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Online Gaming in India is Gearing up for A Paradigm Shift Google-KPMG report revealed that the online gaming industry in India is expected to grow to $1 billion from the current $360 million by 2021

By Baishali Mukherjee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Trends reveal that urban youth are increasingly getting hooked to online gaming and poker. This section of the society, who enjoys cricket, football, formula racing, and horse riding, is comfortable with online transactions and is well versed with gadgets. Not being risk averse and enjoying active night life make them both adventurous and aspirational. Online Poker for them is a recreational activity and part of lifestyle.

Confirming this conjecture is a recent report by Google-KPMG that revealed that the online gaming industry in India is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2021 from the current $360 million, with the online gamers' community reaching 310 million by then.

Quick to identify the entrepreneurial opportunities in gaming industry was Anuj Gupta, Founder and CEO of Adda52.com, India's largest poker site. It is a 100% subsidiary of Delta Corp, the only listed company engaged in the casino (live, electronic and online) industry in India. An alumnus of IIT (Delhi), Gupta founded the company in June 2011 when American company Zynga was witnessing worldwide success with its free poker on Facebook.

"We were looking at doing something in the gaming space and wanted to build our own technology ground-up. The market of games was beginning to open up, but it was heavily skewed towards rummy. We felt there was a need to introduce other card games of skill, which were popular in the global market. This led us to start developing and finally launching the first Poker website in India with real cash tournaments," he explained.

With Real Cash Prize the Interest in Gaming is on the Rise

Until a few years ago, Indian online gaming market had only low-value players i.e. monetization was low. But now with real cash prize competition, Gupta maintained that the monetization aspect was on the rise. "Real money is catching on in traditional games like Solitaire, Ludo and you can see the growing interest in public towards these games," he pointed out.

Playing it Safe

Online poker games are developed for all levels of players from amateurs to professionals by dedicated game specialists, keeping in mind all facets of poker. Efforts are also being taken towards providing the safest environment. Users can now play online poker by using advanced algorithms to detect and eliminate any users with malicious intent.

Gupta's gaming platform is certified from iTech labs for fair play and random number generator (RNG). "We also have a SSL Certificate to provide our players with a secure website and have tied up with multiple banks and payments gateways for a safe experience," he stressed.

Restrictions on the amount a player can deposit — depending on how long he has been playing the game and the risk appetite of the player — provide further safety to players and reduce the risk elements.

Potential of Poker Yet to be Tapped in India

Statistics suggest that requirement of greater skills in playing and winning in Poker than that of professional fund managers, who deal with large stock equity and debt funds. Irrespective of this there exists a pervasive negative perception of Poker and in general card games in India.

"When we were starting up, we had to literally educate our investors, banks and everyone around by showing the legal framework. We also had to make people see the difference between gambling and games of skill," shared Gupta.

The slow change of perception about gaming makes it difficult for entrepreneurs in the space to carry out campaigns on Google or Facebook. However, with the advent of real cash tournaments for "games of skill', new revenue models have emerged. There is scope for innovation and improvement for the gaming market as India is still at the tip of the iceberg.

"Sportifying poker and making it a mainstream game in India can yield tremendous results. With over twenty thousand qualifier participations pan India in the very first year of Poker Sports League, one can safely infer the potential of poker in the country," opined Gupta.

Opportunities Galore for Entrepreneurs

With a paradigm shift in the business models, which brings in real prize money model and challenges to the hitherto virtual gift structure, an uncharted territory for entrepreneurs has been unveiled. "There is a vast scope in taking popular games and gaming concepts and build new entrepreneurial models around it. The strategy needs to be changed and a different approach adopted with the right tools and resources," recommended Gupta.

Baishali Mukherjee

Former Freelancer

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