This creator-driven gaming startup by ex-Flipkart execs is breathing new life into Indian household games
Saurabh Pandey’s tryst with stand-up comedy and Akshay Dubey’s gamer persona had a yin-and-yang effect when it came to founding. The social gaming and live-streaming startup offers live shows and games that are hosted by influencers and creators on the app.
“It is completely built for the Bharat audience,” Saurabh, Co-founder and CEO of Eloelo, tells YourStory. “Games like Tambola, Antakshari, Dumb Charades, and Chidiya Udd are all being played in a live show hosted by creators and with thousands of users participating together. It recreates the TV show concept but for smartphones.”
The Bengaluru-based startup looks at the two-sided problem of creators hosting interactive lives but not being able to do so on a short video platform. After the live stream ends, creators are unable to interact in real-time, and the video ends up lacking context. Instead, it becomes an AMA (ask me anything).
The founders discovered that one of the best equalisers was hosting games. “But not all creators are hardcore gamers. What could be the format of games that they host so that it is social, fun, and leads to them forming an interactive community?” he adds.
The Eureka moment
Saurabh and Akshay worked atfrom 2016 to 2020. Saurabh was a category leader at Flipkart, and drove Product Marketing for Lifestyle and leading categories such as accessories, children, nutrition, and fitness.
Akshay, meanwhile, was involved with data and tech in Flipkart. He was managing several roles as a Technical Product Manager, and over the course of four years at their workplace, the two developed a strong bond. It was in 2020 that they set out to found their own company together. Eloelo happened to be one of the businesses that started out amid the pandemic. The initial operations were completely remote, and for the first few months of its inception, there was no physical office.
Why social gaming?
“I used to manage my mom’s YouTube channel for a while,” recalls Saurabh as he traces his way back to how he came up with the idea of Eloelo. “And I realised first-hand that for a small creator, it’s tough to break out and gain any monetisation or even interact with a community. Most of them don’t even have a live stream feature unless they become very big.”
The founders knew that this was a pain point for many creators, and wanted to get into the live space.
They wanted to make sure that creators could engage with their audience through indigenous social games. The idea was about bringing television game shows that were immensely popular in the past to a new, technology-driven digital format.
Moreover, while everyone talks about the creator economy, most of them are former RJs, VJs, and public figures with existing fan bases. Entertainment was also rapidly moving from the television sphere to the digital one, and this accelerated the idea of building a live-show social gaming platform.
Started out of Saurabh’s living room with a team of five to six people, the startup later shifted to a co-working space as the engineering and product teams were built.
The future of interaction and its challenges
The founders faced initial challenges while building a platform that is open to both creators and users such as inviting creators to try out a newly launched platform without an active user base yet, or without the presence of many creators.
“How we sold this was by focusing on supply and quality,” Saurabh answers. “We first looked at getting the right set of creators, and encouraged them to share the Eloelo app within their followers and their networks. That resulted in creator-led growth because some of their fans would head to the app, attend their lives, and participate in the games as an extension of support.”
This set off a trajectory where the fans who enjoyed spending time on the platform generated word-of-mouth buzz to their friends and family. As more creators found themselves vouching for and engaging with Eloelo, the challenge was overcome through the right mix of focusing on supply, and bringing creators on the platform.
A turning point in this journey was when Kiku Sharda of The Kapil Sharma Show fame hosted a live session of Tambola on Eloelo. “We had around 10,000 concurring viewers every minute coming into that live stream,” exclaims Saurabh. “But it put so much pressure on our systems that we realised that we had to scale for that kind of peak as well. Gradually, we built a very scalable system.”
The Bengaluru-based startup also raised $2.5 million funding from WaterBridge Ventures, Lumikai Fund, and Better Capital.
Who are Eloelo’s consumers?
One thing that the team saw early on was that most of the platforms being built in this space were aimed at males aged 14-18. A lot of game apps operated with this in mind, and even considered the group that was in their 20s as a user base.
What Eloelo does differently is that it looks at the age bracket between 23 to 35 with a mixed focus on both men and women. Typically, the platform caters to consumers hailing from Tier-II cities, with 48 percent of their audience comprising women.
“Games like Tambola were appealing to our female audience – which is a huge plus point because nobody is really building products keeping their personas in mind. But for us, that’s the user base which has loved our product and adopted it the fastest.”
A large chunk of the startup’s users come from the north – primarily from Lucknow, Indore, and parts of Punjab and Gujarat. Since the platform does not have games that are in the mid-core to hardcore section, it uses ease of accessibility, as well as relatability to household games, to draw in the audience.
Traction and competition
Eloelo currently has a base of three million users and by the end of the year, the target is to reach 10 million users. The platform has close to 1.5 million monthly active users. “We’ve been growing about 20 to 30 percent month on month,” he says.
Most of this growth has been organically stemming from creators themselves sharing the app with their contacts. This has made the company move to newer goals along the lines of growth, as well as launching more games on the app.
At present, Eloelo has 12 games on the platform, including interactive games like Antakshari and Dumb Charades to traditional offline games like Tambola and Musical Chairs.
In the live streaming space, the startup competes with Tamasha and Bolo Live. Both these platforms work around social gaming, with the latter incorporating talent shows as a concept. Another indirect competition arises from Clubhouse, although it does not make the exact same offerings as Eloelo.
“We’re also looking at creators being able to monetise their skills,” says Saurabh. Users of the app can participate in contests and earn Elo-coins which are redeemable with rewards. These reward points enable them to shop from brands that the startup has partnered with.
“Our USP is that nobody has been able to build such a smooth tech for games inside lives. If you ever want to play a game, you have to download a gaming app. And if you want to enjoy a creator’s live stream, you’ll have to go to YouTube Live or some other platform. What sets us apart is blending these two things inside a social gaming app, and scale up to millions of users.”
Speaking about future plans, Saurabh says, "We want to be live TV for Bharat."
The company is also looking at enabling 100,000 creators to be able to monetise their skills for their audience.