Players logging on to www.games2win.com can drive a rickshaw with fumes gushing out of the tailpipe on the chaotic roads of Mumbai. The game’s instructions: “Get Sandra to Bandra for her wedding. You have 60 minutes to get her there from Colaba. Raju Rickshaw is her only hope. Hurry or she will be a spinster for life!”
It was this customization of games to the Indian context that helped Alok Kejriwal, founder and CEO of Games2win, raise $5 million (Rs21.5 lakh) in venture capital from the US.
He announced on 28 March that California-based companies Clearstone Venture Advisors Pvt Ltd and SVB Financial Group have invested in this spin-off of his business Contests2win, a portal that offers contests and promotions.
“International games have always been thrust upon us,” Kejriwal said. “The question is: Can we do something that can localize games? Can we do our own games that represent our own passions and use that idea to grow the content category?”
The six-month-old website Games2win offers a variety of games that first targeted youth in major Indian cities before moving onto smaller cities and young Indians abroad.
The site has also been managed by technology founder Mahesh Khambadkone who worked at Dhruva Interactive and creative director Cyrus Oshidar, who was the creative head at MTV India before joining Kejriwal late last year.
The investment in Games2win follows an increase in interest in the Indian gaming sector over the past few years.
In February, French digital video technology major Thomson invested in Bangalore’s Paprikaas Animation Studios, which provides animation and game content.
In late 2006 the Reliance ADA Group launched its own online gaming site Zapak.com, which is Games2win’s biggest competitor.
While other companies have poured money into Indian gaming, this could be the first investment in an online gaming site.
Over the next year, Kejriwal said he would use the investment to expand the site along three lines of business, which currently collect revenues from advertisers.
The foundation of the website is the games generated through an application called Flash.
From the end of April, there will also be a multi-player games which will get additional revenue as players buy upgrades for their online avatars. “We have signed up a large international game company to deploy their gaming to India,” Kejriwal said.
There will also be prepaid cards available that players can buy and use to get merchandise—such as new tyres for their online cars—without using a credit card.
And by the end of the year, there will be larger games that can be downloaded and played on the computer, which will be bought at a fee. All will be targeted at the Indian audience through game design, marketing and events.
“We are keenly looking at ethnic content to be a breakaway category, which really nobody has done well so far,” said Rahul Khanna, director, Clearstone, which provided the majority of the investment in Games2win.
“This combination of a content creation capability but also a distribution platform as well as a consumer brand is what is exciting for us.”
Kejriwal built the distribution platform when he developed Contests2win. He will now expand it.
The key to his expansion in India, he realized, was to increase the Indian youth’s access to his website. Gaming sites tying up with cybercafes has been a successful business model in parts of Asia such as China, Korea and Vietnam, where many youngsters don’t have Internet connections in their homes.
Kejriwal partnered with Internet provider Sify, which has a large chain of gaming cafes throughout India, and with sole-proprietor cybercafes.
Kejriwal said he explains the potential of the online gaming business to the cafe owners, asks them to invest in better machinery for game playing and promises a share of the revenues.
The next step, he said, would be to work with manufacturers to create the best equipment for playing games, and get them more access to their end customer.