WinZO - The Success Story of India's First & Largest Vernacular Social Gaming Platform!

Rishabh Rathi Rishabh Rathi Anik Banerjee Anik Banerjee
Jun 22, 2022 19 min read
WinZO - The Success Story of India's First & Largest Vernacular Social Gaming Platform!

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by WinZo.

The Indian online gaming industry is flourishing with a wide variety of games that are letting young and old indulge in them. Among all other outdoor games including cricket, football, kabaddi, and basketball, India is also witnessing a rise in the popularity of several indoor games like ludo, pool, carrom, free fire, and more, which are also letting the gamers of India rewarded with real cash prizes among a list of other rewards.

The large youth population and the rapid penetration of the internet have made the country really witness a gaming revolution that includes fantasy sports and social gaming platforms over the past decade or so. To name one of the most popular gaming hubs in India is to talk about WinZO. The New Delhi-based social gaming platform is well-known to offer monetary benefits and prizes to players from around the country.

Founded by Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore in 2018, Winzo has been ingeniously developed as a vernacular gaming platform to tap into the Indian audiences hailing from the Tier 2, 3, and 4 cities.

WinZO offers an array of popular games from PubG to cricket, rummy, and more, which make up an enviable collection of 100+ games that rewards the users online. Read about WinZO Games, Founders and Team, Business model, Revenue Model, Growth, Funding and Investors, Name, Tagline, Logo, Awards, Challenges, Future Plans, and more.

WinZO - Company Highlights

Startup Name WinZO
Founders Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore
Founded 2018
CEO Paavan Nanda
Headquarters New Delhi, Delhi, India
Industry ESports, Gaming
Funding $110.5 mn (JUne 2022)
Revenue $13.32 mn (FY21)
Website www.winzogames.com


About WinZO and How it Works?
WinZO - Industry | Target Market Size
WinZO - Founders and team
WinZO - Startup Story | How was WinZO Started?
WinZO - Mission and Vision
WinZO - USP and Innovation
WinZO - Name, Tagline, and Logo
WinZO - Business Model and Revenue Model
WinZO - User Acquisition, Growth and Revenue
WinZO - Startup Challenges
WinZO - Funding and Investors
WinZO - Partnerships
WinZO - Acquisitions
WinZO - Advertisements and Campaigns
WinZO - Advisors and Mentors
WinZO - Recognition and Achievements
WinZO - Future Plans


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About WinZO and How it Works?

WinZO is a microtransactions-powered vernacular entertainment platform, which has 100+ games served in 5 formats to the users in 10+ regional languages. The diverse game offerings include hyper-casual games such as Candy Crush, Metro Surfer, Carrom, Chess, Ludo, and Pool to Mid-core flagship esports IPs like Free Fire.

WinZO is a member of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and FICCI. It is also known as the proud sponsors of Patna Pirates, Gujarat Giants, and Bengal Warriors.

WinZO is built with the idea of emerging as the ‘Netflix of Gaming’- one platform with games to play with your friends. To boost the gaming infrastructure in the country, WinZO partners with individual, mid-size, and large global studios to bring a variety of games to its users on a single platform.

The social gaming startup also helps the developers improve their revenue by providing them with an alternative and a far more efficient model of monetization led by microtransactions rather than the conventional in-app purchases and advertisements. The partner developers of WinZO have clocked 100x more revenues from their games on WinZO in India as compared to their distribution channels such as Google Play Store, Apple store, etc.

In the short term, WinZO aspires to be the preferred platform of choice for both its stakeholders- gamers in Bharat (Tier 2 - Tier 5) and game developers. The company is always innovating and bringing products and features to empower its users and game developers.

Also, their decentralized language management portal has empowered housewives and college-going students by helping them earn up to Rs 30,000 per month, thereby letting them become financially independent. Here, they only needed to help localize their product and add languages, remotely from their homes. For game developers, WinZO has come up with the Developers’ consoles to facilitate their outreach to the company and become more entrepreneurial in game development in light of assured revenue streams of up to 100x.

In the long term, WinZO envisions to be serving as a one-stop platform for all mobile-first entertainment media in India and other developing markets driven by the power of communities and microtransactions.

The company is empowering all its stakeholders on multiple fronts. The primary problem that WinZO started to solve was the efficient monetization of games in developing economies where in-app purchases and advertisements do not work. Through their microtransaction model, where 200 million+ microtransactions are clocked per month, their partner studios have witnessed growth up to 100X in their revenues. Hence, the model definitely has proved to be effective.

WinZO Products/Services

WinZO is an off-Play Store app, which hosts 70+ casual to mid-core games in 5 formats and 10 Indian regional languages. The games range from rummy, pool, carrom, ludo, call break, bingo, chess, 29 card game, archery game, bubble shooter, and more.

Users here get the thrill of competition and instant gratification. It also ensures the personalization of content to serve users with relevant games based on their engagement pattern on the platform. The company is developing a community of gamers who can engage and compete with each other via features such as WinZO Versus.

To make outreach easier for the developers, they have also launched WinZO Developer Console where any developer can sign up and submit content for integration on the app. The console has garnered massive traction, with over 1,000 games being submitted from across the globe. It also provides real-time analytics related to the game for efficient monitoring of the performance and ensuring transparency. WinZO also offers WinZO store, which brings gaming coupons, Gaana coupons, Nykaa coupons and more.

WinZO - Industry | Target Market Size

The online gaming industry of India has seen quite a growth in recent years. The Indian gaming industry was valued at $1.027 billion in 2020, which was a growth of around 17.3% from $543 million, as it was recorded in 2016. With such growth, the industry is expected to reach $2 billion by 2023. Though many gaming companies, including global giants, have felt a vacuum in India due to inefficient and unsustainable monetization models, WinZO, on seeing this huge potential, decided to foray into the gaming industry of India with hopes to prosper. The company relied mainly on the Tier 2 cities and beyond to achieve the estimated growth.

This is because when the company scrutinized the market, they were surprised to discover that around 80% of active gamers in India are from non-metro locations. Yes, it was found out that somewhere between 40%  and 60% of the overall gamer population of India are from Tier II towns and beyond. All of this helped WinZO scale fast and grow large enough to be one of the most popular gaming companies of today. The company targets the small cities of India, where the gamers' ages range between 18 and 35 years.

WinZO - Founders and team

WinZO was co-founded by Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore.

Co-founders of WinZO
Co-founders of WinZO

Paavan Nanda

Paavan is an engineer from NSIT, who later went to IIM-Calcutta and to the Copenhagen Business School. He worked with Bain & Company, Abbott Labs, and Merrill Lynch before co-founding Zostel Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., which emerged with ZO Rooms, an affordable and technology-driven hostel chain. However, ZO Rooms, after a failed merger with OYO, shut down, but it failed to put a halt to the rising entrepreneurial instinct of Nanda, who then co-founded WinZO with Saumya Singh Rathore in 2018.

Saumya Singh Rathore

Saumya is the co-founder of the vernacular social gaming platform, WinZO. She has a Master’s in Psychology from The University of Manchester, and eventually obtained a degree in Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. Saumya had already worked with Paavan Nanda in Zo Rooms before the duo decided to found WinZO.

WinZO, currently, is a tight-knit team of around 40 young, enthusiastic, passionate, and talented people who believe in the company’s vision and hustle together to work on the most advanced cutting-edge technologies and provide the best value to the users. When the team closed its Series A and had 5 Million+ users, it was only a 9-member team.

The work culture at WinZO is as vibrant, customer-focused, and fun as it might be imagined in a gaming venture. The team works hard at exemplary execution speed to push great new exciting features for the users and each small achievement is appreciated and celebrated. Weekly office parties and milestone celebrations also provide bring extra motivation and energy to the team.

"We at WinZO believe that hiring right is more effective than hiring fast - peer interviews is how you get on with the mission. It is always a great support to have a team which is self-motivated, target driven, accountable and committed to the vision. Hence, we hire the best talent with the right value alignment with the company’s core values.", said Paavan Nanda, co-founder of WinZO.
Most of our relatively new colleagues have joined us through the recommendations from their friends already working with us as they wanted to be a part of our journey to build the Netflix of Gaming and solve some of the most challenging tech problems of the country - Saumya Singh Rathore, co-founder of WinZO.

WinZO - Startup Story | How was WinZO Started?

WinZO was conceptualized after studying the revolution that affordable smartphones and Reliance Jio had created in India in 2015-16, by providing users from even the remotest corners of the country, with powerful devices and affordable high-speed internet connections. Thanks to this revolution, India became the global leader in in-game downloads.

However, there was clearly a problem of efficient monetization for games in high potential developing markets that needed to be solved. This marked the journey of WinZO. To validate the concept, WinZO was launched as a subscription-based trivia app to monitor the user acceptance of the model.

Based on the encouraging results of this POC, they launched a micro-transaction powered vernacular hyper-casual gaming platform where users pay small sums of INR 2 - INR 25 to participate in real-time multiplayer games and win prizes from the pool of rewards set aside for them. This model had the elements of regional language, real-time competition, and affordability in consuming content yet paying for it. Together, these made WinZO an instant hit among the users of vernacular Bharat.


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WinZO - Mission and Vision

WinZO focuses on the competitive multiplayer gaming experiences and is charged with the mission to create a culturally relevant mobile games platform with a broad rate of adoption.

WinZO aims to lead the Indian online gaming ecosystem with an expansive influencer network that is capable of catering to 50+ million registered users of the platform.  

WinZO - USP and Innovation

WinZO’s USP has always been its innovative and inclusive approach to solving real-life problems. While the intuitive approach for any gaming company would be to tap the easier metro and tier-1 audience first, WinZO saw and successfully tapped the potential of the real Bharat (Tier 2-Tier 5 towns, rural India) through its deep-down distribution strategy.

To facilitate this, they offer the support of 10+ regional Indian languages on the app. Their vision is to democratize entrepreneurship: They have decentralized language management through their portal to engage women who work from home to get a truly vernacular experience for players in Bharat.

For game developers, WinZO has helped them become more entrepreneurial in game development in light of assured and sustainable revenue streams. As many developers aren’t aware of the intricacies of this complex market, their 80% paying active user base ensures that the games are generating revenue from day 1 at no user acquisition expenses for the developers.


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WinZO Logo
WinZO Logo

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WinZO - Business Model and Revenue Model

As per App Annie 2018 Gaming Report, India stood highest in terms of Game downloads - at the same time in the bottom 10 for in-app purchases. The problem that WinZO is addressing is fairly simple: Bharat is in love with Gaming, but the Quality Studios/Independent developers do not see much potential in Bharat.

The WinZO Business Model is simple - Build the Gaming Ecosystem in Bharat. It aims to do that in three ways:

  • Provide a one-stop Game Developer Console to the Gaming Studios - where it can publish the games and earn revenues out of it.
  • Charge platform commission fees from all the games and share the revenue with the Game Developers via its Console.
  • Offer employment opportunities to students and housewives across Bharat to provide content for quizzes via its indigenous portal.

WinZO - User Acquisition, Growth and Revenue

The team has a mantra - every user should get a user. The product should market itself. WinZO simply doesn’t believe in spending a fortune on performance marketing endeavours - the core value system of the company is to be driven by ROI. They have done the traditional Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Tiktok Ads to drive traffic initially - but they have majorly relied on growth hacks and tie-ups, which has been a great success for them.

The most viral marketing campaigns involve those that emphasise the features that their players love the most- there is nothing more viral than a happy consumer getting his/her best friend or significant other to play with on the platform.

In a very short span of 1 year, WinZO had seen its registered user base grow by 20 million+ who spent an average of 55 minutes per day on the platform and clocked in 200 million+ transactions per month. The platform witnessed a prominent growth by bringing the rural, isolated users to the digital grid. 20% of these users performed their first-ever online digital transaction on WinZO.

The team has observed exciting new trends on the platform amid the lockdown. With more female players winning on the app, the gameplay grew 30% day-on-day. The players participated in board games more - Chess, Ludo & Carrom.

They are preferring to play all these games in private modes with their family/loved ones. Resultantly, all the metrics have grown exponentially on the app for the year 2020.

Currently, they are operating out of their office from Delhi. Of course, the team worked from home during the pandemic. To talk about their journey - the company started the year 2019 with merely 5 million users and ended the year with 15 million+ users. Now, they are sitting at 20 million+ users, clocking 200 million+ microtransactions with over 1 billion+ gameplays a month.

WinZO has grown pretty quickly in terms of revenue and was expected to grow more in FY21. The company last recorded a jump of 600% in FY20, when its revenues were recorded at around Rs 26.72 crore. However, the losses of the company were also recorded at Rs 26.68 crore.

With the FY21 performance in hand, WinZO seems to have grown during the fiscal year, which registered a 3.8X growth in its scale. However, the losses of WinZO were also at par with its growth in scale, which doubled itself.

WinZO Revenue Breakdown

WinZO's income surged by 287% from Rs 26.72 crore of revenue in FY20 to Rs 103.46 crore during FY21.

WinZO Revenue Verticals FY21 FY20
Revenue from Operations INR 103.46 cr INR 26.72 cr
Other Income from Financial Assets INR 1.66 cr INR 0.66 cr

WinZO Expenses Breakdown

WinZO's expenses increased during FY21, where the cost of hosting games has been the largest cost centre of the company, which surged by 3X from Rs 34.6 crore in FY20 to Rs 103.5 crore in FY21. The company, in order to cater to its growing employee base, grew employee benefit payments, which were earlier recorded at Rs 5.42 crore in FY20, and went up to Rs 13.4 crore during FY21. The second-largest cost centre for the company was the expenditure on advertising and promotions, which witnessed a 2.27X increase, from Rs 11.15 crore (FY20) to Rs 30.46 crore during FY21.  

WinZO Expenses Verticals FY21 FY20
Developer Fees and Hosting Charges INR 103.45 cr INR 34.62 cr
Advertising and Promotional Expenses INR 30.46 cr INR 11.15 cr
Employee Benefit Expenses INR 13.40 cr INR 5.42 cr
Legal and Professional Fees INR 5.67 cr INR 1.20 cr
Commissions Paid INR 2.05 cr INR 0.87 cr
Other Operating and Admin Expenses INR 1.47 cr INR 0.80 cr

WinZO Financials

WinZO increased its losses, which shot up by 1.9X from Rs 26.7 crore to Rs 51.36 crore during FY21. Despite of these losses, WinZO managed to improve its EBITDA margins due to the increase in its scale, which became -48.64% from --96.60%. Going by the unit economics, WinZO earned a rupee of revenue by spending Rs 1.51, which was an improvement from the previous fiscal when the company had to spend Rs 2.02 to earn the same.

WinZO Financials - Profit/Loss, Revenue and Expenses during FY19-FY21

WinZO - Startup Challenges

The most challenging part that WinZO faced was generating the feeling of trust in the minds of the users, who were seated in the remote areas of Bharat.

"What has worked well for us is - the entire product was on beta for at least six months and we were on stealth mode. We generated lots of insights around how to build trust and the product is designed for the users of Bharat who are from tier 2/3/4 towns. We also decided to be vernacular and be transparent to our users so that it's easy for them to build trust on the platform.", said Paavan Nanda.

As a result, they are now available in around 12 Regional Languages and nearly 90% of their audience is from the tier 2/3/4 towns of Bharat.

A significant other challenge is profitability, which the company is yet to gain, as reported last in FY20.

WinZO has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against gaming giant Mobile Premier League (MPL) because it thinks that the latter has copied its gaming format "World War". World War is a game launched by WinZO in April 2020, which currently boasts around 80 million registered users. As far as reports, WinZO has already applied for a patent for the invention and copyright registration with regards to the expression of the format and trademark of World War.

It all started when WinZO discovered that MPL has allegedly copied the format and the name of the game. However, it took down the format from its platform as soon as it was informed of the same but the latter again started with "Team Clash", which allegedly used the same format that was identical to "World War". Besides, the notifications/popups and more that were sent to the users were also similar. Following the discovery of this new game, WinZO has already sent a legal notice to MPL, who doesn't want to take down the format this time, as of June 4th 2022 reports.      


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WinZO - Funding and Investors

The company raised its seed money, an undisclosed amount from K-Start. WinZO has also set up a fund of $1.5 Million to support Game Developers in India. On July 2, 2021, WinZO announced raising an amount of $65 million on a Series C funding round led by California-based Griffin Gaming Partners. The company has raised a total of $110.5 million in its fundraising to date.

Here is the list of WinZO funding rounds:

Date Stage Amount Investor
July 2, 2021 Series C $65 million Griffin Gaming Partners
May 3, 2021 Series B $13 Million -
April 9, 2021 Debt Financing $9.5 Million -
September 3, 2020 Series B $18 Million Courtside Ventures, Makers Fund
February 22, 2019 Series A $5 Million Hike, Kalaari Capital

WinZO - Partnerships

WinZO partners with third-party game developers and help them host their games on the Android platform. WinZO also collaborates with trusted payment partners like PayTM, Google Pay, PhonePe, BHIM and more. It further entered into a partnership with Garena for Free Fire; Nazara Technologies, to host their games on its platform and at the same time, to offer monetisation benefits for their vernacular audiences with the help of the micro-transaction-backed model. Besides, it has also partnered with Rein Games and Deftouch to bring the multiplayer real-time pool and multiplayer cricket to over 20 million registered users that it has. It has partnered with over 50 Indie developers and global gaming studios to date.  

WinZO - Acquisitions

WinZO acquired Upskillz Games in its maiden acquisition on June 21, 2022. The deal was an all-cash deal with which a majority stake in Upskillz was acquired by WinZO. Mannit Sidhu founded Upskillz Games in December 2020, which already boasts of having a month-on-month (MoM) growth rate of 75% since it started. Besides, it also had a captive userbase of 1.3 mn users, along with blockchain and Web3 offerings, all of which will be added by WinZO now.

Company Name Date Deal Value
Upskillz Games June 21, 2022 -

WinZO - Advertisements and Campaigns

Winzo has recently partnered with popular YouTuber Ajey Nagar, commonly referred to as CarryMinati, to serve as its brand ambassador on January 19, 2022. After CarryMinati, WinZO trumps by choosing "BB ki vines" feat, Filmfare recipient digital sensation Bhuvan Bam as its brand ambassador, as the company PR goes dated February 15, 2022. The Vernacular Online Gaming Giant announced that this collaboration with BB will help the company create culturally relevant content that would be relatable even for the persons belonging to the remoter sections of the country.  

The Indian content creator from Faridabad, who boasts of having over 34 million subscribers will now be coming up with interesting game-related content that will unique, engaging, and relatable on his streaming channel 'Carryislive'. Furthermore, he also signed up for another solo integration on his major YouTube channel ‘CarryMinati‘ as part of this relationship. Here's what WinZO Co-founder Saumya Singh Rathore remarked on this development,

“We are thrilled to have him on board. We collectively hope to further our vision of promoting the spirit of winning and culturally relevant content across Bharat.”

The New Delhi-based interactive social gaming company declared that it will be the official sports brand partner of the Ranveer Singh film ’83’ in December 2021.

India's largest social gaming and entertainment platform has partnered with the Ogilvy Chairman of Global Creative and Executive Chairman Piyush Pandey to launch its multilingual brand campaign to deliver 'winning moments' through a relatable social platform in December 2021.

The campaign that was launched with the tagline and hashtag "Jeetne mein Kick hai" by Leo Burnett Orchard has won a creative mandate for the same, as per reports dated December 2020.

WinZO - Advisors and Mentors

Kalaari is not only an investor but a great partner who is guiding the company all along the way as they are building this for Bharat. It is very important to note that WinZO is Kalaari’s second-largest bet in gaming, second only to Dream11. The team gets to learn a lot from how Harsh managed to build a profitable venture in the Indian Startup ecosystem.

WinZO is fortunate to have had Revant Bhate & Rahul Garg come in very early to push them to build this product with a sharp focus on unit economics. A fund like Kalaari has vast exposure to what works and what doesn't in the long term. This early understanding would help them to build in a sustainable fashion.

"We also have received a huge support from Kavin Bharti Mittal who has also backed the venture. Kavin is one of the finest product experts and his insights are always critical in building WinZO as the entertainment destination for Bharat. He has tremendous experience in building and distributing Hike - a home grown tech unicorn.", said Pavaan Nanda.

WinZO - Recognition and Achievements

WinZO received the following awards and recognitions in the past couple of years since they started their journey:

  • Startup of the year - Technology by Entrepreneur India in 2019.
  • Inc42 Startup Watchlist: Indian Media & Entertainment Startups To Watch Out For In 2020.
  • SutraHR - "100" Top Startups in India in 2020.
  • Businessworld Techtors 2020.

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WinZO - Future Plans

Currently, the Winzo app has more than 70+ games available in 5 exciting modes. The company's goal for next year is fairly simple - to grow 10x from here, provide quality content for the users and keep building multiple engagement avenues for them. At the same time, WinZO also works to enhance the value propositions for their partner game developers and to bring fresh new content.

For example, WinZO has recently entered into partnerships with Garena for Free Fire to launch their esports for tier 2/3/4 towns across India in vernacular fashion - and it has been well received by the audience. The company has also launched its game developer console on which more than 50 studios have tied up.

"We have pledged $1.5 million+ fund to develop the independent game developers and emerging gaming studios of India. That’s our commitment to our users and game developers! The future for the entire gaming industry in India is quite exciting.", said Saumya Singh Rathore, co-founder of WinZO.

FAQs

What is WinZO?

WinZO can be described as one of India's largest social gaming and entertainment platform that was launched in 2018. WinZO offers its platform to third-party game developers who can host their games and earn up to 100X in revenue.

Is WinZo a Chinese app?

No, WinZo App is an Indian App headquartered in New Delhi, India.

Yes, WinZo was founded in 2018 and is a 100% legal and genuine gaming platform that operates in most of the states in India. It is in fact counted to be one of India's best gaming apps in the social category.

Who is the owner of WinZo?

Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore are the Founders of WinZO.

Who is the CEO of WinZO?

Paavan Nanda is the Co-founder and CEO of WinZO.

What is WinZO office address?

WinZO has its headquarters in New Delhi, India.

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