The biggest names in the video gaming history are mostly Japanese companies. Even for gamers in India, brands such as Nintendo, SEGA, Namco Bandai, Konami and Sony are familiar. They are known to have made the best video games and consoles the industry has experienced.
However, video games have now shifted towards smartphones, PCs and online gaming. But there are still a large number of people in India who use gaming consoles. A brand that a lot of these gamers know is Mitashi Edutainment. The Japanese-sounding company is, in fact, Indian, and it was originally called Maze Marketing.
Set up in 1991 by Rakesh Dugar and Hasmukh Gada, the self-funded Maze was a video game distributor that was trying to capture the potentially-massive budget gaming market in India. As the Japanese brands tried to enter India, their products were usually too expensive to do well in our cost-conscious economy. Maze found a way to partner with industry behemoths SEGA and cut costs for the games and consoles that entered India.
In 1998, Mumbai-based Maze was renamed as Mitashi Edutainment and began manufacturing and distributing its own games and consoles. Since then, there have been several highs and lows in the global video gaming industry, which had a big impact on Mitashi.
For instance, Sony’s introduction of the PlayStation console marked a radical shift from 2D cartridge-based gaming to 3D CD-based gaming. Mitashi, which had invested heavily into game cartridges and consoles, could not mimic Sony. But Mitashi persevered in the Indian market and continued to make video games in the way it knew best.
Over the years, Mitashi became the entry point of video games for millions of Indians. Presently, it also manufactures consumer electronics such as TVs, DVD Players, home theater systems, air conditioners, refrigerators, and more. Last year, Mitashi clocked a turnover of Rs 500 crore, and aims to reach Rs 1,000 crore in the next two years.
In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Rakesh Dugar, CMD, Mitashi Edutainment, recalls his journey in introducing India to video games and staying afloat in a volatile and highly-competitive industry.
SMBStory: How did you and Hasmukh Gada come together to start Maze?
Rakesh Dugar: In 1991, I was studying as a chartered accountant and Hasmukh Gada was running a successful cable distribution firm in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. We were family friends and happened to meet each other often. Our discussions were majorly about the markets and growth ecosystem of the nation.
It was almost time for globalisation to kick in when we thought of the idea of introducing the concept of videos games in India. I left my studies and Hasmukh left behind his existing business, and we jumped into this new industry and started Maze.
SMBS: Why did you decide to get into making video games and consoles?
RD: For eight years, we successfully steered through the distribution of video games. This helped us in achieving a strong hold over our sales and distribution network, which became our key strength as we planned our business expansion in the consumer electronics industry and later in the consumer durables segment.
We then launched Mitashi, which was filling in the big gap in quality that we saw as an opportunity to bridge with better quality products.
SMBS: Why did you choose the Japanese-sounding name Mitashi?
RD: When we were still in the video game distribution business around 1994, we started distributing SEGA video games in India, with close dealings with the SEGA team in Japan. Thus, as young entrepreneurs, we were exposed to and influenced by the Japanese culture. When we got into manufacturing, we picked Mitashi because of this influence.
SMBS: How did you diversify into so many categories?
RD: After tasting success in the electronic video games industry, we were looking for new avenues. It was the perfect time to enter the consumer electronic industry with DVD players and home theaters that were still expensive and out-of-reach for most Indians.
Mitashi disrupted this field by offering great quality products with features that none of the competition did, and at prices that were truly affordable at that time. From there on, we went on to launch multiple brands and enter several categories of products. We also started making toys, hand-held video games, foam bullet guns, remote control cars, air conditioners, and more.
SMBS: How is Mitashi using digital in its business journey?
RD: Mitashi was one of the earliest homegrown brands that ventured into doing business on ecommerce platforms. Very early on, we partnered with biggest ecommerce websites such as Amazon and Flipkart. We are currently in the stage where we are exploring digital as a medium to expand our business further.
SMBS: What were the key milestones in Mitashi’s journey?
RD: We developed and launched the first-of-its-kind handheld cricket video game in 2005. In 2009, we saw the launch of Skykidz and GameIn, and we also partnered with Pogo and Ben 10 as official licensees. In 2010, we entered the consumer electronic segment with LED TVs. We won the ‘Best LED TV’ award in 2012, and bagged it for three years in a row.
Later, in 2014, we launched our foam bullet gun and remote control car range. Next year, we ventured into air conditioners and also indoor and outdoor toys. We added washing machines in our product range in 2016 and introduced refrigerators and microwaves in 2017.
SMBS: What is the market size of the sector and how is Mitashi different from the competition?
RD: The Indian appliance and consumer electronics (ACE) market reached $31.48 billion in 2017, and is estimated to grow further. We have consistently been offering high quality products at an affordable cost. For instance, our TVs are the most affordable and high-quality product in the market right now, with advanced features, relevant innovations and good aesthetics.
We have been working towards providing great experiences to people. We try to bring them joy through our products, games and toys. Making technology accessible and affordable to all is our goal.
SMBS: What are your challenges in sustaining and growing the business?
RD: The consumer electronics industry is one of the fastest growing, but also one of the most volatile, aggressive and competitive. We have been competing with the best and biggest brands to stand out and create a name of our own.
Brands with huge investments have penetrated the Indian market, and to an extent, have succeeded in acquiring huge market shares. However, there are also brands that have failed and ended up in the dust due to unsustainable practices. With the right approach and strategy, we try to be one of the top players in the consumer electronics industry.
To overcome any challenge and to continue sustainably, we invest heavily in relationships with people associated with us, such as our customers, stakeholders and partners. We also believe that ethical business practices will always be sustainable, and that focussing on innovation is critical.
SMBS: What is the way ahead for Mitashi?
RD: Currently, we are a Rs 500 crore brand, and aim to reach Rs 1,000 crore in the next two years. We also want to become a Rs 2,000 crore brand in the next five years. The aim is to create and maintain a sustainable brand in the long run. We will also continue to bring out advanced products at affordable prices for our consumers.