Esports Is an Extension of India’s Economic Growth: JetSynthesys
Rajan Navani is quite likely the most self-aware executive in the Indian games industry. The vice chairman and managing director of Real Cricket and Sachin Saga company JetSynthesys makes no qualms about his knowledge of the space — a yardstick that most tend to judge anyone in the business by, but makes up for it with an approach that’s a lot more holistic and all-encompassing than you’d expect from someone running a video games company.
IGN India caught up with Navani to discuss JetSynthesys’ recent acquisition of esports company Sky Esports, what it means for its cricket games, and more.
With JetSynthesys’ buyout of Sky Esports is the company’s bid to build competitive gaming in India at the grassroots level. The move results in a new entity known as Jet Skyesports. While it has one eye on esports being a medal event at next year’s Asian Games, the other is to bolster its own titles like Real Cricket and Sachin Saga, Navani tells us.
More importantly, it gives the company the opportunity to create a “virtual digital platform” for everybody that plays games Navani tells me, referring to a recent Deloitte study that claims that 87 percent of Gen Z and over 83 percent of millennials play video games.
He believes esports to be an extension of India’s economic growth in addition to simply helping JetSynthesys improve on its products.
“We’re going to be a $5 trillion economy by 2025 or 2030 which is also PM’s vision,” he says citing Ministry of Commerce projections. “$1 trillion will have to come from new-age businesses which are those businesses? Can gaming fit there?”
For that to happen, esports becomes a necessary add-on to the video games business. Globally the market for games and esports is $180 billion and India is less than $1 billion he tells me.
“I believe the only way we can really talk of India producing a global game that’s going to make several hundred million dollars is if we’re able to develop that level of complexity in a game that will challenge people around the world,” he says. “And I strongly believe that opportunity is in cricket.”
How Esports Makes Real Cricket and Sachin Saga Better
To make that come to life, the purchase of an esports outfit and the value-add that brings to developing games can’t be understated he explains.
“The inputs you get from gamers when you build small nuances like making it competitive and having people discover new skills that will enable them to win is compelling specially in simulation games where the opportunity is a lot more,” he says. “Or even what you see in action genre right now. It’s a massive growth in quality of product. As a developer and publisher we would learn so much because we’re trying to create a professional level of participation.”
With that in mind, he feels Skyesports’ competencies in distribution and ground level access to gamers thanks to its foothold in markets like South India are key. These would help JetSynthesys make better games.
“They’re a good execution team,” he says. “For us it’s going into tier 2 and tier 3 cities and getting to the grassroots and being able to run these things at scale across the country. Sky’s South India play is their strength, they were able to demonstrate their ability of tapping into the grassroots market and doing it really well.”
Skyesports and Conflict of Interest
Skyesports had come under scrutiny earlier this week following the news of its talent arm managing Valorant esports team Velocity Gaming. Considering Velocity participates in events from Sky, it could result in a conflict of interest scenario. The matter was compounded with Skyesports’ tone deaf response.
That said, Navani did acknowledge this could be a point of friction in an interview with IGN India and firmly stated JetSynthesys would prevent that from happening.
“Sure there are going to be those who use a team to cheat and try and win,” he says. “I’m sure there are companies who will try and do that, and, you know, make things like that. That is not for us…I fully agree with you that these are things that we need to be wary about. We should definitely not ignore it completely.”
For him though, the upside despite these concerns lies in the potential for job creation. Particularly around JetSynthesys’ games.
“Players tell us the first game they played was Sachin Saga,” he says, “They learn how to play, they become damn good at it and for us that’s the thrill. Esports gives us the opportunity to bring out that talent and then create a whole ecosystem around it, imagine the kind of job creation this can do with casters, influencers, teams — the whole economic ability to engage grassroots brands interested in those communities.”
He cites this kind of impact in line with the overall strategy of the Jetline group — JetSynthesys’ parent that also has a play in non-gaming ventures like Sonic Jobs and ThinkRight.me where the approach is to create communities.
Bringing Real Cricket and Sachin Saga to the ESL
Would all of this be enough for JetSynthesys or are there plans to go beyond that? Right now though, Navani is more than happy to let the likes of ESL India rights holder Nodwin cater to the best of the best of India’s esports talent.
“Nodwin will always attract the highest level [of talent] with ESL and all that,” he says. “But where do the best of the best come from? How do you give the players I have today playing my games the opportunity to feel they can participate in this aspirational sport and give them a way to be on Nodwin’s platform? For us this becomes a good strong play.”
That said, he confirmed that JetSynthesys is still invested in the Nazara-owned, Krafton-funded Nodwin. What’s more is, you can expect the best Real Cricket and Sachin Saga players to shine on its stage.
“We are deeply committed to Nodwin,” he says. “We are still significant minority investors in them and the best 200 of our players will go into the Nodwin ecosystem and that will make them bigger. Obviously that will happen for our cricket games. I think the ability for Nodwin to do better with the top of the funnel will be enhanced us doing a lot grassroots esports that Sky will be able to bring in. To me it will be value driver across the chain, the way I’m looking at it, it’s a win-win from all sides.”
Right now though there are more esports companies organising tournaments than brands, sponsors, and advertisers which are the main revenue sources for any esports event. And with several such firms running in the red, we won’t be surprised if this is just the first of many consolidations in the space. Considering its recent fund raises and proximity to luminaries like Sachin Tendulkar, it’ll be interesting to see how JetSynthesys’ vision comes to life.