She is what one would call an accidental businesswoman. She did not go to a B-school or inherit a family business. But, today, Vinita Sidhartha runs a business which puts a new spin on tradition. Her venture, Kreeda Games, has re-introduced ancient Indian games to the current generation.
There are many formative influences that played a significant part in the creation of Kreeda Games. The most important of these perhaps was Sidharatha’s grandmother. She played these games with her grandchildren and it was an immensely enjoyable experience for both generations. This observation got Sidhartha thinking. Simultaneously, Sidhartha was involved in the publishing of Citibank’s inhouse journal which showcased India to non-resident Indians. Not to forget, this was a period which saw games of Indian origin take the spotlight, what with Vishwanathan Anand doing India proud in Chess or Kabadi making it to the Asian Games. Apart from commercial games like Kho Kho and Chess, a part of the segment was dedicated to games that were known to just a few. “With research came the opportunity to test these games and I would pass it on to my granny who would play with the kids. In a way it was both a personal and professional experience for me,” says Sidhartha.
Known for its innovative designs and different look and feel, Kreeda surely stands out on a shelf. Sidhartha makes a valid observation: “When you are overflowing with resources, innovation is not top priority. Only when you work within a budget is there an opportunity for out-of-the- box thinking.”
Her stint with The Hindu’s Young World, which carried a segment on traditional games, had encouraging responses from readers. And as the word spread, M.CT.P.Chidambaram, secretary, M.CT.M Chidambaram Chettyar Matriculation Higher Secondary School, requested Sidhartha to hold a session to train the school’s teachers to play these games, which in turn could be taught to the students. She went prepared with sheets of game design, brightly coloured and sketched, which were immediately grabbed by the teachers to use in classes. Those sheets ultimately tore which was when Chidambaram suggested that she could take these games to the board, quite literally. “At that point, I was at a crossroad in my life, so decided to do it for fun”, says Sidhartha. In the beginning, she started with 50 pieces of six or seven games, which sold out within a week. When stores started calling her asking for more, she finally got down to the actual business of making games.
Packed with challenges
Kreeda, which turned 6 this year, is Sidhartha’s self-sustaining, Chennai-based venture that develops ancient games for people of all ages. She toyed with the idea of being a non-profit organisation, but decided against it as she was uncertain of meeting with success on her chosen course. There was also the option of finding investors that Sidhartha vetoed as she wanted to do things on her own terms. “I did not want to be curtailed and always wanted to be a free spirit,” explains Sidhartha. “For me it is more of a passion. I often find myself investing more money than I can in certain ideas,” she quips. At the same time, it was essential to generate profits as they would fund further research projects.
Since Kreeda has been strapped for funds since its creation, production of the games is streamlined but there is always a situation where there is a need to adapt to market demands. Their carton design being one. As the prime objective was to be cost effective when we started out all carton sizes were standardized. Even smaller games were packaged in large cartons, since bulk orders could not be placed for boxes of varying sizes. Of late, they are making a conscious effort to design smaller boxes that are a snug fit for their smaller games. “There are certain streamlined efforts contributing to better our ideas. The implementation happens when a certain time has passed and there is a need to alter production,” explains Sidhartha. Similarly, the cartons used to be open for the general public to take the game out instead of a visual image. Albeit a novel concept, there were practical difficulties as pilferage led to customer complaints of missing pieces which forced Kreeda to seal their games. Instead, they sketched out the game design alongside a blurb, on the flip-side of the carton. Keeping in sync with the brand image of Kreeda, all games carry a similar look to aid brand recognition, but, to break the monotony each carton design has individualistic elements.
Known for its innovative designs and different look and feel, Kreeda surely stands out on a shelf. Sidhartha makes a valid observation: “When you are overflowing with resources, innovation is not top priority. Only when you work within a budget is there an opportunity for out of the box thinking.”
Embracing all causes
Kreeda does not have a production facility and outsource practically all parts of their processing. Painting, carpentry and stitching are outsourced to local craftsmen, all while teaching them how to plan for cost-maintenance. Kreeda also addresses other socially relevant causes such as protecting the environment. Plastic is substituted with cloth and materials like coconut shells and palm leaves are used to create playing coins.
Research, a top priority at Kreeda, is evidently the most expensive part of the cycle. Currently, they have devised a unique method by which the time spent on research benefits the community at large. They organise visits to old age homes where their staff and volunteers play games with the residents while they also pick up new ideas.
The next move
Kreeda’s distribution system is strictly retail, selling at stores such as Odyssey and Landmark, across India. While their marketing efforts have been kept to a minimum, they participate in corporate events. Sustaining top line growth is proving to be a hard task. “Retailers are waking up to the fact that it is after all shelf space and if it makes sense they will retain it, otherwise they have no qualms about rejecting our products. I’m hoping at some point people will come around to my way of thinking,” says Sidhartha. They are exploring selling their products through their online platform, with a payment gateway in place. At present, they accept payments for purchases online but the method is rather informal. They are also considering revamping their website and incorporating a blog where people share experiences thus making the whole process more interactive. Tie ups with corporates to gift games to old age homes that will additionally aid in their research is another future endeavour. Apart from ancient games, Kreeda has also created a few games of their own accord. Vanavas, is one such game based on the Ramayana. Memories of Madras, is a card game that travels back in time to include buildings, places and even companies that were established in the city.
There is certain freshness to this venture, built purely on personal resources and driven by passion. A venture that takes you back to your roots, adding value not just to the customer but to everybody involved in the process. Although Kreeda has not achieved the commercial success it deserves as yet, it has received social recognition for being a business that strives to impact lives, every step of the way.