Inside WinZo, Kalaari Capital's second biggest bet in gaming after Dream11

For most online applications that depend on users interacting with each other, such as Facebook and Twitter, going vernacular means increasing user engagement — the number of interactions rises with the number of languages the platform facilitates. Now, imagine a kind of platform where users can engage with each other despite different languages. In this case, the volume of engagement would shoot up much rapidly.

Enter the world of vernacular digital gaming. WinZo was among the first e-sports apps in India to recognise the potential of the multitude of tongues spoken in tier-II and tier-III centres. It allows users to play casual games, real-time multiplayer games, tournaments, fantasy league, and quizzes for cash prizes across 10 languages. Participation fees are small —a user can play a game for as little as Rs 2 and win thousands of rupees. 

WinZo raised $5 million early this year in Series A funding led by Kalaari Capital — which was an early investor in the gaming unicorn Dream11 — and Hike, an Indian messaging app which, too, is valued at over a billion dollars. The company was started by Saumya Singh Rathore and Paavan Nanda last year. 


The online gaming industry in India is expected to gain momentum and reach a market value of $1 billion and incorporate 310 million online gamers by 2021, according to a KPMG report. The Gaming Spotlight 2018 Review Report released by IDC and AppAnnie shows mobile gaming generated 20 per cent more revenue than console, PC, and handheld gaming.

Business model

Online content platforms generally have two revenue streams — in-app purchases and advertising. Saumya says that these monetisation models don't work well in India. Even though India features among the leading app-installing countries, the percentage of users making digital purchases remains low. Moreover, for every $25 digital ad revenue in the US, India stacks up at only six cents.
Owing to these reasons, WinZo decided to become a play-for-money platform. It takes a platform commission of up to 10 per cent from the participation fee. Furthermore, it does not develop games of its own. It calls itself an aggregator, sourcing games from developers from countries like Indonesia and Ukraine. These games could be either acquired upfront in some cases; if it’s a very successful game that the developer doesn’t wish to give away the distribution rights of, then a revenue-sharing deal is reached.


The biggest challenge for any service aggregator — be it hospitality, food or gaming — is that it does not have control over the supply-side quality, says Saumya. WinZo has set up a fund to help talented developers create games. While there might be a shortage of good quality games, gaming apps have sprung up in dozens. The number of game-developing companies touched 250 in 2018, from 20 in 2010, according to the KPMG report quoted earlier. As me-too enterprises crowd the market, WinZo will need to stay ahead in the race by differentiating itself from the competition constantly.

Another challenge that the sector faces is the frequent legal tussles over play-for-money sports being likened to betting. However, it has that base covered in a way as fantasy sports is only of the 'genres' that the platform serves up. 

Road ahead

WinZo is eyeing a user base of 50 million from India and 70-75 million globally over the next one year. That would be a 10x growth from 7 million. A YouTube search of WinZo throws up umpteen videos of hacks related to its games, some of which have over 100,000 hits. One of the objectives is to create a community of users, who would then become micro-influencers.

Getting users is easy, but retention is tough

Prithvi Singh, Founder and CTO at Gameskraft

When you put in efforts to localise a product, you are able to attract the masses and this what Winzo is doing by being in the market in multiple languages.

Challenges faced for having a lot of games should be addressed, besides having a good and easy new-user journey or on-boarding. With many games on the platform you tend to confuse the players. Have a personalised approach for every user. Technology will help navigate this, and having a feedback system and data mining will help in knowing the user's game choice or preference.

To be a leader in this space, one needs to know the effective use of technology i.e. data science and analytics. Burning a lot of money to get users is easy but retention is tough. 

Brands need to focus to retain the users because the attention span is less. New features and customised products will help keep them engaged. A lot of trust is invested by the players, hence, the platform needs to be cash secure.

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