Ankush Gera, Founder and CEO at Junglee Games, answers questions about the Indian gaming industry. Catch him take the stage at SPiCE 2019 on 25-27 February.
Ankush is the Founder and CEO of Junglee Games. Founded in San Francisco and backed by Bay Partners and other top tier VCs, Junglee is the fastest growing real money gaming company in India with over 10 million users.
Ankush previously founded Monsoon Company, a boutique software company that was acquired by Capital One.
Ankush is a limited partner in funds Metastable, Upshift, Tandeme, Kae Capital and a Venture Partner at Unshackled. He is on the board of Kunai, Kintohub and Rainfactory and is an active angel investor in startups like Lottery.com, SVAcademy, Back to the roots, Cloudability, 15five, Inc42 and the Gravity Group.
Eventus: Give us a background on you and Junglee Games, how you got started and became a well known gaming brand in such a short period of time?
Ankush: I was fascinated by the skill involved in games like Poker from a very young age. This is before it became popular in the US due to WSOP. But I had started a company right out of college called Monsoon and Monsoon, a boutique software company became an amazing business – we did end to end strategy and design for everyone from Microsoft to HP to Yammer. Eventually Capital One, a client made an offer to acquire Monsoon in full.
At that time, I found the time and headspace to focus on investing and working on a products company. During the Monsoon days we had acted as our own incubator/fund and tried many things that didn’t work. But right around the time of its acquisition, I wanted to chase my passion. It all started as a one man show and a side project. When we launched our first skill game for the Indian market, we were 6 years late to the party and competing against large, well capitalized and profitable companies. But I had this lingering feeling that a better product, and a strong culture tends to win.
And that’s exactly what we’ve done. From 2013 to 2019, we’ve doubled in revenues and headcount every year. We’re now a few hundred people across 7 different countries and one of the fastest growing gaming businesses in India topping triple digits in revenue. And we’ve done this on a shoe string, largely self funded budget.
The fundamental reason behind the success we’ve experienced is the team and culture we’ve built. We’re a team of extremely passionate individuals who crave learning. We operate on a strong set of core values and put data before everything else. We’re probably the only Indian company with neuroscientists helping us build the next evolution of games.
Eventus: What do you think the Indian gaming industry will look like in five years?
Ankush: It will be a massive opportunity and one that will continue to drive capital, resources, revenues and excitement in India. The skill gaming industry in India is growing at a 100% YoY, at a fairly large scale. We feel that that growth will continue. We’ve gone from an industry worth $20M to an industry worth $500M in a very short span of 5-6 years. And most of that revenue is driven largely by two games, Rummy and Fantasy and a handful of operators.
We’re all aware that the unregulated market is in the tens of billions which we can hopefully with local and international efforts, turn into a safe regulated industry. There is no surprise that there are a billion of us in India and we love to play games of skill. So there is a massive boom and a massive opportunity ahead.
The expensive data, expensive smartphone problems have all been solved.
What India hasn’t produced is a global hit but it has produced many domestic hits like Rummy. And in the next 5 years, a global hit is also in the making.
At an investor connect recently at GDC India, I was sharing with the press that the energy in the room is so different, so much higher than all previous events. People are excited about gaming more than ever. Indies are taking the bets to build amazing IP. The quality of games being built “now” is starting to match the Fortnite and PUBGs of the world.
Eventus: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
Ankush: I would like to see all operators work together towards responsible gaming which is an initiative we are leading with TRF and others are with the IFSG and other governing bodies.
I’d like every operator to think about the long term versus making a quick buck, operate responsibly and put players first.
I’d like the government and tax departments to make and continue making sensible decisions that support and encourage the growth of this industry. The regulatory environment has generally been supportive as well.
Eventus: What advice would you give an indie developer, starting out in the Gaming Industry?
Ankush: This advice would transcend the subject of gaming. I would give this advice to my own younger self or other young individuals regardless of their career choice in gaming..
Which is operate from a place of love and not fear. A lot of decisions you make – holding on to someone who may have really good skills but isn’t an ideal culture fit, trying to be efficient with spends and operate in fear of running out of funds versus pressing on the gas and having the confidence that you’ll go out and raise capital, build a better team and make the right choices.
Lead and operate with love.
Eventus: What do you think is the most significant barrier for new small developers in the industry, today?
Ankush: It is and always has been 1, capital and 2, opportunities for academic and hands on training.
While looking at deals to invest in, we meet so many developers in the 1-20 man team size and while they are passionate, they have very little training in what I call the blueprint of any tech/product business.
Data science or the focus on clear KPIs – the number of studios focused on these is few and far between. Gaming academies are training on beautiful art, animation and code but a game or any product is only 1% of the work. The secret sauce and success and the other 99% is all execution.
But that’s where I hope both larger operators like Junglee and teams of the new age gaming companies can continue to train and educate the next generation of gaming entrepreneurs on strategies to raise capital, build strong cultures, build data driven KPIs and have a more holistic view to execute and succeed in gaming.
Eventus: Do you feel like new formats of skill games will succeed in India?
Ankush: Short answer is yes. I think we’re starting to see a lot of innovation from esports to new formats of skill games. So far, largely due to regulation the industry has been limited to Rummy and Fantasy. But that landscape is changing and I see decent growth coming in e-sports as well as fresh IP that isn’t presently an offline game.
Eventus: What is most exciting about SPICE 2019 to you?
Ankush: SPICE is bringing global awareness to the world’s biggest gaming market.
Having people from all around the world, wisdom from international operators, responsible gaming practices from regulated markets, and even connecting companies operating within India as competitors and giving them a platform to connect and learn and build an industry, responsibly, together is what I believe SPICE is.
Generally building awareness with regulators, government and media is also something SPICE gets to beautifully facilitate.
Had so much fun and was such a great opportunity to connect with everyone from around the world last year. Looking forward to a fantastic SPICE 2019.
Ankush Gera looks forward to meeting you in person at SPiCE 2019 in Goa. See more information on SPiCE 2019 and how you can register below.
After successfully hosting Sports Betting & Gaming India (SBGI) summit in Goa in February this year, Eventus International has announced the rebranded Strategic Platform for iGaming Conference & Exhibition (SPICE), scheduled to take place on the 25th & 27th February 2019 in Goa, India.
The two-day event will delve into the impact and opportunities that comes with clear and well-defined legalised gambling. Presentations will discuss investment opportunities in online skill gaming and brick and mortar casinos, effective structuring of foreign investments and gaming businesses, responsible gambling and the player protection and the socio-economic and financial benefits of legalised gambling etc.
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