The year 2019 has been an eventful and exciting year for the Indian market. The mainstream sectors continued to grow and the niche sectors driven by India's growing startup space expanded like never before.
Similarly, the online gaming industry in India has also evolved and witnessed an exemplar shift in the past few years because of the rapid growth in digital infrastructure, increasing smartphone affordability, expansion of the internet user base.
Also, there has been remarkable growth in the revenue model, from in-app purchases to real money games like online poker, daily fantasy, online rummy and digital skill games, which have led to tremendous growth in the online real money gaming industry.
Specifically, 2019 has been rather positive for the poker industry, from poker leagues to value-driven collaborations, launch of a poker university and massive growth for the poker operators.
The online poker industry falls under the real money gaming umbrella and India truly has embraced the digital medium really well. At present, the industry is worth Rs 400 crores and is a major source of commerce and revenue in India with several entities enthusiastically exploring and investing in the online poker space.
According to KPMG, the online gaming industry in India shows an estimate of an average Rs 4,380 crore (FY18), which is projected to grow at a CAGR of 22.1 percent to touch Rs 11,880 crore by FY2023. Within this, the online card games are growing at 35-40% percent year-on-year.
The number of online poker operators in India has also tremendously increased and it is believed that there are more than 3 million active poker players in India at present.
Because of the dynamics of the Indian online poker industry, international businesses have also started looking for opportunities to join hands with Indian startups. The reason being, active participation and rapidly growing users at the rate of 30 to 40% annually.
Some leading names of the industry driving the business include International poker operator - Pokerstars, Spartan Poker- a bootstrap model, Delta Corp acquired Adda52, closed with Series- A funding - 9stacks and Poker Baazi among others.
Although, to achieve a highly profitable and valuable business model the industry requires a regulatory framework and positive awareness about the industry as this will open doors for foreign entities to explore India and launch operations.
Apart from this, the Online Real Money Game (ORMG) sector has the potential to bring in massive employment, through direct and indirect jobs that can be generated from the ancillary telecommunications, marketing, financial, banking, and real estate sectors.
Besides, if centrally regulated by the government, the ORMG the industry is capable of generating thousands of crores of rupees for the government by way of taxation that in return boost India’s gross domestic production (GDP).
The online gaming industry is one of the hottest sectors not only in India but all across the world. There are many venture groups and investors who are looking forward to investing in this sector. A few of the benefits of investing in the online poker industry are mentioned below;
- Device Fragmentation: Over the past decade, poker has grown in the Indian market. The online gaming industry witnessed a boom when affordable and smartphone scene made it big in the Indian market. Games as simple as Candy Crush and Subway Surfers played casually on smartphones to Dota 2 and Counter-Strike duked out by hardcore players brought a new wave of mobile gaming in India. In terms of revenue, sub-genre games such as Poker dominated the grossing charts and grew the revenue of app developing companies.
- Aging Customers: Rising smartphone users created a stable marketplace for the mobile gaming sector, as users are constantly on the lookout for new forms of entertainment. The aging population in particular, who grew up playing Super Mario, Pac-Man now have spending power and increased accessibility which makes them more interested in the online real money gaming sector.
- Low Infrastructural Cost: It is relatively a lengthy process for obtaining licenses for casino business in India and the time and costs involved in setting up the requisite infrastructure is high. Online poker game cuts off the cost of buying/building a casino which could be 10 times higher than spending at an online poker website.
- Larger Target Audience: Online poker game attracts global customers and is easily accessible for the players and sports enthusiasts who do not want to visit a live casino or dislike visiting it to play a poker game. This contributes to Online Poker’s allure and its generation of a globally engaged fan base.
- Scalability: Traditional sports have physical/spatial limitations, Online Poker is more fast-paced and scalable because of its reliance on digital platforms.
(The author is CEO of All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), a not-for-profit registered society based in Mumbai, that focuses on bringing recognition to the online skill gaming Industry in India.)