Going digital is the way to increase reach- Rohan Parulekar and Pushkin Saxena, PokerNXT.
In an interview with BW Disrupt, Rohan Parulekar and Pushkin Saxena, Co-founder, PokerNXT, talk about company, funding, business models and more.
1. Brief us about your business model like how did the idea come to start and how does it work (step by step procedure)?
PokerNXT is a narrative of Poker Professionals, Sports & Gaming Analysts, Private Equity Deal-Makers and Game science enthusiasts brought together by the ardor of lasting ambition and friendship. Pushkin says “Having spent the last 9 years together, I, Adi, Kunal and Vishal explored the game’s nuances, and while refining our understanding of Poker in its entirety, we reached an inflection point – PokerNXT. Rohan and Tessy joined the team at this juncture and brought in their wealth of knowledge in business, which greased our wheels to the game on the road. The team brings together acumen honed in top notch institutes such as Oxford, XLRI, etc., and prior experience of incubating and scaling up allied revenue lines for the Tata Group’s real estate arm followed by a family-office backed venture in Real Estate Bespoke Investing."
The gaming market stands at a cliffhanger with doors wide open for a disruptive proposition - there is room for an industry leader to take roots now, especially when the incumbents are not able to keep pace in terms of learnings and support in this effervescent industry. PokerNXT and its team come together as a gestalt to this opportunity – an organized whole, unified in a way in which elements cannot be broken down into its parts, and the total piece cannot just be thought of as a sum of all its parts. For these professionals, their moment is now and they are determined to grab it by its horn.
2. What are the unique key points of your company?
The platform was built to make it simpler for card game enthusiasts to learn and adopt poker in the most seamless way possible. Aside from key differentiators such as responsible gaming, user adaptive interface to a newly thought of reward system, the interface has in-built retention elements that will help players benefit from getting rewarded on better decision making and enable stickiness for us.
3. How are you different from the existing competitors?
Technology is at the heart of what we aim to do. Our product as well, has been made inhouse with our own tech competency. This has helped us customise the platform to a product that will add value to regular as well as newbie players. With functional experts in our founding team, there has been careful attention to detail given at every step of product development, right from design to aspects of rewarding players when they exhibit better play.
4.What is the funding status and monetization model?
Funded by a set of Angel Investors and a mauritius based Investment fund with capital infusion of ~USD 500k, valuing us at ~USD 3.6 Million as on March 2020
Monetization as per Industry practice by charging a standard fee from players
5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?
There is always a regulatory overhang on Poker, thus the uncertainty is always a challenge. We believe that with the likes of All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) consolidating operators in the Industry in one forum, there should be a regulator for online gaming, to weed out illegal business models and bring about a regulated mechanism to operate. At the same time, this will help boost revenue for the government. This is the biggest challenge when it comes to a nation of people who play cards in their homes, not picking up online card games. Things are changing, with a number of positive judgements by courts in the country and the recent call by PM Shri Narendra Modi to focus on building the Indian gaming ecosystem, will only benefit the industry.
6. How has been the people's response so far?
Our team is well recognised in the poker playing community in the country, and those players have been at the core of product design thinking that we have.
Through running a feedback loop with our community of players we have initiated testing of our application that is soon coming out for the open market as well. The response has been encouraging and there is a visible anticipation for PokerNXT as the next platform that will take the poker playing experience to the masses and move the needle.
7. What are the traction details (like users, app downloads & other achievements of the company)?
Since we are not yet available for the open market, until Nov-Dec 2020, we do not have these details to share. We are confident of receiving noticeable traction, as the poker playing community is well knit in India, and we have received encouraging responses in the testing phase from fellow players. The reviews are positive and there seems to be a sense of anticipation, given the experience these players have had in using the testing version of the mobile application.
8. How do you look at expansion?
The game itself is at a nascent stage of development in the country. Given the headway being made towards regulating the online real money gaming Industry in the country. The industry is moving in the right direction. Despite multiple platforms, offering their own suite of poker platforms to players, there is still enough space for an entrant to offer value to players. As the Online industry opens up to cities aside from the major centres like Mumbai, Bangalore, NCR and Kolkata, to spread across the length and breadth of our country, expansion will not be an issue, as long as one can offer value to players, through, secure money management, fair play, responsible gaming and an opportunity for an enthusiast to understand the game and give it a go.
9. What are your marketing plans?
Going digital is the way to increase reach. Thus, the usual social media engagement with our community is one element. But at the same time, we want to help beginners to take a keen interest in poker. Thus, we have plans to enhance the market itself, by having marketing touch points with a demography that has not played this game, but may want to seek this as a leisure option to play as a recreational game.
10. What has been the biggest learning so far?
Execution and constant adaptation. Through this journey our biggest learning has been to keep ourselves on track to build a product that the players need, rather than a product that is amazing, but does not serve the need. Unless we question ourselves everyday on what value we will add through this to the players, we haven’t done our bit.
11. What is the market size and opportunity?
3 Million Online Poker Players in India
Online Poker Market Size - INR 400 Cr growing at CAGR of 35%-40%
Online Gaming Market Size - INR 4380 Cr (FY2018) growing at CAGR of 22.1%, estimated to be INR 11880 Cr (FY2023) as per KPMG
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