More than just a game

More than just a game

Passion for computer technology and gaming prompted Nitish Mittersain to start a gaming company, Nazara Technologies. Today, its technology and distribution have enabled it to eye an annual revenue of close to Rs. 500 crore in the next two years

S. MEERA

Nitish Mittersain shared his peers’ interest in computer technology and gaming from a very young age. But, what makes him different is that, encouraged by his entrepreneur father, he pursued his passion to enter the mobile gaming business. “We started Nazara Technologies (Nazara) in 2000 with a few games I had developed while I was in my final year in college,” recollects Mittersain, founder-CEO of this Mumbai-based company. Realising the potential mobile gaming held, in 2004, the father-son duo adopted the mobile platform to develop games. While the venture was initially self funded, it raised venture capital from Bengaluru-based Westbridge in 2006 to the tune of US $2 million. This was used to strengthen the company’s technology and expand its user base.

On the pulse

Given that consumers can easily access the best games from developers globally there is an expectation of high quality in terms of game play and production value. In India, the consumer preferences are more towards mass interest genres such as cricket and games on popular movie, points out Mittersain. “For a mobile gaming company, it is important that the games developed are innovative, thought-out and capable of catching a gamer’s attention. In India, we have excellent technical and programming skills but there is not enough experience in game design and monetisation, which are our current areas of challenge,” he admits.

Nazara, committed to developing high quality content for its customers, was able to leverage its team’s strength in conceptualising and developing highly relevant games for the Indian gamer. “We tasted success in the early years with our Sachin Tendulkar branded cricket games,” adds Mittersain.

Recently, the company has received exclusive rights to develop games based on Bollywood titles such as Bang Bang. “Incidentally, the game was successful in garnering over two million downloads within the first 15 days of its launch and has ranked in the top 10 charts of many popular game stores,” shares Mittersain.

Currently, the consumer preference is for very casual games and Nazara is in the process of building its portfolio to address this market. However, the intention is to reach out to the needs of all gamers through a varied portfolio. The company constantly updates its games with new levels and features, sometimes as often as every week, as it helps retain the interest levels of its consumers.

In the process

Since game development needs some incubation time, Nazara also built a services model. It developed IPs and licensed them to clients. “This process (of developing IPs) takes a significant amount of time as it requires approval from the client,” explains Mittersain.

Detailing the process further, he says that the ideation and the conceptualisation of the game that is to be developed can take close to two weeks and includes game ideation, building a storyline for the game and working on the basic screening and visuals that is shared with the client for approval. “Once this has been approved by the company, the team begins to put the creative and the graphics in place and then works on the programming,” he says. Then comes user acceptance testing (UAT) where a game experience testing procedure ensures that the games developed are engaging.

Inking partnerships

Nazara also offers consulting and turnkey services to mobile carriers and handset manufacturers to help them provide great gaming experiences to their consumers. The company has partnered with California-based gaming company Electronic Arts (EA) for over five years and works with them in multiple geographies distributing their products on an exclusive basis. “We are able to bring a lot more consumers through our strong distribution network in many emerging markets to EA and also bring high quality EA games to markets such as the Middle-East, Indian subcontinent and Africa,” says Mittersain.

As part of its licensed IP portfolio, Nazara is also bringing to the fore IP from other media in the form of mobile games and  Bollywood-based gaming falls under this category.

In a crowded market, Nazara has managed to gain an edge in mobile games in emerging markets and has built a large userbase of engaged gamers. “Our licenced and original IP games provide a unique mix of content to our consumers which we believe is a strong differentiator,” opines Mittersain.

Spreading its reach

Nazara derives approximately 50 per cent of its revenues from the Indian market and the rest from other emerging markets such as the Middle East and Africa.  The company is growing at a fast pace due to macro level growth in smartphones and mobile Internet and expects to achieve an annual revenue in excess of Rs. 500 crore in the next two years.

Nazara’s global footprint is spread across the Indian subcontinent, South East Asian markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, the Middle East as well as Africa. The emerging markets are believed to have the potential for very large mobile gaming markets.

Nazara has also set up a dedicated Rs 10 crore game fund to support young entrepreneurs in their efforts of innovation in the gaming space. It plans to invest anywhere from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 2 crore in gaming startups. “In addition to the funding, we can add a lot of value through our strong distribution network and mentorship to startups,” explains Mittersain.

Its first investment in Bengaluru-based HashCube was announced in November 2014. “We hope to close another two to three investments within this financial year. We are looking for enthusiastic and creative entrpreneurs who are passionate about this opportunity and have an innovative approach,” he delineates the criteria for choosing ventures for funding. “There are not many other criteria, as such, since we are targeting early stage startups,” adds Mittersain. The idea behind the fund is to add value to the ecosystem through investments plus distribution and also for Nazara to share the experience it gathered over the years.

Over the years, Nazara has been a profitable business and has built good cash reserves to be able to organically fund its growth. “We expect our head count to increase to 500 from the current 200 within the next 18 months to 24 months,” says Mittersain.

Nazara, to maintain its leadership in this space, plans to develop its own games and continually enhance production capabilities. “We are also investing in original IP which is a 100 per cent in-house creation,” says Mittersain, on a concluding note.


Snapshot

NAZARA TECHNOLOGIES 

Founder: Nitish Mittersain

Year: 2000

Investors: Westbridge Capital

Industry: Gaming

Concept in brief 

Passion becomes Profession

Nitish Mittersain’s abiding passion for computers and gaming, as well as his interest in gaming development, prompted him to venture out with Nazara Technologies in 2000. Realising the potential of mobile gaming the company entered this segment in 2004. By leveraging the craze for cricket and movies, in India, Nazara has been able to grow from strength to strength. It develops IP products, licensed IP as well as distributes gaming products, thus ensuring multiple sources of income. It has a strong presence in India, the Middle-East, Africa and South-East Asia and believes the potential in these countries to be high. It also has started a seed fund to invest in innovative gaming companies. It announced the first of its investments in Bengaluru-based HashCube this November. In the next two years, Nazara expects to achieve an annual revenue in excess of Rs. 500 crore.

Gaming Nazara Technologies Technology Startup Westbridge Capital

Meera Srikant has been working with publishers and publications since 1993, writing and editing articles, features and stories across topics. She also blogs and writes poems, novels and short stories during leisure. Writing for The Smart CEO since 2010, she is also a classical dancer.

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