It has been an interesting journey for Baazi Games, which came into existence around 7 years back. The platform, started by poker lovers with pre-eminent PokerBaazi, was aimed at giving players a great experience, since poker hadn’t yet become very popular in India. From there, the platform has now diversified to other sports and come up with two more segments, BalleBaazi and RummyBaazi. Having a massive user base of 10 million across these three verticals, Baazi Games aims to multiply and elevate experience of more users by adding new features to its apps. In a conversation with Ramesh Kumar Raja, Avneet Rana, Co-founder and Director of Technology, Baazi Games, exudes confidence that that in the next few years, they will be able to capture a much larger share of the market and densify their presence in the industry, besides his takes on the issues concerning the online gaming in India. Excerpts:
Online gaming has undergone a massive change, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown. How do you look at this emerging trend?
Last year, with the COVID-induced lockdown, growth scale amplified magnanimously. During the initial stages of the nationwide lockdown, time spent on gaming grew by 21%, swelling a massive customer base to 300 million. As one of the leading online gaming brands, we also witnessed a massive spike in our customer base. In the past one year, Baazi Games has grown from 7 million (2020) to 10 million (2021).
With our talented in-house team, we ensure to keep innovating and introducing industry first features which adds value to our users’ experience. As the scope increases, Baazi Games will continue to make persistent efforts to instill more enthusiasm in gamers by innovating and adding valuable features and tools to our gaming platforms.
What is the difference between these three – Esports, RMG and Fantasy Gaming? Where they are moving now?
Real Money Games (RMG), Fantasy Gaming and Esports are the three key segments of online gaming. Within the RMG genre, the further sub-classifications include rummy, poker, daily fantasy sports and quizzing. The commonality between all these games is that they all require a certain amount of skill.
Esports being a sport that has been recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), is a high on action and immersive experience which already has a fan base of millions.
On the other hand, online fantasy sports gaming is a form of skill-based online sports gaming where sports fans can create their own team of real-life players for the upcoming matches and is widely played across cricket, football, kabaddi, basketball and other popular sports.
RMG is a where people can make money from playing online games. That being mentioned earlier, it is not like the low-key jackpot scenarios people find themselves involved in, but an all-together different experience that requires understanding, strategic approach, and skill.
Both RMG and Fantasy gaming instilled a feeling of excitement in people when the world was completely shut. These have prospects of becoming the driving force of the gaming economy. While there is a misconception that these are merely game of luck, however, with government’s support and federations in place, that too shall change. The fact that our country’s escalading middle-class is actually eager to pay for the gratifying experience they get out of it, counts for something.
Can you please tell us about the whole business of gaming in India and how is Baazi Games contributing to this technological revolution?
Online gaming industry is multiplying and spreading across the landscape, working their way into more people’s lives in India. In 2016, the industry was worth 543 million USD and has extensively grown to 1.027 billion USD in 2020 at a CAGR of 18.6% and without a doubt, further evolution is right around the corner.
At Baazi Games, the intention has always been to deliver ‘the best gaming experience’ leveraging our in-house technology team. Our strongest essence is to keep innovating and discovering the limits of the limitless possibilities by always going beyond them. We want online gaming to break out of its niche, grow among all demographics and become an even bigger of a commercial success with time.
|“Our intention has always been to deliver ‘the best gaming experience’ leveraging our in-house technology team. Our strongest essence is to keep innovating and discovering the limits of the limitless possibilities by always going beyond them. We want online gaming to break out of its niche, grow among all demographics and become an even bigger of a commercial success with time”|
How has the model of gaming on the cloud been one of the biggest boons of the industry which has helped handle the sudden upsurge?
Cloud gaming has been around for over a decade, and now with time it is gaining momentum in the industry. If reports are to be believed, it will hit a billion-dollar mark by the end of the year. Since the time this model has been on the cutting-edge, it is blurring the lines between hardware and software. Like Netflix, the games can now be streamed in real-time in video format.
Cloud gaming comes with an innate quality of providing flexibility to play across various devices without upgrading to expensive hardware, wherever and whenever. This mainly resulted in rapid boost of smartphone gaming, with more than 700 million smartphone users in India. Hence, administrating the sudden upsurge in the industry and catering to millions of people.
How many games do you offer on your platform and what have been their responses? What next now?
We kick started our journey in 2014, with our first ever gaming product, PokerBaazi, which is now one of the pre-eminent poker websites. In fact, PokerBaazi has been declared as the number one poker website of India by the international poker listing website Poker Scout. Gradually, we expanded and now we also have BalleBaazi and RummyBaazi. The response so far has been tremendous, from web only experience to now when we have an omnipresent portfolio, catering to different kinds of Indian users.
Our aim is not just to cater to our 10 million massive user base but also to multiply and elevate experience of more users. For that we keep adding new features to our apps and when required even revamp our apps to provide an enhanced and smooth experience to our users. We are confident that in the next few years, we will be able to capture a much larger share of the market and densify our presence in the industry.
How has been the business so far for Baazi Games? What are your expectations post COVID-19 era?
In the past years, Baazi Games has created waves in the gaming industry. With our tech first approach, Baazi Games has been able to keep up in the ever-evolving gaming architecture. We have witnessed growth with a CAGR of around 70%, at a group level in the past three years, lockdown accumulating to an additional spike. With the kind of plan laid out for the coming months, we are confident that we will be able to attain a 100% growth by 2022.
What do you do to increase the recall value of your brand among gamers?
As a growing company, Baazi Games’ aim is to provide an unforgettable experience to our users and for that it is imperative to interact and understand our users. The same has really helped us build a stronger connection with the Baazi community and increasing recall among the users.
What innovations and diversifications you are doing to stay ahead of the curve in India, which is a highly competitive market?
To stay ahead in the growth curve, it is important to know your market well and bring relevant changes from time to time. We are always on a lookout for our users’ feedback and then incorporating them into our platforms. Baazi Games’ in-house technology team is extremely pro-active. Recently, we revamped our PokerBaazi app and included a breakthrough innovative Player Intelligence Feature in our BalleBaazi app. The same has been well received by our audience and made the experience of the existing users better. We are soon going to introduce more avenues that will aim to solve the pain point of a wider audience.
What are the challenges you see in India from the gaming point of view?
One of the challenges pertains to the lack of a central regulatory framework. People in India lack awareness and understanding for real money and fantasy gaming. While it is a game of skill, it is often regarded as a mere game of chance. However, progress is taking place, with government taking steps to cite the legality of the game. We are positive that gradually all states will be onboard with the gaming industry and uplift the ban from their respective states.
|“People in India lack awareness and understanding for real money and fantasy gaming. While it is a game of skill, it is often regarded as a mere game of chance. However, progress is taking place, with government taking steps to cite the legality of the game. We are positive that gradually all states will be onboard with the gaming industry”|
How do you look at the future of online gaming in India, especially after the ban on many gaming apps from China? What are your plans now?
The Centre’s decision to impose a ban on Chinese apps and boost indigenous brands has been empowering for the Indian companies. The move has been welcomed by the Indian gaming industry, which has been quick to capitalize on the ban and help the government in its “Vocal for Local” initiative.
Baazi Games is a 100% indigenous brand, and our products are developed considering the preferences and choices of Indian audience. We would like to thank the government for giving us this opportunity to accelerate our growth. All our three platforms observed a spike in the user base, and like mentioned above, at group level, we grew in a big way and showed a growth of roughly CAGR of 70%, owing to lockdown and the government’s initiative of empowering Indian companies.