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Entertainment 2010-01-21

Gameplexes score high

By Ramanjit Kaur Feature Writer

With the craze for online games intensifying, Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd has evolved as the largest gaming company in India. In an interview, Rohit Sharma, CEO, Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd shares his outlook for this emerging industry and the future plans of his company.

Ramanjit Kaur (RK): Could you shed some light on the origin of Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd?

Rohit Sharma (RS): Zapak is the largest gaming company in India. It includes online gaming, physical games distribution, gaming cafés, MMOG publishing and mobile gaming. Launched in 2006, Zapak today is one of the few gaming companies in the world that not only addresses but dominates the entire gaming value chain, be it content, distribution/ retail or shared access.

Zapak Gameplexes is an organised approach to create specific game centric formats to help gaming take off in India. Zapak is the first of its kind with high speed broadband connectivity. Zapak Games, the licensing and merchandising arm of Zapak focuses on gaming merchandise. It is the largest game CD and merchandise distributor in the country that reaches more than 4,000 retail outlets across 100 cities. Zapak also plans to bring some of the best MMOG titles of the world to India with the help of internationally renowned developers. Jump Games, India's premier mobile gaming and publishing firm, is also a part of Zapak.

RK: What inspired Zapak Gameplex to take the franchise route? Have you noticed any difference after adopting the franchise way?

RS: Initially, we invested in our own flagship stores across the country. Having created a successful and profitable template through our 35 COCO (company owned-company operated) stores, we realised that the best way to scale up quickly is to opt for the franchise route. Franchising creates a win-win model for both Zapak and our franchisees. We have seen a huge traction from franchisees for the gaming café business. It has helped us to expand in more than 35 cities.

RK: What kind of background is necessary for securing the franchise of your company?

RS: We look for franchisees who are at least graduates. Secondly, they should have experience in retail business.

RK: How many outlets do you presently have? What are your future target locations to expand?

RS: We presently support 87 outlets across 35 cities. Now, we have plans to expand across India with an equal focus on Tier II and Tier III cities. We are targeting over 100 cities/towns in the next two to three years.

RK: What support and training does a franchisee get when partnering with Zapak Gameplex?

RS: We provide training in areas like production, sales, marketing, operations and IT. A complete operations and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) manual is shared with all our franchisees. We also provide periodical training on new products and gaming to our franchisees.

RK: Have you faced any challenges during the initial phases of your business establishment? If yes, what were they? How did you overcome them?

RS: During the initial phase, we had faced many challenges. For instance, the boom in the retail industry had sky rocketed the rentals and because our business template was riding on rental spaces, therefore finding locations was a bit difficult. Another challenge we faced was the broadband provision in mini metros and smaller cities. Even now timely connectivity is still a hindrance in these places.

Being an organised player, complying with all legal licenses, software and management tools were some of the challenges. But the broadband experience, membership model and legal games deployed by us eventually get the gamers at our centres.

RK: Any advice for young entrepreneurs?

RS: India is poised for a broadband inflection point and online gaming will be one of the key drivers of this growth. Online gaming is the stickiest form of digital entertainment across the globe and we will see the same phenomena happening in India. This coupled with the fact that more than 50 per cent of India is below 25 years of age, which provides a tremendous opportunity for young entrepreneurs to invest and focus on these formats of businesses.

RK: What are the future plans of the company in terms of expansion through franchising?

RS: We have plans to open 300 gameplexes by the end of this fiscal year. This expansion will comprise of 90 per cent franchised outlets and rest 10 per cent company-owned gameplexes.

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