Capturing cricket conversations

Ahead of Women Entrepreneurship Day (Nov 19), CE speaks to city-based Keerti Singh, co-founder of Hitwicket about the journey behind making one of the most popular cricket mobile games in India.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

HYDERABAD: In the recently concluded IGDC 2023, Lumikai released a report showcasing the expected growth of the Indian digital gaming industry to reach $7.5 billion by FY28, more than double what it is now. One key aspect of this report was that presently women command a 41% share of India’s gaming arena.

As a leader, Keerti’s story is a testament to the power of investing in one’s dreams, demonstrating a strong belief in oneself and unwavering commitment to the chosen path.

Ahead of Women Entrepreneurship Day (Nov 19), CE speaks to city-based Keerti Singh, co-founder of Hitwicket. She talks about the journey behind making one of the most popular cricket mobile games in India with a dedicated women player base

Here is an excerpt of the discussion we had: 

Could you tell us about the journey of Hitwicket? 

So as a kid, I used to follow cricket and Formula One passionately. We would be quite excited about those player cards where you could see the statistics about the players. I picked up a few mobile games while doing my MBA. I would just play a small game of Golf Clash or Formula One Manager between the classes to de-stress myself.

Then I moved on to Amazon in a leadership role. Interestingly, I was still playing mobile games and I found that a lot of people around me were also playing. Clash of Clans was very popular. That seemed very interesting that not only a new form of entertainment was emerging, but it was also able to get people of various age groups hooked on it. The thought that there was no such game focused on cricket had always been there with me. My co-founder Kashyap (Reddy) had also been very passionate about cricket and he strongly felt that there is no equivalent of a world-class game in cricket despite it being the second-largest sport in the world.

When he finally shared this opportunity to build a world-class cricket game from India, I totally resonated with the concept. I felt that there was a big gap in the market for this and therefore, a big opportunity. So I decided to quit Amazon and start up with Hitwicket. 

Cricket has evolved massively in the last two decades. Is that a bane or a boon? 

Exactly. One could see the market gap and also the opportunity inherent in it. Cricket has a widespread target group. Even a school kid to a professional, to an investment banker; from somebody in Guntur to somebody in Delhi; men, women; everybody follows the sport. Cricket itself by its nature presented a large market and mobile gaming was something that I could relate to because I didn’t play much of PC or console games and I was never a gamer.

That way combining the accessibility of mobile gaming with the mass appeal of cricket presented itself as a great venture. Something that you would like to fight for. 

What were the major challenges? 

Even though mobile gaming was already a billion-dollar-plus economy in international markets then and in India it had started to show very promising results but somehow people didn’t think that it was a big one. A lot of this information was also not out in the mainstream. We had to convince the parents of our talent pool that working in gaming could also be profitable. The investors too had the belief that the Indian market could not monetise through in-app purchases

. For a long time, the long-held belief was that ads are the way forward. We didn’t believe in that. Our proposition was that you play mobile games for entertainment and India is an entertainment-hungry market. We spend so much on movies and IPL tickets because it is valuable to us. That skill over here is in creating that content, creating that world-class experience and then people will monetise.

What were your initial ideas about developing this game and how did you manage to retain consumers? 

Our thesis was that if you look at cricket, a lot of it happens outside the field. People love to talk about it. ‘Why did Dhoni bat at number 7? He should have gone to a much earlier position. He should have just taken a few runs, etc.’ These strategist aspects of the game make it very conversational. That is the sense that we wanted to capture: how the game can be more about thinking and how people should be able to make the decisions that they are not able to make in the real world.

It should capture the spirit of cricket which is about decision making. Rest is the psychological framework like the first win needs to give you the high you want and then the player is hooked. Also, the idea was that anybody should be able to play. The entire tap mechanic and probability of winning, player evolution, special abilities, etc. bring the game mechanics which is necessary to retain the consumers. The familiarity of the real world can get you a user to try the game.

But once he is inside the game, then the game experience has to really be new and exciting. We also do a lot of live events where people can participate. Recently, we had a month-long tournament and the winner was a 21-year-old girl from Vijayawada who had beaten a 33-year-old IT professional from Lahore in a nail-biting last-ball win. That was a true testimony to what we’re trying to build. Sports and mobile gaming allow you to build something that is far more inclusive.

What can be done to motivate more girls to join the gaming industry? 

The exposure is very important because they need to know what all avenues exist in mobile gaming and where they align. People should not think that only if I am a developer I can get into mobile gaming. Someone who is into biotech or some other branch, may not code but they can be still very good product designers or product associates or even working on the art.

So there are different avenues that are there for mobile gaming. Secondly, if there are more inspirational stories, then that will also fuel the ecosystem. All stakeholders have to get together to work on making the industry more inclusive. Girls should also be allowed to take more risks.

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The New Indian Express