[The Turning Point] Why four friends decided to raise the stakes and launch online poker startup Pocket52
A few years earlier, being a poker player would have earned you a bad rap. But things have changed since then and the card game is drawing huge interest – from players and investors.
Nitesh Salvi, an avid poker player, came to the realisation that Indians were not happy with available options. He and his friends, Saurav Suman, Debashish Bhattacharjee, and Satyam Verma, often had discussions on the best platform to play poker online. During this, they would often do a gap analysis of Indian online poker playgrounds.
They realised that most Indians showed a lack of confidence in online poker platforms, due to the fact that poker companies ran on rented/leased software and did not have control over their features like new releases and user experience.
A keen desire to bridge this gap and provide a trustworthy offering led to the inception and launch of Bengaluru-based online poker startup Pocket52, which claims to be “India’s first cryptographically secure online poker platform”.
Pocket52 was launched in 2018 with an aim to revolutionise online poker in India by providing a feature-rich platform built with cutting-edge technology, superior customer service, transparent network, and round-the-clock promotions.
To achieve this, Pocket52 built a cryptographically secured random number generator (RNG) algorithm in June 2018 to guarantee fair play, thereby addressing the trust issue. This is certified by iTech Labs, Australia.
“Our initial idea was to make something big in the global e-sports arena, with a focus on online poker. We wanted to create a 100 percent made in India online poker platform for players of all levels,” says CEO and Co-founder Nitesh.
Playing their cards right
In July 2018, the team met Abhigya Sagar, said to be one of India's top poker players. Abhigya was the first to realise the value in the vision of Pocket52. Amazed by the RNG technology and the product development, he joined the team as an angel investor and a core team member.
Nitesh says most Indian poker companies fail to understand “two crucial things about online poker”. These are player liquidity and growing a homegrown poker product, which is not only safe but also secure. Pocket52 is both.
“Today, we are the world’s fourth largest and India’s first cryptographically secured online poker platform with 2,000+ poker MTTs (multi-table tournament) and guaranteed rewards worth Rs 4.5 crore running on our platform,” Nitesh says.
Pocket52 also helps other online gaming firms integrate with its plug-and-play and launch online poker gaming as an offering on their respective platforms. It aggregates customers from all platforms and pools, and enables them to play together real time, irrespective of where they are logged in from.
“With these offerings, we aim to help online gaming companies reduce their depositor and engagement costs, and improve revenues,” Nitesh says.
The startup claims to have more than 700+ poker cash tables running on its platform at any point in time.
Betting on e-gaming
Pocket52, which raised $1.75 million in funding from Gameskraft in June 2020, has clocked 25 percent month-on-month growth and 5X growth in its user base in the last three months.
Apart from Gameskraft and Abhigya, the startup includes Speciale Invest Managing Partner Vishesh Ramraja, former FMSCI president and racing champion Vicky Chandhok; Cars 24 COO and Co-Founder Mehul Agarwal, New Quest Partners Director Vijay Jacob, and a slew of other entrepreneurs among its investors.
Going forward, the poker startup wants to explore untapped areas of the real money gaming landscape in India.
“Our revenues are growing exponentially, and we expect to generate more centre of gravity even in the B2B marketplace of e-gaming,” Nitesh says.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai