There’s no escaping the current buzz around esports in India. In the last few years, many online gaming platforms has experienced immense popularity and growth at a rapid pace. One such platform is Rooter, India’s leading game streaming and esports app.
Rooter has been ranked no. 1 sports app on Google Play Store with 10+ million downloads over the last seven months. The app has crossed 1.8 crore downloads, up from 30-40 lakh a year ago. Rooter harnessed the power of Live content technology to deliver Live-action sports, commentary, live quizzes, etc. to its users. The gaming platform is seeing 80,000 live streams on an average per day. More than 855,000 unique users are creating gaming content on the app right now. Shweta Srivastava catches up with Piyush Kumar, the Founder and CEO of Rooter, who opens up on the rising trends in the gaming space, biggest concerns for the growth of esports in the country, and more. Here are the excerpts from his interview:
How did you come up with the idea of Rooter? Give us a sense of that journey.
We started Rooter for the Indian sports lovers to connect over audio and video modes while a match is in progress. In fact, in the pre-COVID days, we were the biggest user-generated content platform for active sports and gaming with a community of 8k-10k people. But we had started building the streaming technology with my tech and product team much before we started this platform. We created multiple features and kept on improving them. By the end of 2019, we had a stable streaming tool. So when we decided to get on with game streaming in March-April 2020, it was easy for us to transition as we had a basic infrastructure in place. We just needed to convert it into a game streaming tech that can ensure the creation and consumption of game streaming through a common app. In less than 30 days of the launch of our game streaming platform, Rooter registered 2 million downloads and onboarded over 50 thousand hi-octane gamers. Today, we are the fastest-growing player in the game streaming space, having added close to 1 million users. Rooter is also a popular app on Google PlayStore (the no. 1 app in the sports category) since October 2020. In fact, at present, we are also among the top 100 apps in the country in all categories.
How do gamers earn rewards from your platform, what’s the experience like for them?
Everybody on Rooter, whether it is a viewer or a creator, are a part of the gamification process. We believe that ‘time is currency’. Whenever gamers create or upload gaming content on our platform or upload anything, they become a part of our coin economy. They get coins depending on the value of their content that can be redeemed for a gaming voucher or even for some paytm cashbacks. If gamers spend time on our platform creating or consuming content, we need to add this value to their gaming journey. 4.3% of the 900k game streaming creators in the country are making money on Rooter.
Apart from this, those who are a part of our creator program, which currently has almost 3k-4k streamers, have a contract with us and they get a fixed amount depending on their performance. It starts from INR 5k to even INR 25 lakhs a month.
Finally, there are esports tournaments that our platform has been organizing where the winning team makes money.
We are also getting a lot of brands and content platforms to sponsor our streamers. The streamers will be paid to endorse their products while streaming. In fact, we are working with many talent and influencer agencies to get our game streamers business.
As per an EY-FICCI study, online gaming grew 18% in 2020. During the lockdown, users must have spiked on your platform, how did you handle the challenges that came with it? How did Rooter fare during the pandemic?
The Game streaming market is growing so fast. It requires capital, technology that can be optimised and scaled as per the needs of the user and a high-end tech architecture to handle massive volumes of traffic that gaming typically gives. However, since Rooter has a distinct advantage in terms of a creative tool built by its in-house team, we handled such challenges smoothly during the pandemic. Our monthly active users have gone up to 8.6 million and whereas we have 4.8 million of them on our app consuming almost 2.3 million hours of game streaming content. Meanwhile, we currently have ~ 950k content creators on Rooter and 48 brands associated with us.
What’s your business model? How does it make money?
Rooter is a unified app for Game streaming creators and consumers. Our business model revolves around influencers creating content on the platform and engaging with relevant brands. We have a user subscription model that can give them access to some unique features for creating content and strengthening their community. The content produced by each stakeholder, users, influencers, and professionals, creates a very sticky community. The entire process of creating a community enabling creation, distribution and consumption of content is a very unique approach for a market like India, which has also opened a huge commerce opportunity for the country’s potential game streamers.
When it comes to revenue, we are not sticking to just one model. Thanks to the feedback received from our investors, board members and friends, we started monetization at the beginning of 2021. Advertising was one of the first things of our B2B marketing strategies. Since Rooter is a high-traffic product, we have a lot of native ads available in video or display format. However, our ground rule is that the ad units will not disturb the experience of users.
We also host and organise multiple eSports tournaments and content partnerships that generates sponsorship money. Lastly, the most significant of them all is performance marketing where we work with all the top 45-50 apps. Our users can download any of these advertising on our platform and get a specific value of a coin. If they do this repetitively, they get paid more. So, by using our product, these apps are getting their audience at a much lower cost than any other platform. On average, we are actually clocking 500k-600k downloads for other apps at a conversion rate of almost INR 20+. And, this is directly proportionate to our Daily Active Users (DAU).
Today, Rooter is the only Indian platform in the game streaming space making a decent revenue. Our ARR is almost USD 2.4 million. We are making around INR 1.5 crore in a month. Our next goal is to get to USD 1 million monthly revenue.
What makes Rooter distinct from similar projects inflowing the space?
There are quite a few essential factors that differentiate Rooter from similar platforms like YouTube and Twitch. We are far more focused on mobile game streaming than the other two platforms regarding their tools and audience. Secondly, we are dedicated to building a large base of streamers through their mobiles compared to YouTube, which is popular only among the big streamers rather than the masses. Whereas, Twitch is more successful in the west than in India. So, Rooter’s focus on mobile, good creation tools, and building a strong streaming community is really helping it stand out against the two global players.
The future outlook of esports in India seems bright, what according to you are the biggest concerns for the growth of esports in the country?
Esports is now coming up as a very big alternative to sports in India. Esports is nothing but sports played online. Most of the countries around the world have now accepted it as an alternative to sports. Where instead of people playing on a football field, they’re playing it online.
Your parting thoughts on Rooter’s plan and vision for the coming years and the direction in which esports and game streaming is headed in India?
Currently, we are the number one game streaming platform in India. There are a couple of things that we want to do which is turn streaming and esports into a viable career option and we also want streaming and gaming content to become a bigger part of the entertainment industry. We are at a rapid growth spurt and are also getting a lot of investor interest. Just this August we had an uptick of three million people. Gaming is going to give birth to multiple careers. Rooter has enabled thousands of people to become streamers and take it up as a profession. We are looking into making further investments in esports as we want to play a bigger role in this movement by helping many people become esports players and influencers in gaming.