms to make learning fun.

Srikrishna, who was running the show at National Entrepreneurship Network until last November, decided to take a break from there and dive into entrepreneurship again. This was not the first time Bikash and he were working together. They had already worked in a startup called Impulsesoft, and subsequently at SiRF Technology, which acquired their startup back in the 2000s.

Both of them realised they would make fewer mistakes than a lot of entrepreneurs they had encountered if they started something with all the experience they had. They started Zebu Games with an initial investment of six lakhs.

The only thing missing was a mobile game developer, who could give life to their ideas.

It did not take too long before they found their third founder, Kollol Das, an obsessive game developer and whiz kid. They launched their first game, Homebound –an arcade game— in December.

“We wanted to see if we could really do this. It was our validation, and after that we knew that this was it,” said Srikrishna.

Zebu games launched two more games –Wordmint and Follow The Dots— in the last quarter. Wordmint is a single player word game, where the user gets single letters with which they can ‘mint’ words, while Follow The Dots is a the finger-runner tracing game.

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Though both these games were built as fun, casual games, people who work with children say that these games can help learning in improving hand-eye coordination and vocabulary.

“The response has been quite good so far. We even heard back from learning centres for differently-abled kids that there were responding positively to Follow The Dots,” added Bikash.

While their first game Homebound, is currently not available, their two other games have almost 10,000 downloads so far.

Zebu Games will continue to build free to play (F2P) games for users on all platforms. According to Bikash, this bootstrapped startup will use in-game advertisements to monetise their games in the future.

They have a crystal-clear road map ahead: five games this year, and 12 every year after that.

“We have prototypes for three more games in house, and hope to release five games this year. Some of our new games will be extensions of other games to create a portfolio of closely related word games. Also, we will be working on building games in multiple languages,” said Bikash.

As for inspiration, they cannot run dry because both dads say that their children play that role best.

“They ask us ‘When is the next game coming out, papa?’ and we know it’s time to get to work,” added Srikrishna.

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