November 18, 2022

9 tips if you are a gaming founder in India now

Learn, unlearn and relearn the mantra behind game founding!

Earlier this month, I was at IGDC in Hyderabad, India. I participated in the Investor Connect pitches as part of the Ventana Ventures delegation (I am part of Ventana’s Investment Committee) and was also in a panel discussion for "Ringing the Bell- The founder journey through M&A and Exits” along with a few industry veterans. 

Besides this, I love walking the show floor and interacting with other attendees and this time was no different. I got a chance to speak to many indie developers as well as founders of other gaming companies – who had loads of questions for me. I have answered similar questions over the years so thought of compiling them into one article along with my thoughts on each one of them:

1. What should be the composition of the founding team? 

It’s always helpful for gaming founders to have complementary skills among themselves. Great games are a confluence of a compelling story which is visualised through appealing art, stitched together by strong game and economy design, and powered by efficient engineering to entertain for years. If you can find co-founders who tick all these boxes, that’s where the idea starts. However, at a minimum, you’ll need a great game developer and a game/product designer to get the ball rolling.

2. What’s the right business model for you? 

A game business model is a monetisation strategy developers use to drive revenue for their games. They can choose to monetise through:

  • One-time payment (premium)
  • One-time payment followed by selling expansion packs (aka Paymium)
  • In-app purchases (freemium), via ad-monetisation or a platform fee (which is more common in RMG). 

You can read more about ‘Game Monetisation Models’ here. 

3. What is your Category/Genre focus? 

This generally depends on the previous experience of the founders. While founding a new company, it’s generally advisable to stick to a genre that the founders are already familiar with rather than trying things from scratch. This generally boils down to hyper-casual vs casual vs mid-core vs hard-core. All this is explained here in an article dedicated to ‘Game Categories, Genres and Sub-Genres’. 

4. Where do your players come from? 

We’re at an interesting point in time where India tops the world when it comes to game downloads but isn’t a significant contender when it comes to monetisation. Unless you’re in the RMG space, it’s really a question of prioritising between monetising now vs sometime in the future. While the gaming opportunity is huge in India, ensure you have the staying capacity (funding) if you’re looking to play this game. The analyst reports on in-app monetisation strays from reality, so try to speak to other founders in the same space before deciding on this.

5. Is fundraising right for your business? 

Are you looking for project financing or equity financing? Project financing is needed to cover your game costs and get the game out of the door – post which you expect the game revenues to pick up momentum. Whereas equity financing is more complicated and should be reserved for more audacious business plans with outsized outcomes. Not to mention, the exit strategy you’ll need to take into consideration.

6. How to avoid some of the common pitfalls in equity funding? 

If you’re in the early stages, there are a few things you should look to avoid. 

  • Avoid multiple names on your company’s cap-table.
  • Give preference to strategics or operator-back funds rather than pure-play financial investors.
  • Don’t dilute too much, too soon. If you do, you face teething issues raising follow-on funding in future. 
  • Always ask your early investors if they will participate in future rounds. 

You can read more about this in our article – ‘Tips on fundraising for game founders’. 

7. How long should I keep at it? 

This is probably the most difficult question to answer. If you’ve decided to start up and you’re not from one of the established companies or with some pre-existing connections, it’s best to set aside a minimum of three years of your life. By then, you should have reached some decent stage or scale in business and come to at least a $1m-$3m in annual revenue run-rate or some other similar metric in terms of engagement (DAUs/MAUs, etc.).

8. Selling vs IPOs vs lifestyle business? 

If you’ve raised equity financing, you’ll need to give them an exit at some stage. How you do that is generally dependent on what stage you’re at with your company, your life decisions, family commitments, and so on. Investors are highly wary of a lifestyle business and will not invest in companies if they feel the founder teams will keep persisting and not think of giving them an exit. If you’re considering selling at some stage, you’ll need to keep all the metrics ready for it to make sense to some strategic; As for IPOs, they’re more complex and will tie you down for another 3-5 years at least.

9. More questions? 

Speak to other Indies and other founders who are in a similar stage of growth as you are. Speak to founders who are a stage or two ahead of you. And if you can get ahold of exited founders, that’ll be great too. Remember to keep your conversation ongoing with interested investors but don’t divulge too much about your business.

If you have any more questions, reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter – I’m active on both and usually respond soon. 

Soak in as much advice as you can from your industry peers and circle, but when it comes down to it - do what feels right to you and follow your heart! 


Rohith Bhat

Rohith Bhat, CEO