Starting with Rajinikanth NFTs, how these 18-year-old founders built an NFT marketplace

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Shaamil Karim and Yash Rathod launched Diginoor – a Delaware-headquartered NFT marketplace – straight after graduating high school. The young founders secured $1 million in seed funding and began building their NFT startup. Here’s their story.

Attending online high school classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaamil Karim and Yash Rathod used one screen for their lessons, and another to learn about blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and Web3.

“Yash and I were into competitive coding since 11th grade, and online schooling gave us time to learn about Web3. After we graduated, we did not opt for college. Instead, in 2021, we started Diginoor – an NFT marketplace we launched with Rajinikanth movie NFTs,” says Shaamil in a video interview with The Decrypting Story.

At just 18 years old, the duo secured $1 million in seed funding from Contrary Capital, Polygon Fund, Sandeep Nailwal, Kunal Shah, and Abdul Wahab Al-Halabi (MD at Embassy Capital), and began building Diginoor.

Partnering with media and entertainment firms, Delaware-headquartered Diginoor began digitising cinema fandom through NFTs. Although the founders do not reveal their overall sales, Shaamil claims their first Rajinikanth drop (which sold out) contributed to a 60 percent increase in sales for Diginoor.

Yash adds, “With NFTs, Indian production houses finally had the opportunity to monetise content in a way where they could decide whether to part with a certain IP or not. This decision can be hard-coded into the metadata of the NFT. For instance, a record label could decide to part with 51 percent of copyright for one of its music-based NFTs.”

Having signed up with the likes of AVM, Reliance Entertainment and other Indian media houses, Yash says convincing them was easier than they had predicted.

“Many of these firms were led by youngsters interested in adopting new technologies and finding new ways to monetise existing content and add new revenue streams,” he explains.

India’s NFT market

The young founders are playing in an Indian NFT market featuring other startups like Rario, GuardianLink, Vibranium, Ikonz, Colexion, BeyondLife, WazirX NFT Marketplace, etc. Many of them are building unique approaches to make the most of this emerging market.

While some are building marketplaces for users to buy and trade NFTs, others are partnering with celebs to mint NFTs, and some are also working with large brands to protect their IPs amid the NFT mania.

Despite their unique approaches, most NFT startups in India are linked by a common focus — cricket and cinema.

“For us, cinema was the natural entry point as one of our early investors had strong relationships in the industry, and this helped us get conversations with media houses,” Shaamil explains, adding:

“Many of these media and entertainment firms have been around for several decades, and so far, have made a lot of money selling physical merchandise. When we pitched NFTs as digital merchandise, it was easy to onboard them.”

The way ahead for Diginoor

The Diginoor founders also realise that the applications of blockchain technology are manifold, and hence, are not limiting themselves to NFTs. They are interested in concepts such as DAOs, blockchain gaming etc, and are actively researching smart contract-powered gaming.

“It has been a personal challenge to shelve our college plans and pursue a startup idea straight out of high school. We convinced our parents and they have been supportive as we started the journey of figuring out how to monetise content in India,” Shaamil says.

As per IBEF data, the Indian media and entertainment industry is projected to have grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic from $18 billion in 2020 to $29 billion by 2023, and startups like Diginoor are constantly exploring new ways to bring NFT technology into this swelling market.

“Anyone with a laptop, WiFi connection and access to social media platforms can now start building their skills and launch their own business in this space,” says Yash.

Edited by Kanishk Singh