Former IIT-Delhi and IIIT-Hyderabad alumnus build a gaming platform that is mobile first and focused on emerging technologies
At a glance
Based where: Hyderabad
Founders: Vasantha Sai and Trivikrama Kothinti
Problem it solves: VR platforms for immersive gaming at gaming arcades
Funding: $1.25 million from undisclosed investors and angel funded from IB Hubs
Imagine the thrill and adrenalin rush of smashing the ball out of the park – never mind then that you are wearing a Vritual Reality headset, and the ball is virtual.
Twenty-seven-year-old Vasanth Sai, and 24-year-old Trivikrama Kothinti came together last year to make original technology products from India, and relied heavily on their love for cricket to do it. The two met at IB Hubs, a startup accelerator, and saw a common ground to start a company.
Like any young person, the hot topics in their heads were Augmented Reality, VR, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Machine Learning. Graduating from IIT-Delhi in 2016, Trivikrama worked in the corporate sector before moving to Hyderabad to work with IB Hubs in 2017. Vasanth graduated from IIIT-Hyderabad, and was with IB Hubs as the CTO.
In June 2017, the duo spoke of starting up and began to jot down ideas that could scale globally. “It was only natural that we decided to start a company with the sole mission to ensure that India becomes the leader in advanced technologies, and hence ProYuga was formed,” says Vasanth, Co-founder of Proyuga Advanced Technologies, a VR and mixed reality startup based out of Hyderabad.
While building the platform, Vasanth and Trivikrama wanted to build something that interested every Indian, and that was none other than cricket.
The technology building
The platform building exercise was gruelling because the two sought to give gamers a stadium-like experience, with fielders, a cheering crowd, flood lights, and a real experience of batting, bowling and fielding.
The product, IB Cricket, found strong support and guidance from IB Hubs, which provided ProYuga a team with complementary skills, a workspace, capital, expert guidance and mentoring towards marketing and sales support.
“Under their support, we perfected the physics of the product to ensure highest quality and accuracy for a realistic and immersive cricket experience. We both understood that to ensure success, we need to first build a world class core product, over which additional features can be added,” says Vasanth. The team worked tirelessly for over nine months, and was happy to note that the outcome was world class. With backing from the Government of Uttar Pradesh, the product was launched at the UP Investors’ Summit in February this year.
The cricket game became a hit, with its custom-made electronic being unveiled in the presence of Union Electronics and IT Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad. Once you wear the headset and hold the electronic bat, you can see the bowler run towards you, and the fielders pouncing on the ball once you strike it to steal a run.
The business model
To make the product viable, the ProYuga team gave demos to more than 1,000 people.
“Interestingly, we observed that even people who haven’t played cricket before could connect with the product,” says Vasanth.
The company is releasing the product in 30 countries, and is planning to go ahead with a franchise model where ProYuga will supply the entire technology and design of the gaming arcade at a cost to the franchise.
In countries such as the US, UK and the Middle Eastern region, the company’s initial focus will be on retail sales with a gradual shift towards franchise establishments. The team says the strategy will evolve as they go further.
The team says it has conducted extensive market research, and gauged strong market potential in most global markets. “We plan to have a simultaneous launch of the product in several countries,” says Vasanth.
The VR platform will confine itself to just cricket, and the team plans to launch more games subsequently. Currently, ProYuga is a zero-revenue company, but has set itself a target to achieve Rs 100 crore in revenue by 2020.
According to KPMG, the AR/VR industry is valued at $25 billion today and has the potential to touch $108 billion by 2021. There, however, are some drawbacks due to the lack of adoption. The KPMG report adds that despite early optimism, AR/VR is still in the nascent stage, and may see a long road to widespread adoption, although strong pace of platform development and developer toolkits may bring this on sooner than expected.
The report adds that there are early mover advantages to be seen and redefining customer experience by enhancing products and services, and creation of new revenue streams is possible.
The challenges in the sector, however are aplenty. There is low awareness about the technology and Karnataka is perhaps the only government in the country to have created a centre of excellence for AR and VR. Funding in the sector too has been slow, and most companies have not been able to raise more than $500,000. Media reports suggest only five percent of VR startups have so far been able to raise money.
“Scaling in India has always been hard for VR startups because there hasn’t been large scale adoption,” says Chetan Anand, Director, PWC India.
ProYuga mainly competes with Gazematic, Grey Kernel, Meraki, ChymeraLabs and AutoVrse, and the over 100 other companies in the sector in the country.