Home-grown game streaming and e-sports platform Rooter recently raised $25 million (Rs 185 crore) in a Series A funding round led by Lightbox, March Gaming, and Duane Park Ventures. 9Unicorns, ADvantage, Capital-A, and Goal Ventures also participated in the round along with existing investors, including IeAD Sports & Health Tech Partners.
Founded by Piyush Kumar and Dipesh Agarwal, Rooter has emerged as a leading player in the Indian gaming category with 8.5 million monthly active users and over 30 million downloads. Rooter Founder and CEO Piyush Kumar spoke to exchange4media about the platform’s growth plans in 2022.
What attracted investors like Lightbox, March Gaming, and Duane Park Ventures to Rooter?
We raised the Series A round funding in almost 4 to 5 months but most of the large investors’ Lightbox and March Gaming almost came within 50 to 60 days since they started talking to us. It’s been an effort of 50-60 days, and we have raised $25 million (Rs 185 crore) in the Series A round. For Lightbox, which is one of the largest funds in India this is their first investment in gaming. It is very encouraging that they decided to back us. For March Gaming, which is part of US-based March Capital, this is their first investment in India. The reason all these investors decided to invest in Rooter is because of the opportunity which they see in gaming. We have all seen how gaming become mainstream. If you look around everybody is playing one or the other games on their mobile phone.
The gaming market has grown from 300 million gamers to almost 500 million gamers and is slated to reach 700 million gamers in another 2 to 3 years. Gaming is a great way of creating communities. Also, gaming is a very monetisable market. This is one industry that has created revenue for every player. Rooter is also very positive about the revenue we are making and what we can make from here. We see a huge opportunity in the game streaming market which is a combination of two major trends in India which are gaming and content. Gaming also offers huge opportunities around emerging technologies like metaverse, web 3.0, and NFT.
How will you utilise the funds?
We are at a very sharp growth stage. We are looking to add a lot of users to Rooter. We are looking to increase downloads. We are looking to add a lot of e-sport games. We are already supporting a lot of game streamers, and we want to create the next 500,000 game streamers. This will help us create a much larger job market. We will also invest in technology to make our product work better. We are focussing on revenue this year like commerce opportunities and everything that gaming offers.
How has the journey been for Rooter, and what are your scale-up plans?
We started in 2016 when Rooter was a sports social platform that was focussing on sports content. In April 2020, we pivoted to game streaming and in the last 20 months we have scaled up massively by creating a community of game streamers, by making technology that is unique in India. We are the only app that allows people to create and consume content. We started to monetise very early in our journey. We are a very product and technology focussed company which makes us very different. We also understand the power of community, so we are focussed on building communities, building game streamers, and building esports teams. We are also focussed on monetisation opportunities, so we are building a huge commerce store where all the gaming needs.
What is your monetisation strategy, and how do you plan to help gamers monetise their content?
Ever since we pivoted to esports, our revenue has grown 8X of what it was during our sports days. We are already at $2.4 million ARR in terms of revenue, and we want to take it to $12-15 million ARR in 2022. We make money through advertising and performance marketing. All the brands are looking to target gamers, and we are the biggest platform that allows brands to target gamers. The second is performance marketing where we work with top apps in the country to help them get downloads from the gamers. All the 25 to 50 apps of the country work with us.
Then we organise multiple esports tournaments, and we own multiple IPs which brands sponsor. We also have a commerce store called Rooter Shop where people can buy Rooter Diamonds, and we are also launching our gaming currency and accessories. We have various kinds of B2B and B2C opportunities.
What is your strategy to strengthen the platform?
We are the best tech platform in the market which allows users to consume and create content from the same app. That is a great proposition because we have made a unified app for creation and consumption. In terms of downloads, we are the most downloaded sports app in the country. We get 2-2.5 million additional downloads every month. We are the number 1 app in the sports category on Google Play since October 2020. We want to continue to attract gamers and game streamers to consume, create and monetise content.
Who owns the IP of the content created on Rooter?
It exactly works the way social platforms work. Content is owned by the user. We host that content and help them increase its reach. Every streaming who creates content on Rooter gets paid based on their reach and performance. Almost 4.5-5% of users who are creating content on Rooter get paid, and we intend to take this percentage to 10%. They earn revenue through the money that we make and also through a lot of gifting which is a great trend in gaming. This is an almost 150-200 million game streaming content consumer market. It is a much larger part of our gaming market and this is only going to grow.
What is the incentive for a gamer to join a platform like Rooter?
The biggest advantage that an Indian game streamer consumer has is that they are part of an Indian platform that is focussed on growing their base and making revenue. They are growing much faster than a platform like YouTube or Facebook. Our platform provides an opportunity to upcoming players to grow much faster. We have a very strong community team that works with them day in and day out. A lot of female streamers have also joined.
Where do your gamer streamers and users come from?
It is well spread between Tier 1, 2, and 3 cities. Tier 2 is very big in this space. Tier 1 and 2 are mostly where the game streamers come from but from a consumption perspective Tier 1, 2, and 3 are equally big. Gaming in India has gone very deep in terms of the user base. You will find gamers in even small towns and rural areas.
How do you plan to improve the product in 2022?
We plan to invest in data science to share a lot of personalisation for the kind of content that people create and the kind of content that people consume. We will focus more on our commerce store where we can allow a lot of people to do game trading like reselling gaming accessories and coupons. Our focus from day 1 has been to make game streaming as easy as uploading a picture on Instagram. That is the reason Rooter has been a big success and that is the reason Rooter has attracted big investors.
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