A Fireside chat with Nazara Technologies founder Nitish Mittersain

Starting a mobile gaming ecosystem in 2000, when nobody really took mobile phone gaming seriously was something of an edge Nazara Technologies has today. Its founder and managing director Nitish Mittersain has been the brain behind the company which has now evolved to being one of the leading game developers and publishers in the large mobile consumer base in India and emerging markets including the Middle East and Africa. Nitish comes from an entrepreneur family and the Mittersain clan has been in the textile business for long. Nitish took to gaming as a career option and seeing his drive towards technology and gaming, his father encouraged him to venture out of the family business and set up his company while he was still in his final year graduation. AnimationXpress in a candid chat with Nitish trace the Nazara origins, where it is headed currently, his views about the Indian gaming industry and much more.
Nazara Technologies CEO Nitish Mittersain
Nazara Technologies founder and MD Nitish Mittersain
Tell us about how did Nazara come to be? Although I come from a textile business family background, as a kid I was always interested in computers and gaming. I coded my first game when I was 8 years old on a ZX Spectrum my father bought me. During my school years, I tinkered with various computer related projects and also launched my own BBS (bulletin board service). Thereafter, while in college in Mumbai, I was keen to explore my passion and launched Nazara as an online gaming destination. Over the years we have evolved to focus on mobile gaming. 16 years back it wasn’t common to see an Indian gaming company, how easy/difficult was it for you to convince your parents to start a gaming company? My parents were always supportive of my activities and encouraged me to experiment and try out new opportunities and skills. Nazara has now been running for 16 years. Take us through the journey of making it one of the top mobile gaming companies in the country today. We started with a vision of gaming becoming big in India. Of course, we did not realise then that we were way too early in the market but we have stayed the course and kept the faith alive in our original vision. If you were to reflect on this period of your life, what would be your most satisfying memories? And what has been your greatest challenge? The support and encouragement I received from veteran actor Shammi Kapoor when I started off down this path always remains very special to me and he remained a mentor till he passed away a few years ago. Signing on Sachin Tendulkar for mobile gaming in 2005 was a big win for us as well as raising our first round of funding from Westbridge capital in the same year. The biggest challenge has been to be able to persevere through many long years while keeping the faith in our vision. Nazara 1 Nazara also worked with a number of celebrities and a number of Bollywood movies to develop games based on the said personality or the movie. Notable games from the list include a cricket based game on Sachin Tendulkar, also a game on Indian cricket Test captain Virat Kohli, Bollywood movie games like Bang Bang and Bombay Velvet. The studio also has rights to children’s favourite cartoon character Chhota Bheem and has developed a number of games under the Chhota Bheem IP. The company also has game rights for Bollywood personality Hrithik Roshan and iconic Tinkle characters. Nazara has also been ranked amongst the top 2 mobile companies in terms of deck presence and WAP revenues in India and amongst the top 3 in the UAE and has ranked 17th in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 – India in 2010. What is your vision for Nazara? We have spent over 15 years following our original dream of gaming becoming big in India and Nazara being the pioneer/leader in this revolution. Our vision remains the same even now and we are working aggressively towards achieving our goals. Since we cannot achieve this single-handedly, we are keen to partner with like-minded developers and other partners in the ecosystem so that we can all collectively achieve our dreams. What would you say is the strength of Nazara? Without question, it is the ability to persevere and be resilient to the many macro and micro challenges that we have faced along the way. The ability to survive over such a long period has allowed us to “live to fight another day” and take advantage of opportunities as and when they arose. Tell us your secret behind being a successful entrepreneur Secret to success would be the ability to sustain over long periods of time and not lose hope in difficult times. Also earning the respect of my team and working closely with them as a peer is very important. Also a strong grip on finance and focus on profitability is very helpful. Apart from Nazara, Nitish has also served as the Chairman of the Mobile Value Added Services Expert Committee (2009-2010) of the Indian Merchants Chambers, and was also on the Asia board of the MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum), a global association for mobile content and commerce and takes active participation on matters related to drive market growth. You have seen the industry evolve over the years, what are the key changes that have shaped the industry? The advent of smartphones has been the biggest game changer in India. With devices providing better experience at low costs, millions of Indians are being able to experience gaming for the first time and enjoy quality content from all over the world. I strongly believe that this is going to lead to a gaming revolution in the country and over the next 3-5 years we will have a large gaming community which never existed earlier. nazara 4 What changes do you feel are still required for the industry to grow further? Better quality localised content from a user perspective and stronger monetisation opportunities from developer perspective. What games are you currently playing? Currently, our latest game Chhota Bheem Toy since my 3 year old son loves it. In addition to that, Supercell’s game Clash Royale and another one called Non Stop Knight. When not at work, Nitish plays a range of wood-winds instruments such as the clarinet, soprano saxophone, and flute to unwind. Being a jazz music aficionado, Nitish plays an alto saxophone and is a part of a jazz band called Jazzy Joe and Jazz Junkies. Since you have been playing with a jazz band, how important it is for you to unwind? What are the other activities you like to do to unwind? I guess it’s important for everyone to unwind… my jazz group has been a fantastic outlet for me especially learning under the great maestro Jazzy Joe. Right now, maximum time beyond work is devoted to my 3 year old son and any time spent with him instantly refreshes me. Any anecdotes you would like to share with the budding entrepreneurs who want to venture into this industry? One of my favourite quotes is “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” by Muhammad Ali and it’s a philosophy I have tried to follow in the business which has worked very well for us. The idea behind it is to remain fairly asset light since ours is a rapidly changing and dynamic industry and by being nimble, you can change and move with the trends quickly.