Game on! 5 startups propelling India to become a global online gaming hub

With increasing smartphone and internet adoption, India is on the brink of becoming an online gaming hub. Here is a list of recently funded online gaming startups making great strides in the sector.
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According to a KPMG report, in FY21, the Indian online gaming industry was valued at Rs 13,600 crore, expected to more than double by FY25 to reach a market size of Rs 29,000 crore

So, what is the reason behind such significant growth of gaming startups in India? The answer lies in affordable internet connectivity and the rise in smartphone penetration. 

During the last two years, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian gaming sector saw a considerable uptick in users. 

Gaming platforms, including Dream11, MPL, Rummy Circle, etc., grabbed investors’ eyes — raising funds and achieving massive valuations.  

And they are not the only ones. YourStory has curated a list of recently funded online gaming startups making great strides in the sector.

Games24x7 

Launched in 2006 by Trivikraman Thampy and Bhavin Pandya, Mumbai-based Games 24x7 is popular for RummyCircle, a fantasy platform My11Circle, and a portfolio of casual games under the brand name U Games. 

With offices in Bengaluru, Delhi, Miami, and Philadelphia, Games24x7 claims to have over 100 million users — one of the fastest-growing online gaming companies in India. 

While most of its users play its fantasy sports title, the startup earns its lion’s share of the revenue from its card-based game.

In March 2022, Games24x7 entered the coveted billion-dollar unicorn club — valued at $2.5 billion — after raising $75 million in a round led by Malabar Investment, and existing investors — Tiger Global and Raine Group. 

This marked the first major investment in India’s online skill gaming sector after the government set up the AVGC (Animation, Visuals, Gaming, and Comics) Task Force in last year’s Union Budget.

 

In FY21, Games24x7 reported a total income of $173 million, with profit after tax at $50.5 million, according to a Tofler report.

Zupee

Gurugram-based gaming startup Zupee offers games, including Zupee Gold, Ludo Supreme Gold, and Ludo Ninja Gold games, on iOS and Android platforms, with a provision to play games on the web browser.

Founded in 2018 by Dilsher Singh and Siddhant Saurabh, the skill-based casual gaming startup has over 70 million downloads in India.

In August 2021, Zupee had secured $30 million in a Series B funding round, with an additional investment of $72 million in January 2022 — taking the total funds raised in the round to $102 million — and valued at $600 million.

The Series B round saw participation from investors, including WestCap Group, Tomales Bay Capital, Nepean Capital, AJ Capital, Matrix Partners India, and Orios Venture Partners

At the time, Zupee said it will use the capital to develop new products, enhance immersive design experiences, expand into new geographies, ramp up marketing, reach, penetration, research, and innovation, and hire top talent.

 

In fact, the Smile Group incubated startup has partnered with Jio Platforms to distribute its content to Jio customers and make it available to Jio Phone users.

 

To make Zupee the biggest gaming platform in India, connecting with Bharat users, the startup aims to use this partnership to roll out more quality games in multiple languages. 

 

Further, the startup aims to capture the 5G handset market — estimated to sell over 150 million 5G handsets before its commercial launch in India — with this partnership with Jio. 

WinZO

Started in 2018 by Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh, Delhi-based vernacular gaming platform WinZO creates a Netflix-like experience for users who can enjoy multiplayer formats in a localised fashion. For this, it partners with third-party developers to host games on its Android app. 

 

At present, WinZO is available in 12 Indian languages — with over 80 million registered users — facilitating over 2.5 billion monthly micro-transactions across a portfolio of over 100 games. 

 In July 2021, it raised $65 million in a Series C round led by California-based Griffin Gaming Partners. In September 2020, it secured a Series B round worth $18 million led by Singapore-based Makers Fund and New York-based Courtside Ventures. To date, the startup has raised $90 million in total funding.

Rooter

In 2016, Piyush Kumar and Dipesh Agarwal started Delhi-based gaming startup Rooter as a social network and online community for sports fans — similar to Fancred and Chat Sports in the US and FanCode in India.

 

Between 2016 and 2019, the startup tried and tested multiple products and features, and eventually became a one-stop live sports content destination, allowing users to go live during a match, conduct quizzes, and share multimedia posts using its platform.

 

Rooter claims it pays gamers — who are part of its creator programme — anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 25 lakh a month for streaming its gameplay on its platform.

 In January 2022, it raised $25 million in a Series A round led by Lightbox, March Gaming, Duane Park, and existing investors leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners.

Other VCs, including 9Unicorns, ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, Capital-A, and Goal Ventures, also participated in the round.

 

Rooter will use the fresh funds to double its team size by hiring for various roles in Delhi.

 

By 2022-end, the startup hopes to scale its ARR to $12-15 million from its current ARR of $2.5 million. It aims to scale its user base to nearly 700 million gamers in the next two-three years.

SuperGaming

Founded in 2019 by Roby John, Sanket Nadhani, Christelle D'cruz, Sreejit J, and Navneet Waraich, SuperGaming has built popular mobile games such as MaskGun, Silly Royale, and Tower Conquest.

The social gaming platform has deeply invested in building its gaming engine for running hyper-scale, real-time multiplayer games, including the official PAC-MAN game.

Additionally, the gaming startup has built Bored — a suite of games for remote teams based in the UK, US, and India.

The startup claims its MaskGun game has crossed 62 million installs, while Silly Royale (earlier Devil Amongst Us) touched 17 million installs within eleven months of its launch.

The Singapore-headquartered startup — with an office in Pune — claims to have registered a yearly revenue growth of 40 percent

According to SuperGaming, nearly 25 percent of its users are from India, while the remaining are from the US, UK, and emerging countries, including Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia.

In August 2021, it raised $5.5 million in a Series A round from Skycatcher, AET Fund (the venture arm of Akatsuki), BAce Capital, Dream Incubator, 1Up Ventures, and Monish Darda.

Edited by Suman Singh

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