Regional caFe: Bowling the world over with gaming

The promoters of Nextwave Multimedia—who have developed the hugely popular World Cricket Championship 2—believe that the next big thing in the digital economy is online gaming

A few weeks ago Nextwave Multimedia, the Chennai-based digital media company, launched World Cricket Championship 2, a game for the Android platform. In the first 30 days, as many as 12 lakh matches were completed, 7 lakh matches were won, 1.8 lakh matches tied, 4.7 crore runs scored, 5,000 gangs created and 60,000 challenges sent. These are very impressive numbers for a gaming App. Soon, World Cricket Championship 2 will be available on iPhone and Windows phones too. It has already been uploaded to the App stores and is waiting for approval, which usually takes 7-10 days. Nextwave has the top-two cricket games for the mobile platform today.

The company was founded by PR Rajendran and his sister PR Jayashree, who are the CEO and COO, respectively.

Nextwave has been a 20-year journey, filled with awards and achievements which have not been publicised.

Rajendran started his career as a copywriter in an advertising agency, got interested in computer graphics, and worked on animation and video editing before setting up on his own to take up freelance projects. Jayashree was a 3D animator in a small studio for a short while after she completed a course in animation. Jayashree is adept at design as well as programming.

The siblings pooled their creative resources and worked on assignments from their home for the first five years. “We were an IT services outfit,” Rajendran says. In 2003 they set up an office and started building websites and making animation videos. Nextwave Multimedia started taking shape. In spite of not marketing themselves, work started coming from European clients. “They were referrals from our existing clients. They liked what they saw.”

Nextwave started taking on complex jobs for clients such as Nestle Europe and Vodafone Europe. “One thing led to another. Sony Pictures believed in us. We started building interactive websites for them. We also started working on games. We did 15 games for Sony—Spider-Man 1 and Spider-Man 2, Open Season 1 and Open Season 2, all were ours,” Rajendran says. They were doing some pioneering work which involved designing, coding and programming in many languages, and adapting their work to suit different countries. For Nestle they did a challenging assignment on fitness applications which had to be adapted to both PC and mobile platforms. Nextwave won several awards in Europe. “We were a very well kept secret because of non-disclosure agreements. People around the world find us. Clients send us one liners and we build on it.”

In the last five years Nextwave has been continuously receiving appreciation which has helped them move forward.

The company has won four international awards and many national prizes as well.

The siblings have put all the prize money earned ($100,000) in building their own products. Now they have a 55-member team, and have worked on 100 games with 75 million downloads. The company has proven capabilities across web, mobile and wearables. Rajendran says that as many as 16 million downloads have been monetised through the straight-forward licensing route. Nextwave’s World Cricket Championship is the only Indian game to be featured in Unity’s gallery (Unity is the world’s leading game engine). Its IP is published through Gameloft, the French gaming giant.

“It is an upfront, minimum guarantee deal, a first time for them with an Indian gaming company. It is only offered to those who have proven quality,” Rajendran adds.

Plutus Investment Advisory Services is the sole investor in Nextwave. Radesh Rangarajan—an IIM Ahmedabad alumnus who runs Plutus with chartered accountant J Govindaraj—says they are pleased with their investment.

“Nextwave has occupied and continues to hold the top spot in cricket games at the international level with constant product innovation and upgrading. Their focus on cricket is relentless,” Rangarajan says. He adds that Nextwave has a habit of winning prizes, on a regular basis, for games and apps across devices. International benchmarking and competing has honed their ability to serve a sophisticated global audience and satisfy them. The unique skill-set combination of Nextwave promoters—having been in the media and also in game development for a long period—keeps them well ahead in their learning curve. The product pipeline is long and much is ready to roll. Rangarajan adds, “We are very satisfied with their progress and believe Nextwave will grow to dominate its chosen areas in mobile gaming and apps.”

Rajendran is very optimistic about the future. “All parts of the digital economy have taken off in the country. The next big thing is going to be gaming. We are looking to grow aggressively.” Apart from the cricket game, Nextwave has recently launched one of India’s ancient games—Lambs and Tigers (Aadu Puli Aattam)—in the five languages of Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and English on Android phones. It will be soon live on iOS. There are more games in the pipeline.

In fact, last year alone, the gaming sector received R300 crore in venture capital (VC) funding in India. “We are talking to investors who are showing a lot of interest and we will be closing soon,” Rajendran says.

Aren’t Rajendran and Jayashree worried about the cut-throat competition in this field? “There may be a huge number of players. However, there are not that many serious and committed players with a track record. Gaming is also not like the e-commerce space where one or two winners take all. There is room for many players.”

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