WinZO - India's First & Largest Vernacular Micro Transactions Backed E-Sports Platform!

India's large young population and increasing internet penetration have made it the top gaming market among emerging economies. But online gaming, often thought to be a big city phenomenon, is now being driven by users from Tier II, III, and IV towns. Many studies show that as many as 80% of active gamers in India reside in non-metro locations. As much as 40-60% of India’s overall gamer population belongs to Tier II towns and beyond.  

The duo, Paavan and Saumya, launched vernacular gaming platform WinZO Games in 2016 with an aim to tap into the Tier II to V audience looking for online entertainment. Read about WinZO Games, founder, how was it started, business model, growth, funding, awards and future plans.

WinZO - Company Highlights

Startup Name WinZO
Headquarter New Delhi, India
Sector Entertainment (Gaming)
Founders Paavan Nanda & Saumya Singh Rathore
Founded 2016
Parent Organization Tictok Skill Games Private Limited
Website winzogames.com
Contact partnerships@winzogames.com

About WinZO and How it Works
WinZO - Target Market Size
How was WinZO Started?
WinZO - Product/Services
WinZO - USP and Innovation
Founders of WinZO and team
WinZO - Name, Tagline, and Logo
WinZO - Business Model and Revenue Model
WinZO - User Acquisition and Growth
WinZO - Startup Challenges
WinZO - Funding and Investors
WinZO - Advisors and Mentors
WinZO - Recognition and Achievements
WinZO - Future Plans


Also read: Dream11- India's Best Fantasy Gaming Application


About WinZO and How it Works

WinZO is a microtransactions powered vernacular entertainment platform, which has 70+ 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, Pool to Mid-core flagship esports IPs like Free Fire.

You can consider it as ‘Netflix of Gaming’- one platform with all the games and your friends to play with. 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.

They in turn help developers improve their revenue by providing them an alternative and far more efficient model of monetization led by microtransactions rather than conventional in-app purchases and advertisements. Their partner developers 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 decentralised language management portal is empowering housewives and college going students to become financially independent, earning upto ₹30,000 per month, by helping localise their product and add languages, remotely from their homes. For game developers, WinZO has come up with Developers’ console to facilitate their outreach to the company and become more entrepreneurial in game development in light of assured revenue streams of upto 100x.

In the long term, WinZO envisions to be 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 was started to solve was efficient monetization of games in the 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 multiple folds growth upto 100X in their revenues. Hence, the model definitely has proved to be more effective.

WinZO - Target Market Size

Statista says the gaming business is worth Rs 6,200 crore currently and will grow to Rs 25,000 crore soon. But most gaming companies, including global giants, have felt a vacuum in India due to inefficient and unsustainable monetisation models.

This is because India is a typical market. There is huge depth and massive engagement - 300 million smartphone users on an average spend 40-45 minutes playing games; 20 billion game downloads were recorded from India alone in 2018. But gaming companies could not translate this into revenue because people have lower disposable income, limited awareness, and don’t trust online transactions.


Relevant read: GamesKraft - Creating World Class Gaming Experience for Indian Users


How was WinZO Started?

WinZO was conceptualized after realizing the impact that affordable smartphones and the Jio revolution had created in India in 2015-16, by providing users, even in 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 game downloads.

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 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 ₹2 - ₹25 to participate in real time multiplayer games and win prize pools. 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.

WinZO - Product/Services

WinZO is an off-play store app which hosts 70+ casual to midcore games in 5 formats and 10 Indian regional languages. Users here get the thrill of competition and instant gratification. It also ensures personalization of content to serve the 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 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 game for efficient monitoring of the performance and ensure transparency.

WinZO - USP and Innovation

WinZO’s USP has always been its innovative and inclusive approach to solve 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 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 to 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.


Relevant read: Gamerji- Providing a Pro-level Online Gaming Experience


Founders of WinZO and team

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

Co-founders of WinZO
Co-founders of WinZO

The co-founders had previously worked together at ZO Rooms and Zostel, which is a Tiger Global-backed hospitality Venture founded by Paavan.

Paavan is an engineer from NSIT, who later went to IIM-Calcutta. He worked with Bain & Company, Abbott Labs, and Merrill Lynch. Saumya, who has a master’s in psychology, has worked at KPMG and the Times Group.

WinZO currently is a tight knit team of 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 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 vibrant, customer focused, and fun as it would be 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 provide that 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.

The team took ‘ZO’ from their previous venture ZO Rooms/Zostel. ZO stands for speed & energy - so it's winning fast! Plus when they Googled the word, they didn't find anything, so that solves for SEO with no money spent!

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 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.

Their Business Model is simple - Build the Gaming Ecosystem in Bharat. They do it in three ways:

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

WinZO - User Acquisition and Growth

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

The most viral marketing campaigns are 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 today is sitting at a registered user base of 20 million+ who are spending on an average 55 minutes per day on the platform and clocking 200 million+ transactions per month. WinZO has also helped connect the rural isolated users to the digital grid. 20% of these users perform their first ever online digital transaction on WinZO.

Currently, they are operating out of their office from Delhi. Ofcourse, the team is working from home in these troubled times. 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+ game plays a month.

WinZO - Startup Challenges

The most challenging part is generating trust in an user's mind who is seated far across Bharat, probably doing his first digital transaction on WinZO, and is fairly new to the entire digital ecosystem.

"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 10+ Regional Languages and 90%+ of their audience is from tier 2/3/4 towns of Bharat.


Relevant read: PokerDangal - India's largest Online Poker Gaming Platform


WinZO - Funding and Investors

The company raised it's seed money of undisclosed amount from K-Start. Their latest Series-A funding of $5 million was raised in July 2019. WinZO has also set-up a fund of $1.5 Million to support Game Developers in India.

Here is the list of funding rounds of WinZO:

Date Stage Amount Investor
July 2019 Series A $5 Million Hike, Kalaari Capital

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 build this for Bharat. It is very important to note that they are Kalaari’s second largest bet in gaming, second only to Dream11. The team get 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 a vast exposure on 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 following awards and recognition:

  • 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.

Also read: 9stacks- Earn While Playing at 9stacks


WinZO - Future Plans

Currently, the platform 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 work to enhance the value propositions for their partner game developers and to bring fresh new content.

For example, WinZO have recently entered into partnerships with Garena for Free Fire to launch their esports for tier 2/3/4 towns across India in vernacular fashion to launch their esports for tier 2/3/4 towns across India in vernacular fashion - and it has been well received by audience. The company have also launched their 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.

The team is observing exciting new trends on the platform amid the lockdown. With more female players winning on the app, game play is growing 30% day-on-day. The players are participating in board games more- Chess, Ludo & Carrom.

They are preferring to play all these games in private modes with their family/loved ones who are parted by covid19. Resultantly, all the metrics have grown exponentially on the app, WinZO is on the verge of touching their growth targets set for the year 2020 seven months early.

WinZO Games is providing Joining Cash Bonus upto Rs. 50 to the new users who download the app from its website (www.winzogames.com) before end of May, 2020.

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About Rishabh Rathi

Pre-Final Year Computer Science Undergrad and a freelancer.
  • Nagpur
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