2 min read.Updated: 28 Jun 2021, 06:30 AM ISTBloomberg
Loco was also backed in its seed round by Lumikai Ltd., India’s first gaming media fund, London-based Hiro Capital and early stage investors including 3one4 Capital and Axilor Ventures
Loco, an Indian streaming platform for video games, received $9 million from investors including South Korean gaming company Krafton Inc. in its first fundraising effort to capitalize on the growing popularity of games-based entertainment in the South Asian nation. The Mumbai-based startup was also backed in its seed round by Lumikai Ltd., India’s first gaming media fund, London-based Hiro Capital and early stage investors including 3one4 Capital and Axilor Ventures. Loco will use the funds to upgrade its technology and content, the startup said in an announcement Monday.
Livestreaming of games has been popularized globally by the likes of Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch in the U.S. and DouYu International Holdings Ltd. and Huya Inc. in China. In India -- which has no legacy of gaming on consoles or desktops -- the genre received a boost during the pandemic, as the hundreds of millions locked indoors turned to their smartphones for entertainment. Krafton’s PUBG Mobile, previously distributed in India by Tencent Holdings Ltd., had been among the most popular games in the country before it was banned last year and is now re-entering the market.
“Cheap data and inexpensive phones brewed a perfect situation in India, creating a completely new category of entertainment," co-founder Anirudh Pandita said in an interview. “Over 100 million monthly active users in India engage with these games, imagine a 100 million people playing a sport that no one’s watching -- that’s what Loco set out to solve for."
Loco Interactive Pte, as the startup is officially called, was founded by Pandita and Ashwin Suresh, who met as engineering undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The duo went on to work on Wall Street before starting Pocket Aces Pvt, a digital studio creating streaming content to provide an alternative to traditional television entertainment. The gaming startup will be spun off from Pocket Aces with this funding, according to the statement.
Loco has expanded rapidly in the past year, with monthly active users growing six times and monthly active streamers increasing 10 times. Its main competitor currently is Google-owned YouTube, the startup said.
“Over two-thirds of India’s millennials are gamers," said Salone Sehgal, general partner of Lumikai. India’s esports and streaming industry is set to grow at an average annual clip of 36% over the next three years, while game streaming watch time in India is already twice the global average, he added.
Loco has a roster of the country’s most best-known streamers playing popular games such as Clash of Clans, FreeFire and Call of Duty Mobile. It also hosts top esports teams and their tournaments, though the genre remains a niche in India.
“India’s big focus is on mobile games," said Suresh. “The best mobile game players in the world will definitely come from India."