[The Turning Point] How lessons from the dot-com crash in 2000 helped Nazara Technologies become a Rs 5,000 Cr gaming company

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at India’s first gaming company to go public, Nazara Technologies.
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When Nitish Mittersain started gaming and sports media platform Nazara Technologiesin 1999-2000 while still in college, he did not know it would go on to become a global gaming company that will go public after 21 years.

Speaking to YourStory about what inspired him to start Nazara, Nitish Mittersain, Founder and MD of Nazara Technologies, says, gaming was his passion since childhood, and he always wanted to become an entrepreneur. Nitish played games since the age of five and started coding when he was just seven.

“My life was revolving around these two things,” he recalls. As he grew, he continued to be active in gaming as well as in the internet ecosystem. In fact, he started making websites for companies  when he was just around 17-years-old. 

“While in college, I started working in the dot-com space, and it was most natural for me to get attracted to that sector. And that's how I set up Nazara.com,” says Nitish. 

Around the same time, he met Bollywood actor Shammi Kapoor, who was an internet and technology enthusiast. The legendary actor helped him as a mentor and also helped refine his business idea.

Known for its games on World Cricket Championship, Chhota Bheem, and Motu Patlu series, Nazara is the only listed online gaming company in India, which Nitish started with a dream to make India a top gaming nation in the world. 

With its IPO, Nazara gave over 80 percent as listing gains to its IPO applicants. According to Nitish, the company is today valued at around Rs 5,000 crore.

Coding, gaming, and repeat

With Nazara.com, Nitish started building online games like ‘Housie’ on the web. He recalls that the times were very exciting, but there was no revenue initially.  

Nitish says the company had multiple turning points, which can be called different milestones. These include investments from the likes of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and others, the launch of the IPO, a deal with Sachin Tendulkar in 2005, where the company developed a wide range of gaming content based on him, and more. 

However, one of the major turning points in his career, according to Nitish, was the dot-com crash in 2000, “which in the very early stage taught us some very hard lessons, and the company is still reaping the benefits of those lessons,” Nitish says. 

He humbly says that despite all that Nazara has achieved so far, he doesn’t feel he has done something big.

"I always feel restless and I have always felt that we are not doing enough or are fast enough,” he adds. He admits the milestones Nazara has achieved are big and exciting, but he still hasn’t got the feeling that “yes we have arrived”.

Nitish says, there was no gaming business in India when he started, and he was probably 10 years early. But the last decade has shown us that gaming can be large in India, and the next decade is going to be of gaming in India. 

In the last few years, Nazara has expanded into different gaming verticals and has also focussed on an acquisition-driven strategy. It has created “Friends of Nazara”, a network of gaming companies in which Nazara holds a majority stake. 

To date, Nazara has acquired brands such as NODWIN Gaming, Nextwave Multimedia, SportsKeeda, Paper Boat Apps, and OpenPlay.

In terms of what worked for him all these years, Nitish quotes a documentary on Muhammad Ali he watched in college - “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. Nitish says this inspired him to form the basic principles of the company -- to be asset-light, debt-free, fresh, innovative, and litigation free to float like a butterfly. And the ‘other thing is perseverance’, he adds.

YourStory’s flagship startup-tech and leadership conference will return virtually for its 13th edition on October 25-30, 2021. Sign up for updates on TechSparks or to express your interest in partnerships and speaker opportunities here.

For more on TechSparks 2021, click here.

Applications are now open for Tech30 2021, a list of 30 most promising tech startups from India. Apply or nominate an early-stage startup to become a Tech30 2021 startup here.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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