Plenty for online gaming industry to cheer about in India, says Coda APAC MD

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Mr. Yash Srivastava, MD (APAC), Coda Payments


  1. Tell us about Coda’s journey since its inception and the trajectory so far? Could you give us an insight into the services offered by Coda and the business model?

Conceptualised and successfully launched in Southeast Asia, which we thought was the ideal market on seeing the increased propensity to spend on gaming,

Coda established itself as a leading player in the gaming industry, offering alternative payment methods and third-party app monetisation. What drove our success in those early years was the options we were offering to gaming publishers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC). Since the legacy app stores restricted in-app transactions through credit cards, these companies had found themselves unable to take their region-specific products to almost three-fourths of the population, since credit card penetration in the region was between 5% and 25%. But by providing both the publishers and the gamers with a full stack of digital payment options – wallets, instant bank transfers and UPI – we enabled the expansion of these companies’ markets. Once successful in Southeast Asia, we expanded our footprint, venturing into South Asia, the Middle-East, and subsequently Europe. Today, we are operating in 60 countries, boasting global partnerships with 23 of the 52 top gaming publishers including Electronic Arts, Garena, and Riot Games, among others.

Besides making it much easier for gamers to transact on apps, Coda played a major role in augmenting publishers’ revenue. Where Apple and Google took around 15% to 30% of the revenue for every purchase made on their platforms, Coda’s model ensured that the publisher received the entirety of the revenue, claiming no percentage in the transaction. This model, coupled with our global presence, prompted a large number of publishers to partner with us. This meant that publishers, the world over, could, by tying up with us, expand their reach across 60 countries.

On the financial front, we started with just USD 5 million in funding initially, but managed to turn profitable very quickly. Of the total USD 715 million we have received in funding, USD 690 million came through only last year, with marquee investors in the Fintech space such as Smash Capital, Apis Growth Firm II, Insight Partners, and the Singapore-based GIC Sovereign Wealth Fund backing us.

  1. With MeitY being appointed as the nodal agency for online gaming, what is the clarity you would seek in the regulatory framework?

The government’s decision to appoint a nodal agency for online gaming is actually in alignment with the industry’s own objective to create a safe and responsible ecosystem. By all accounts, India is now home to 500 million gamers, and a legal framework would ensure accountability in the ecosystem, while also protecting the industry stakeholders from getting constantly entangled in lawsuits, which would allow the sector to focus entirely on growth. Players in the online gaming sector have been looking to the government for some years now to put in place a mechanism that would save stakeholders from having to worry about negotiating the legal landscape. What we are really hoping MeitY spells out clearly in the forthcoming policy is the distinction between games involving real money, online gambling games, and eSports that are played for entertainment and those that are skill-based. The framework will help render the sector’s operations transparent. The draft rules have also hinted at MeitY’s interests in building safeguards to prevent gamers from sustaining huge losses, in addition to tackling addictive habits, objectives we are delighted to hear about. The decision to come out with a regulatory policy is a huge step taken by the government, which has explicitly expressed its desire to see the continued growth of the online gaming industry.

  1. How is the gaming sector in India shaping up, given the multiple conversations happening in the industry on the need for clarity between skill-based games to fantasy sports to real money games?

In India, this sector is cornered by online games involving real money, which may include ‘outcome-based’ games and even gambling. Games involving a players’ skills, and those played purely for entertainment, are yet to see the kind of significant growth the stakeholders hope for. The lack of a clearly defined distinction between the many types of games has created an uncertain environment for the publishers, particularly those in the eSports domain. Notwithstanding these minor issues, we are certainly buoyant about the prospects of the online gaming space in India, seeing as how it added 24 million paid users last year – the largest volume of paid gamers in the world.

  1. How have UPI and alternate payment methods unlocked the opportunities for publishers in the gaming sector?

There is no question about the edge that India’s digital payment infrastructure lends to the online gaming industry. The government’s push for online transactions and the growth of digital payment companies, and demonetisation too, have all contributed to a large number of people taking to these alternative payment services. Google and Apple, the largest tech companies, were largely tailoring their services to suit the audience in the Western markets, where credit cards were the predominant mode for payment. But that was not the case in India. The ready availability of an ecosystem that encouraged diversification of transactions in the virtual space helped many publishers penetrate the market. The ease, along with access, of using UPI, or making instant bank transfers or opting for payment through digital wallets meant that APAC and Indian gaming publishers could take their products to the vast Indian market, and not worry about low credit card penetration.

  1. How do you think 5G will act as a catalyst to boost the online gaming sector?

The rollout of 5G technology is likely to affect a large-scale metamorphosis, impacting all industries engaged directly or tangentially with the world of communications. Sectors as diverse as healthcare and agriculture, from Fintech to education, and, of course, the online gaming sector are likely to see accelerated growth, with even the remotest places getting access to hyper-fast internet. India already has incredible smartphone penetration, and 5G will only take this further. As far as the online gaming sector is concerned, the next iteration in its growth cycle will invariably entail securing a larger share of the audience in tier-two cities, small towns, and smaller urban centres, all of which are slated to be integrated into the digital space. Also, the promise of 5G technology to enable access to sophisticated apps and games even to modest smartphones will democratise the market, enlarging the potential pool of gamers. The introduction of 5G technology is also expected to enhance gaming experience, with augmented and virtual reality slated to see advancements, while cloud-based gaming too will get a fillip.

  1. Please share your business plans for the future in India?

India is leading the world in the number of downloads. Then, the democratisation in access to data, and the role played by Jio in enabling this merits a mention, the affordability of smartphones and its widespread penetration, the plethora of tech-enabled payment services – the Indian digital space has undergone many enabling revolutions. All these factors, combined, have created an environment conducive to ensuring the online gaming industry’s seamless growth. India is already the second largest market for the industry. About 10% of Coda’s global staff is based out of India, with the staff engaged in responsibilities ranging from customer service, engineering, and other operations. With the government reaffirming its support to boost digital infrastructure across the board, besides its stated objectives to give a leg-up to digital learning initiatives, there is a huge reservoir of talent that India has to offer, which we can tap into. At the moment, app-based business in India is valued at USD 180 billion, of which Coda has a 1% to 2% share in. Factoring in a consistent 30% Compound Annual Growth Rate, we can expect the app-based business in the country to touch USD 350 billion by 2025, when we expect to see our market share grow to 5% or 10%. Seeing as how the government is invested in the growth of the online gaming space in the country, there is much reason for companies like ours to be optimistic about our future prospects.


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