Growing a Company in the Global Gaming and Esports Market with Rooter

Rooter, which initially began as a sports community engagement startup, shifted its focus to streaming during the pandemic. This pivot has led the company to achieve the status of India’s biggest game-streaming and esports content platform, broadcasting to a devoted following of users. Piyush Kumar, Rooter’s Founder and CEO, discusses his thoughts on the future of the company and the larger global gaming and esports market, one year after raising $25 million in a Series A round.

When and how did you identify a gap in the Indian game streaming and esports space and know there was space for innovation? 

Developed economies such as the US saw significant levels of PC adoption during the first digital wave in the 90s. By the early 2000s, many households also had access to dedicated gaming devices such as Xbox and PlayStations. India, however, followed a very different path to digitization. Very few households here had PCs and fewer still saw value in purchasing costly gaming devices. The digital shift in India, when it began in the late 2000s, almost completely leapfrogged the PC wave and jumped directly onto smartphones. Also, two things happened circa 2018 that were pivotal in driving the growth of the Indian gaming industry we see today.

The first was the entry of Jio and the data explosion that followed, which saw millions of Indians consuming casual entertainment on their smartphones. The second was the launch of mobile-centric multiplayer games such as PUBG, BGMI, and Garena’s Free Fire which became hugely popular with first-time online gamers across India. And these gamers were not only playing; they were also curating gaming content and posting it for their growing online followers across channels like Twitch and Youtube. 

But there was a big gap to address: no large game streaming player was focusing on the mobile gaming market. The challenge was more pronounced in developing countries such as India, where most gamers were accessing games on smartphones. Large streaming platforms were also less optimized for the sheer diversity in terms of language, geography, and social and economic backgrounds in markets such as India.  

We wanted to address these challenges and realized that there was a massive opportunity for innovation for an indigenously developed, device-agnostic streaming platform that focused on empowering and enabling the country’s growing base of gamers and content creators. Rooter is the culmination of that vision. 

Having led a successful $25M series A round, what advice would you give to other founders looking to scale their business? 

I would prefer to share learnings over giving advice, and my biggest learning at Rooter has been that a business cannot grow without a good product-market fit. Founders should focus on finding a white space that they are interested in addressing and then building a solution to fix it, instead of building a product and then reverse-engineering it to fit a market need. Doing so not only allows start-ups to get users onboard swiftly but also to build robust revenue and monetization channels that can help drive growth. 

When scaling the business, founders must also be honest, with themselves and their teams, about the metrics and vision they are chasing. That not only allows you to set and achieve clear short-term goals but also ensures that the growth being driven is aligned with a coherent and cohesive business strategy over the long run. 

Where are you planning to take Rooter in the next year, post securing a $25M series A round? 

Growth, as always, is one of our key focus areas, but we also want to build a stronger foundation for our future growth. Therefore, over the next 24 months, we are prioritizing better unit economics. In doing so, we are targeting to achieve profitability within the next 10-14 months. 

Where do you see the esports and global gaming industry in 5 years? 

The market for gaming, eSports, gaming content, and game streaming is already bigger than movies and music combined. In the next five years, I foresee it becoming bigger than the rest of the entertainment industry, including TV and OTT.  

There are reasons for this optimism. TV viewership is already dropping in most countries, including India, and while OTT audiences have grown substantially, in part due to the pandemic, the number of paying OTT users in the country remains low. Gaming content, eSports, and game streaming, on the other hand, continue to grow at a robust pace. YouTube, one of the most popular streaming platforms, has already outstripped Netflix in terms of almost all key metrics, including average time spent and streaming numbers. Some of the most followed and popular online personalities today are game streamers. 

India, in particular, has massive headroom for growth, both in terms of gaming and game-related streaming. There will be a large gaming audience in the country, with more and more users focusing on playing hardcore to midcore games. This move toward gaming and game streaming will also bolster the creator ecosystem in this high-growth, high-potential space, which is projected to have 10 million people creating gaming content in the next couple of years. So, yes, the future of the eSports and gaming industry, both in India and globally, looks extremely positive. 

What do you see as the most important factor that leads to innovation within the sports tech industry? 

Without a doubt, the growing internet and smartphone penetration, which has shaped and supported the consumption behavior around gaming content has played an important role in driving innovation in the industry. Smartphones are getting more powerful by the day, and high-speed internet connectivity is becoming the norm rather than the exception. The result is an explosion in data being used for entertainment in India and gaming, being one of the easiest and most engaging ways to entertain oneself, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this shift. Not only are Gametech companies developing and launching gaming IPs that Indians want to play but the continued growth in gaming content and streaming is also incentivizing platforms such as Rooter. We are committed to empowering both creators and viewers on our platform with more innovative features that can streamline and enhance their experience.

To learn more about Rooter check out their feature in Forbes and listen to Piyush Kumar’s appearance on The Indian Startup Show.