Make in India : Augumented Reality Mobile Gaming
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There is no debate that India generates more engineers and programmers than a lot of other nations, and this number is steadily rising every year. While engineers are increasing showing their interest in start-ups, running their own entrepreneurship ventures, newer options are being increasingly explored, including VR, IOT and cloud based computing solutions. There is however, one field that has forever escaped India’s talented pool of designers and programmers for its complexity – gaming. Empower Labs is trying to change that, by launching its very own Augmented Reality gaming options, even for the mobile platform. We shared an exclusive chit-chat with the founders regarding the potential of this industry and their start-up journey so far:
Tell us about your journey before this start-up?
Empower Labs is a joint venture by three of us founders I, Krishna Milan Rao (CEO) (Henceforth referred to in the first person), Karthik Chandra Isola (COO) and Nelvin Joseph (CTO). I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship as I come from a business family and my education just served to further spark my curiosity. I have a major in Industrial Engineering with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Purdue University, USA. KarthikIsola, a business major, is a young entrepreneur who previously led operations at Sreepathi Pharmaceuticals as Director. Nelvin Joseph our tech lead is a startup veteran who has earlier built Artin Dynamics, a company delving into Artificial Intelligence, from the ground up. His startup was a winner of the Lockheed Martin India Innovation award and was selected as one of the top 50 most innovative SMEs in the world by World Bank. The team is as dynamic as it gets and we are looking to change the face of mobile gaming in India using Augmented Reality (AR).
What was your first job, and how well did it pay?
I got into business immediately after my education at Purdue as I had incubated the idea there and did not want to delay entry into the market.
What is the need you are addressing in the market?
I incubated the idea of launching an Augmented Reality MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game while at Purdue after seeing the massive following of a similar location-based AR MMO, Ingress (Launched by Niantic labs, Google). The massive market potential of the idea (Reports state that AR MMO games will reach 420 million downloads by 2019) along with the fact that the technology is still in a nascent stage led me to believe that the market is ripe for such an offering.
Most of the mobile games today are played with little to no interaction with the real world and little to no physical movement. We are launching the game as a social catalyst as the players move physically, travel and meet fellow gamers in the real world through the game.
Is there a story behind the name of your startup?
We were very clear on what we wanted our startup culture to be. We aimed at creating teams with autonomy who have the freedom to take their own decisions. We ‘empowered’ our team and decided that is the best name for the company.
What is your business model?
Delta T follows a Free to Play business model where monetization would be through In-App Purchases.
We are exploring an innovative Online to Offline revenue model which provides brands an opportunity to interact with Delta T gamers through strategic in-game placements and incentivize interaction with them as part of the gameplay. Ingress has also explored this model at initial levels where they partnered with AXA insurance which was represented as AXA shield (In the game), the strongest defensive shield in Ingress. They also tied up with China Airlines for their global gaming events, offering special discounts to Ingress players for air tickets.
In the long run, we also plan to monetize through Merchandising.
DELTA T - Flagship Product
‘Delta T’ is India’s 1st Augmented Reality Mobile MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game. It transforms the urban landscape into a warzone with the help of Augmented Reality technology. It is a location-based strategy game where your location is locked in as your battlefield and rival players within the radius can challenge you to a real-time battle. It can be played on any smartphone or tablet by downloading the application. The game is scheduled for a geo-locked beta launch in July 2016 in New Zealand, Singapore and India.Interested gamers can sign up for a private beta at www.deltatgame.com
Have you raised any funding so far? What are your plans to use this funding for?
We have raised a seed funding of Rs. 3 Crore for game design and development for the beta launch. We are well on schedule to release the product as a geo locked beta in the three countries mentioned above.
What was it that attracted investors to your business according to you?
I believe the investors were attracted by the unique offering of ‘Delta T’ coupled with the opportunity of making an early entry into the booming field of Augmented Reality.
What is your team size? How do you keep your team in high spirits? What is your office culture like?
The team that we have is our core strength as a company. We are a team of 23 ‘empowerers’ and growing, from across diverse verticals. We needed people with excellent domain knowledge who shared our vision for the product.
Our culture is based on a flat hierarchy with every team being given their own autonomy. It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them how to do their job. So we give our teams a clarity on what needs to be done and leave the ‘doing’ up to them. This creates intrapreneurs within the startup and helps everyone perform at their best with minimal interference.
This culture along with our unique and exciting product is what I believe keeps everyone in high spirits.
How do you see the growth scenario is this business?
MMO games market is estimated to grow to $12.8 Billion by 2017 from $11.6 Billion in 2015. Augmented Reality apps in the mobile gaming market will reach 420 million downloads by 2019. The game teaser video for ‘Delta T’ went viral on Youtube with over 4 Million views and received global media coverage from leading newspapers like Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Daily Mail UK, to name a few. Given the positive response and the booming market, our prediction is that by 2018 we would be able to drive about 2.5 million downloads globally.