BHAVIN PANDYA, Co-founder & CEO, Games24x7, is a man who believes in focusing on actions, regardless of the outcome. Here, he recounts in his own words his journey, right from dropping out of a fully-funded PhD programme in Economics at New York University in 2006 to turning entrepreneur and moving to India to launch Games24x7. With 70 million players across its platforms, Games24x7 has firmly made a place for itself in India’s burgeoning mobile gaming industry, even as Pandya banks on innovation in evergreen skill games and investing heavily in casual games in the international markets to chart its growth
Gaming as I grew up…
Growing up, I mostly played outdoors and swam quite a bit. I wasn't much of a video game player, though there were two notable exceptions. My first experience was with the Atari 2600, on which I played River Raid, a game I absolutely loved. That led to the classic Mario Bros on the Nintendo console in the early nineties, which I later played on the Game Boy and left no stone unturned to finish the quest, playing day in and day out though that phase was short-lived, given the pressures of education in a middle-class family. Later, I was introduced to online games in the true sense during my days as an engineering student. Fascinated by the growth stories in India and Asia in the late 90s, I felt compelled to study Economics. However, I soon realized that the subject wasn't really to my liking, and I wondered what else I could do when I took to online games again, and that is how the Games24x7 story began, quite accidentally.
‘FOCUS ON YOUR GROWTH’
“Outside the realm of work, I love the outdoors, exercising, playing sports and of course, eating. My family does take up a lot of my time, and I wouldn't have it any other way… I believe the only thing you can control is your actions; focus on them without thinking about the outcome because we seldom have control over most things. Focus on your growth, to become a better version of yourself, every passing day. Being healthy and happy will help one deal with most situations in life,” says Bhavin Pandya.
Our ‘success formula’
I didn't really aspire to be an entrepreneur. But once the journey began, the learnings were immense. How do we become relevant in online gaming, and how do we ensure that our players find us relevant so as to continually engage with us? That is where it all began, our endeavour to provide awesome game-playing experiences to our players by ensuring that we provide them exactly what they are looking for by learning more about them. As we began to understand our players better, we were able to engage with them better and in a customized way, instead of broad-based marketing. This led to product innovation which laid the foundation for Games24x7. Now, we use the clickstream and other data that our players generate very diligently in our ‘ideate, create, experiment and analyse’ cycle, that we call our 'success formula'.
We launched RummyCircle in 2009, and today it is India's largest platform for playing online Rummy, trusted by over 30 million skill gamers. We are very excited about the Indian gaming market, growing at 40% CAGR and investing aggressively in India's broader skill gaming space. We will continue to offer innovative and personalized offerings in Rummy, fantasy sports and casual games and launch online versions of select evergreen offline games like carrom, kabaddi, etc.
Dream run @My11Circle
The fantasy sports market was already crowded with 100+ operators when we entered it with My11Circle. With our unique ‘Play with Champions’ proposition that allows fantasy sports enthusiasts to play directly with cricket champions, we grew by leaps and bounds to become one of India's top three fantasy sports operators in less than a year of launch. Again, this was the outcome of us understanding our players and product innovation. Today, our brand is endorsed by an illustrious group of brand ambassadors, including former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, Indian Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, legendary batsman VVS Laxman and all-rounders, Shane Watson and Rashid Khan. This year, we have also roped in Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh.
India is a cricket-loving nation, and fantasy gaming has become a popular form of entertainment, not just in India but worldwide. The ₹1 to ₹1 crore campaign we launched recently is our tribute to cricket fans. With this campaign, we are making this form of entertainment more accessible and more participative and giving everyone the opportunity to try their intellectual dexterity at making teams. As part of this contest, any cricket fan can enter the contest by paying a minimal fee of ₹1, use their knowledge of the game to make an informed team, and the most skilled player will win ₹1 crore every day.
While fantasy sports are synonymous with fantasy cricket, in future, we will see the advent of more and more sports like football, kabaddi, basketball and other sports that are popular in the West. Product innovation, the ability to provide personalized experiences through rigorous data analysis, the application of machine learning techniques backed by robust technology framework, and, most importantly, great teams driving all of the above will determine gaming platforms' success in the category.
The opportunities ahead
Online games will become a mainstream form of entertainment for every Indian. Regulatory clarity will empower legitimate gaming operators, protect consumers, create jobs, and attract foreign direct investments. Going forward, apart from investing in India's burgeoning skill gaming space, we will also be investing in the casual gaming space in overseas markets and are exploring skill gaming opportunities outside India. In 2021, we will launch our first casual game worldwide that innovates on a popular and evergreen game. This would be the first time an Indian gaming company focusing on skill games for real money in India will launch a casual game exclusively for the US markets.
Success is a team effort
At Games 24x7, we talk of diversification, in terms of geography and content. If we are to stay relevant, we are going to have to constantly learn and reinvent ourselves. We are going to have to be humble and grounded, accept that there will always be great products out there and how we can learn from them and from our players to constantly make ourselves better. Good leaders have a very good grasp of the situation they are in. There is no one size, or one style fits all. Depending on the situation, sometimes, you lay down the law, and sometimes you let people express themselves, knowing well that eventually it isn't the product or the idea that succeeds, it is the team that succeeds.