Fun and games: This startup enables corporates to inculcate teamwork through escape rooms
Founded in 2014 by Shikhir Bhutani, Sapna Bhutani, and Prateek Panjwani, Mystery Rooms uses challenges to engage employees and help them work on their team-building skills. The startup has scaled up the phygital platform and now operates in 21 cities.
Team building is essential for every organisation that wants to scale up quickly. According to an Accenture and Boston University report, an organisation must encourage participation through semi-structured activities such as games, contests and other recognitions for exhibiting desired behaviours.
To ensure that teams are prepared to work in a high-pressure environment and enable them to face any situation, Delhi-based startupsets up real-life online and offline scenarios for teams to solve.
"Mystery Rooms is a fast-growing Live Escape Game company run by young creative professionals carrying years of relevant experience and expertise in their respective fields," Shikhir Bhutani, Co-founder of Mystery Rooms, tells YourStory.
Solving a mystery
Mystery Rooms was founded in 2014 by three gaming enthusiasts – Shikhir Bhutani, an IT engineer and a serial entrepreneur, who previously founded AFlame Infotech and Leading SEO Pvt Ltd; his wife, Sapna Bhutani – an MBA graduate in marketing and a researcher; and Prateek Panjwani, an architect with technical expertise.
The three wanted to start something new in the field of entertainment and brought together experiences from their respective work streams to start Mystery Rooms, which provides a real-life escape experience set up within an office. The startup also has digital mystery games for corporates.
"In the game, a team is required to crack codes and solving a mystery, while also doing certain tasks like climbing floors, crawling through tunnels, and sliding down surfaces. Our startup is available for corporates and families alike," says Shikhir.
In a mystery room, the players get to choose and take on challenges such as the Bomb Defusal Challenge, Prison Break scenario, or an Inferno situation. All these challenges are created by the startup to engage the team and help them work on their team-building skills to escape the room.
According to Shikhir, the games provides employees with a sense of accomplishment by winning a level and infuse a sense of heroism upon completing the task.
In the game, the team is locked inside a theme-based room and is given a mission. The members need to investigate tasks and connect the dots to complete the challenge. These tasks are chosen by the corporate, and Mystery Rooms creates these challenges digitally. These rooms can also be created in the office as well if the corporate wants to give the employees a physical experience.
The team is required to solve the games which are themed as a murder mystery, breaking from a prison, executing a diamond robbery, etc.
"The themes are immersive in terms of the architecture, storylines, props, puzzles, and everything else. Once you are in the room, you are completely disconnected from reality and get into the character you are playing," says Shikhir.
The concepts encourage teamwork and logical thinking, and serve as a team-building exercise. The company has worked with giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, HCL, Adobe, American Express, Oberoi Hotels,, and SAP.
The pandemic has affected every business, and theirs is no exception. Their revenues dropped in the first six months because of the lockdown-induced restrictions, but their online games made up for the absence of people visiting physical mystery rooms.
Mystery Rooms has been pushing for its digital mystery challenges. Its virtual experiences include online games as well as creating an adventure using live stream, which its corporate audience can experience from the comfort of their homes. The virtual experiences come with a variety of options for a customer to choose from and are technologically enabled to make them as immersive as possible.
"Virtual games have actually provided us with an opportunity to even penetrate the international market. These games can be played from anywhere in the world, while still promoting team work and out-of-box thinking, which are the core values of Mystery Rooms. They have been quite popular as a virtual team-building exercise. Besides the virtual experience, the brand had also introduced ‘Print and Play’ options for its customer," says Shikhir.
The startup is currently bootstrapped, with the founders having invested Rs 40 lakh from personal savings.
"The first few months were just about re-investing the profits we made back in the company to make it better and bigger. Within six months of opening the first branch in Delhi, we came up with a second branch in Gurugram, and then expanded to Chandigarh. Soon, we started franchising, and today, Mystery Rooms has 21 franchises across pan India which are mostly company-owned," says Shikhir.
The company gets paid by the corporate on the basis of the number of employees that take part in the games. It charges Rs 1,250 per head.
The startup competes in the 'escape rooms' category with Hogwarts Digital Escape Room, Neutral’s Room Escape Games, Paid, Live Rooms, and Nancy Drew Virtual Escape Room. Mystery Room’s FY21 revenue was Rs 10 crore.
"When we started, we had to list ourselves broadly under the entertainment category, but now, Escape Room has its own category on Google business, Facebook, and similar spaces. The industry is now being increasingly recognised on its own," says Shikhir.
According to IBEF Research, the gaming industry in India is growing exponentially and is expected to reach $3.7 billion in size by 2030.
Edited by Kanishk Singh