In recent years, as adoption of 4G and broadband internet has surged in India, demand for digital entertainment, particularly games, has been on the rise. This has in turn given rise to several home-grown game studios who have seen strong traction for their games, not just domestically but even other countries, especially amid the lockdowns imposed by various countries to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Riding on this demand, New Delhi-based venture capital firm Lumikai has launched a new fund that will provide seed stage funding to some of these companies. According to the founders of the company Justin Shriram Keeling and Salone Sehgal, there has been a close to to 30 per cent year-on-year growth in gaming as a category and last year India overtook the US with over 6 billion game installs.
“So, India is the second largest market in the world in terms of game downloads after China. At the same time, we are seeing Indian games founders rising to that opportunity. In the last five years, we have gone from 25 game developers to over 300; so there’s been an over 10 times increase in Indian game developers. This has obviously been accelerated by the COVID-19 lockdown from March 24,” Keeling told THE WEEK.
He noted that helped by the lockdowns and people stuck at home, some of the games, which were already popular in India, were now among the most downloaded in many other countries, too.
Lumikai is essentially looking at 15-20 companies to provide seed stage funding, with a cheque size of anywhere between $200,000 to $2 million, with enough capacity for reserve and follow on funding up to Series A, said Sehgal.
“Our strategy is to invest across the games ecosystem and the games landscape. We will look at content plays, so essentially, gaming content, which could be casual games, hyper-casual games and other code-style games as well. We would look at platforms, we are going to look at tools, technology as well as the infrastructure plays,” she said.
In India, digital gaming is fairly new, compared to developed markets where video games (Xbox, Playstations, etc) saw a strong traction over the last couple of decades.
The gaming scene in India has largely been driven by a surge in smartphones and 4G. In the last quarter, home broadband connections have more than doubled. That will further aid the growth in the gaming industry.
Indians are not just playing casual games, but are also get hooked to high-end and data heavy games and are even willing to spend a lot of money on it, said Sehgal.
“Across the board, global games companies are seeing revenues trend upward from the Indian audiences by 50 to almost 100 per cent. The gestation period may be longer than in other markets, but its still a secular upward trend in revenue we are seeing.”
More importantly, categories like card games (Rummy, Poker, etc), familiar with Indians have gained a huge traction, the founders add.
Lumikai said the fund is backed by a global investor base, including iconic gaming and technology companies from Japan, Finland, US and South Korea, deploying long-term capital into India’s interactive entertainment market for the first time. However, the founders didn’t disclose the corpus of the fund.
The company has already met the founders of over 140 companies in the first half of this year and the first close was recently completed, it said.
Several Indian gaming companies have managed to raise funds in the last six-eight months as they looked to scale up. Last month, JetSynthesys raised $40 million, while game development studio raised $500,000. In January this year, game streaming platform Rheo raised $2 million in seed funding.