Indian online gaming industry has seen unprecedented growth in the last few years and has been estimated to grow further at a CAGR of 22.1 percent between FY18-23. The proliferation of low-cost smartphones and high-speed internet facilities amongst the urban and rural population is one of the major growth drivers. Real money games have started penetrating the Indian market and have seen the entry of several industry players.
Navkiran Singh, Founder & CEO at Baazi Games chats with MediaCatalyst.
Here is what he has to say.
What is Baazi Games all about and how has the journey been so far?
Baazi Games is a disruptive entity in India’s nascent online gaming industry, that was launched in the year 2014 to make online gaming as rewarding as it is entertaining. Our constant endeavour is to innovate and offer a unique experience to gamers using the latest technology.
From the time we came into being with PokerBaazi.com, our online Poker arm, in October 2014, till now, we have seen the perception of audiences change towards real-money gaming; and we’re proud to say that with our fair play policies and continuous introduction of cutting-edge features, we’ve contributed to the wave of change and making this industry known. The trust that we’ve earned over the years has put us in a position wherein we currently have two more verticals, BalleBaazi.com & RummyBaazi.com, which were launched in January 2018 and April 2019, respectively. Putting these three ventures together, we’ve reported a growth rate of 50-60% CAGR for FY 19-20. Besides, we’ve also ventured into the e-commerce segment by acquiring a 50% stake in Casino Kart, a leading supplier of Poker and other gaming equipment, and tech solutions with a 33% stake in MADS Technologies.
Baazi Games has three verticals namely BalleBaazi, RummyBaazi, and PokerBaazi. Which one enjoys the maximum popularity among the Indian gamers?
Anything that is even remotely related to Cricket in the country is bound to be popular and successful. Out of the three verticals, BalleBaazi.com enjoys the maximum popularity. The recently concluded season of IPL saw over 1.5 Lac users playing daily on the app. The registered user-base on the platform crossed the 6 Million mark post the series.
What has been the business growth so far? Which vertical performs the best concerning the book of accounts?
We have grown exponentially in the last fiscal year with an overall CAGR of 50-60%. We have set quite steep targets for all the three verticals for this FY, and yet PokerBaazi.com continues to be our best-performing vertical, driving 50% of the total revenues. While 30% of the revenue comes from BalleBaazi.com, RummyBaazi.com contributes 10%, and the rest is contributed by ancillary services.
Though card games have been popular among Indians for a very long time, people have apprehensions and still consider it gambling. How do you deal with that perception?
There has been a perpetual challenge for us, and we’ll continue putting in efforts to change the perception and social stigma around the game. To begin with, we organized Poker fests at various renowned colleges involving participants from the IIMs, IITs, IMT-Ghaziabad, MDI Gurgaon, and several other renowned colleges where Poker is taught as a subject and known to be a game of skill.
Furthermore, as gamers, we understand the psyche of other gamers better, which has helped us put several measures in place to limit our users from going beyond control. As a responsible operator, we monitor our users’ playing behaviour closely, and in case they’re found playing excessively, we communicate to them immediately and make consultations mandatory, as part of our policy. We have features through which our users can self-exclude themselves and find their account as it is upon resuming.
We have also been focussing on educating the users who are keen on learning the game and want to pursue it professionally. We’ve realized that awareness is the key, and only then, we will able to break the stigma so, we’ve been devising content strategies accordingly.
How does the Baazi Games’ team restrict the registration of players from states in India which do not consider poker and rummy as skill-based games and monitor the gambling aspect of it?
Even though we operate in the games that are based on skills and it is a fast-growing space, but as soon as any state government decides to ban any of the categories that we operate in, we duly comply with the rules imposed and take all the necessary actions such as banning all the accounts from that particular state immediately. We shut all our marketing activities and do not entertain any new registrations on the app from that region.
Please share your insights on the current trends in the online gaming industry, and how are you planning to expand?
According to KPMG, the Indian online gaming industry revenue is already worth $43.8 billion and is said to reach $118.8 billion by FY23 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.1%. The Indian fantasy sports industry, however, is growing at a CAGR of 32%, and its worth is expected to be $3.7 billion by the year-end of 2024. Going by the trends, we know that we need to continue doing what we’ve been doing – Innovate, and rest everything will fall into place. Our hunger for innovation has always been putting us ahead of our competitors. Upgrading the tech at regular intervals, prioritizing the user experience, taking community feedback, and implementing it quickly happen to be some of the key weapons in our arsenal for expansion.
Additionally, with our #PlayerFirst policy, we’re going to reach where we want to. We have a legacy of setting new benchmarks with our thrilling tournaments. We’re the brains behind India’s first online tournament series, PokerBaazi Premier League, which started in 2015 and has now become a much-anticipated gala event for Poker players in the country. We’re also credited with offering the highest amount of prize money of INR 5 Crore in an online Poker tournament, which was called ‘The EndBoss’. Also, we have introduced various variants of fantasy formats on our fantasy gaming vertical, BalleBaazi.com. We will continue to come up with a new and improvised version of tournaments & formats like only we can.