Last month, Nazara filed for an IPO, becoming the first Indian gaming technology company to apply for a market debut.
In its latest round of funding, Indian gaming firm Nazara Technologies Ltd has raised US$13.7 million, the company said in a statement. The round was led by Instant Growth Limited (IGL), an investment vehicle managed by the U.S.-based partner of Hornbill Orchid India Fund. IGL is advised by Indian investment advisory firm Hornbill Capital Advisers LLP.
The latest funding comes after the Mumbai-based startup filed for an IPO last month, becoming the first Indian gaming technology company to apply for a market debut. On January 15, Nazara filed its Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DHRP) (a preliminary prospectus) with the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
While the company had filed a DRHP for IPO in 2018, the IPO was not launched for undisclosed reasons. The latest IPO will see a sale of 49,65,476 equity shares held by promoters and investors.
Nazara’s latest funding is one of the biggest amounts the startup has raised in recent years. While the company had raised about $51.1 million in November 2017 from IIFL Special Opportunities Fund, it raised $28 million in December 2017 from billionaire-investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who is known as the ‘Big Bull of Dalal Street.’ According to Crunchbase data, the company has raised a total of $146.4 million to date.
“We welcome Hornbill Capital’s entry into the Indian gaming ecosystem with their investment in Nazara,” Manish Agarwal, chief executive of Nazara, said in a statement. “We are glad that they share our conviction and excitement on the future of the gaming sector in India and the value creation potential which gaming offers to the investors.”
One of the largest interactive gaming and sports media companies in India, Nazara was founded by Nitish Mittersain in 2000. The startup is known for World Cricket Championship (WCC), the mobile-based cricket simulation game, Chhota Bheem Speed Racing, and Motu Patlu game.
According to the startup, 130.43 million monthly visitors from across 61 countries access its subscription services. Furthermore, the company has over 4.08 million paid users. Nazara also stated that it has invested over INR 3 billion (US$41.2 million) in the Indian gaming ecosystem in the last five years.
The company has majority stakes in eSports media firm Sportskeeda (63.9%), eSports startup NODWIN Gaming (57.05%), game developers Next Wave Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. (52.38%), which operates World Cricket Championship (WCC), and Paper Boat Apps (50.91%), a gamified early learning subscription app.
“We have been closely following Nazara’s journey over several years, as it evolved into a platform for gaming and gamified early learning,” said Manoj Thakur, founder and managing partner, Hornbill Capital Advisers LLP.
“Through prudent capital allocation, we believe that the team at Nazara has demonstrated their ability to build a formidable presence in esports, gamified early learning and mobile gaming – some of the most exciting spaces in India over the next decade,” he added.
Early this year, WestBridge Ventures II Investment Holdings, a fund managed by WestBridge Capital, had exited from Nazara, after Ahmedabad-based Plutus Wealth Management and its associates acquired shares worth over INR 5 billion (US$68.6 million) from WestBridge. One of the early investors in Nazara, WestBridge had reportedly invested an estimated INR 220.6 million (US$3.1 million) in the company.
India’s growing online gaming industry
According to a recent report by Deloitte India, the online gaming industry in India is expected to grow rapidly to reach a market size of $2.8 billion by 2022, compared to $1.1 billion in 2019. The report added that the growth would be driven by mobile gaming, which accounts for 85% of the online gaming in the country.
With people confined indoors during the pandemic-induced lockdown, gaming saw a rapid surge in popularity across the globe, with a significant increase in downloads and player spending in mobile games.
In India, the pandemic resulted in the total customer base crossing 300 million, and there was a 21% increase in time spent on gaming apps during the initial lockdown which came into effect in March 2020, the Deloitte report added. One of the top five mobile gaming markets in the world, India is expected to add another 40 million online gamers from 2020−2022.
New users, greater engagement, and money spent on gaming, in turn, benefited several Indian gaming startups. Along with Nazara, PocketAces, and Paytm First Games also saw a huge spike in traffic during the lockdown. For instance, Paytm First Games, the gaming arm of Paytm, witnessed a 200% increase in user base during the lockdown.
Recognizing the potential, there have been large investments into Indian gaming startups. Last week, mobile esports and gaming platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) raised $95 million in a Series D financing round led by Composite Capital and Moore Strategic Ventures. The latest financing has brought the startup closer to unicorn status with a valuation of $945 million.
Similarly, in September last year, Dream Sports, which owns Dream11 – India’s only gaming unicorn – raised $225 million in funding. The same month, MPL had raised $90 million in funding led by SIG Global and RTP Global, MDI Ventures, and Pegasus Tech Ventures. Furthermore, India’s first gaming-focused VC fund, Lumikai, was also launched last year.
The growth of India’s gaming industry is driven by factors such as growing smartphone penetration, improving disposable income, increasing adoption of digital payments, and affordable data services, among others.
“While the arrival of vaccines and resumption of economic activities may result in a levelling off or even decline in the average time spent on video gaming, the industry would already be in a higher gear,” Deloitte stated.