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Zupee Mantra: Earn, Learn And Game On

For Dilsher Malhi, Founder & CEO, Zupee, the power of gaming lies in its impact on every sector that it touches. The skill based gaming platform’s future plans are both ambitious and aggressive, keeping sights on a vision of democratising game development and evangelising the sector in India

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Skill-based gaming platform, Zupee, was founded by Dilsher Malhi and Siddhant Saurabh in 2018 with the objective of helping people learn and earn in en-tertaining ways. It started with trivia quiz mobile application with quizzing competitions on a range of topics including math, movies, and sports. The us-ers could compete against multiple players for mon-etary rewards. This idea of gainful entertainment worked for the company. In the first three years, it served more than 10 million users, seeing 100% user growth in 2020. It also raised $19 million in the first three rounds of funding. With a steady growth graph, its agenda now is to innovate in the gamification seg-ment, creating applications across industries. In his own words, Zupee's way of working also is conscious of being a responsible and ethical gaming company, compliant with all the skills charter of the industry, and its vision includes applying technology for good.
 
As India's fastest growing digital skill-based gami-fication company, Zupee's vision is to become a global gamification company with a goal to educate, enter-tain, inform and engage. For this, the brand is creat-ing original and locally made content, transforming into a global publishing hub, housing a talent pool of developers for art, animation, audiovisual effects, backend analytics and gamification. Zupee is expand-ing into new product lines which harness the twin levers knowledge and technology and work towards rediscovering and reengineering the lost and forgot-ten games of India for a fully connected and empow-ered Digital India.

Zupee explains that one of its guiding principles is to democratise game development and evangelise the sector in India. The company also aim to double its workforce in the next quarter to achieve its im-mediate goals, impacting employment and job crea-tion as well as wealth creation for everyone. In this interview, Malhi delves further into Zupee's future plans. Excerpts:


Zupee has been vocal about improving employ-ability skills and boosting equal opportunities. How do you plan to work in this direction? Please tell our readers about the Zupee Skilling Academy (ZSA) that you recently launched.
Being in the skill gaming industry, we understand that while our games definitely need skills, on part of the gamers, to do well, these games also improve skills. Building on that, we launched the Zupee Skill-ing Academy. This initiative will impart employable skills and promote equal opportunities in the youth of the country. This initiative is a first of its kind, aimed at skilling, upskilling and educating young, disadvantaged Indians. The idea is to prepare them for the future by getting them ready through skill training and ensuring that everyone in the program has equal opportunities for employment.

We are collaborating with some of the leading charities and institutions in the country to create curriculums, applications and games to improve the learning and skilling process. For now, we have tied up with NIIT Foundation to provide skilling opportunities to disadvantaged youth in Mumbai. More to follow and our intent is to make learning fun and engaging.

According to a recent survey 84 per cent of wom-en respondents said they want to pursue a career in gaming. Do you think such plans can be mate-rialised in the long run when it comes to opting gaming as a serious career choice especially for women?
Absolutely. I truly believe that women can pursue any career they want. It is only a matter of access. As more and more women get access to digital tech-nologies and quality education, I believe they will be taking up more positions in the gaming industry. We don't only need more women in the organisations, we also need more women in boardrooms, making decisions.

From a business perspective, a healthy women participation in industry leadership is considered important because of the range of unique values and skillsets that women bring to the table, which play an essential role in sectoral growth. A survey conducted by Peterson Institute for International Economics across 22,000 organisations found a 15 per cent improvement in profitability in companies where female corporate leadership went from 0 to 30 per cent.

In gaming, it is essential to have women in the decision making, designing and development processes, as their expertise and insights are crucial to create products that are appealing to both male and female audiences. When it comes to Zupee, 40 per cent of our leadership positions are taken up by women and we are already benefitting from that.

Your take on real money or skill-based gaming and its future in terms of its legal status in the country. How is Zupee complying with the guidelines? Also, what are some of the ways the skill-based gaming companies can come up to provide a safe platform to its users considering the concern of the government? 
The Supreme Court of India, in addition to several high courts, made it clear that games of mere skill cannot be seen as gambling as preponderance of skill is involved in achieving positive outcomes. And that makes it perfectly legal. At Zupee we have been following the skill gaming charter and all the laws of the land to adhere to rules and regulations. We have a long-term vision of transforming the learning and skilling segments in the country and that is why it is critical for us to ensure compliance and following the law of the land. Most skill gaming platforms are already as safe as any leading e-commerce platforms as the same security systems, payment gateways and mechanisms are used. However, each gaming company can adopt responsible gaming at the core of their function to ensure that users benefit from the games without the easily avoidable effects.

In line with PM’s Digital India dream, for startups to achieve their potential, there is a desperate need for a perception change and at the same time, online games need to be brought under a light touch regulatory framework to ensure clarity and universality of laws surrounding it.

While hardworking entrepreneurs and investors are putting in unbelievable effort and resources into ensuring that this sector takes India towards the trillion-dollar digital economy dream and creates millions of new and fulfilling jobs, it is the duty of the policymakers and the supporting ecosystem to ensure that instead of hurdles and challenges, the sector gets encouragement and support where needed.

Do you think a sudden rise in the number of gaming companies can lead to stagnancy in the coming times? Do you think there would be ample opportunities for each startup planning to debut in gaming or are we going to see market saturation?
Competition isn’t always a bad thing. Especially in a growing economy like ours, online gaming industry is growing at a remarkable pace, adding to the country’s GDP as well as creating jobs.

As long as there is innovation and companies keep coming up with fresh and original content or games, there should be no problem. As of now, there is a lot of room to grow and there is actually a need for a central policy framework to protect such growth and create a progressive ecosystem that invites investments and encourages innovation.

May our tribe grow and may a thousand flowers bloom. It is wonderful to have competition, it is a sign of a maturing sector and a sign of growth. We learn from each other and become even better each day. At Zupee our unique insights and user centricity drive our core offerings and for that there is no competition or replication. When you truly care about the users it reflects in the product and the users also are discerning and remain engaged and connected with plenty of brand love.

How do you ensure learning through gamification? What are some of the technological advancements we may see in the near future in the gaming
industry?
Tesco, a retail chain in the UK used gamification for the entire compliance training. The results were impressive with 90 per cent of the employees actually enjoying the content of the training. This led to demonstrable superior retention of the instructions and the company was able to replace the classroom exercises with readily available applications that could be accessed on mobile devices. About 4,000 people were trained in four weeks. This is how gamification can transform learning. This is just one example. Gamification has applications outside of education too. In the next five years, we could already be cutting across verticals to ensure maximum coverage and impact through gamification.

It could have a positive impact in sectors like ecommerce and also be used to recreate historical events and educate about culture. Other applications could include behaviour change communication and preparation for tests.

Gamification will be more than a $37 billion opportunity by 2030. Like telecom, it can be a sector that acts as an enabling sector.

Apart from gamification, we will see an increase in immersive gaming. With increased throughput of the 5G networks, we will be seeing more cloud-based and online games featuring life-like avatars interacting in real-time.


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Zupee magazine 4 July 2021 Dilsher Malhi