A few months ago, the world was enamoured by Pokémon Go. The mobile game phenomenon that blends the real world with the virtual one caught everyone’s fancy, making the creator a name to reckon with. As Pokémon Go downloads shot through the roof, several publications got hold of its creator, John Hanke for a sensational story on overnight success.
But, it turned out that the success of Pokémon Go wasn’t an overnight one, it took 20 years of hardcore work. The entrepreneur has had several years of experience with online games and with mapping programs. John Hanke took 20 years to become popular in the world of mobile game development, but there are plenty more names that remain unrecognized.
Vaibhav Chavan, the name may not ring a bell, yet. He is an Indian app entrepreneur running his mobile game studio, aptly named “Underdogs gaming studio” at just 26 years of age. Born to middle-class parents in the suburbs of Mumbai, growing up in the era when the industry had just scratched the surface of the mobile gaming iceberg, Vaibhav had a tough time convincing his parents about his love for mobile gaming.
The engineer needed to support his family, and so worked at many firms like IndiaGames, Games2Win and Hungama. Despite multiple lay-offs in his career due to the recession, and not making it at IT company interviews, his love for mobile gaming kept him alive. This underdog had planned to start his own company at 26, and the universe could do nothing but conspire in his dream.
The journey from a 4 x 4 feet boxed office to a swanky new commercial business space with a team has been marked with many milestones: their game Skatelander was recognized globally and them became the only Indian independent game development studio to win an international publisher deal.
“A boxing match isn’t fun when there are two champions going at it, it gets interesting when there is one champion, and the other is a puny little guy from the streets who has the heart and the passion to win,” Vaibhav describes the industry.
“When the match starts, everyone cheers for the champion because they believe that the champion is going to win, but inside they hope that the underdog wins,” he sums up about playing the underdog.
Vaibhav’s story, “Adventures of an Underdog” is part of App chronicles, a first of its kind short film series that brings to the fore, the untold stories of India’s app entrepreneurs, conceptualized by app monetization platform VMAX.
The exclusive short film series celebrates the early milestones of India’s app entrepreneurs on their journey towards success. “Bhai-Nocular Vision” is the story of two brothers, Pavan and Vijay Doddavala who built their own app startup, Outthinking. Today, the startup can boast of being one of India’s biggest photo-editing app publishers with over 170 million downloads.
“Today, the Indian app ecosystem is in a rapid growth phase. However, it is not just a few chosen top apps that are responsible for making India’s app ecosystem as big as it is. Thousands of apps, made by many highly enterprising and ambitious, yet lesser known independent app entrepreneurs are the driving force behind this growth.
Since we were aware about and understood the success stories of several app entrepreneurs in India, we instantly felt a connect with their individual journeys,” Pranab Punj, Vice President, Global Marketing, VMAX shared with Lighthouse Insights.
“As the leading app monetization platform in India and Southeast Asia, we not only believe in focusing on the transactional aspect of app monetization but we are committed towards the overall growth of the Indian app ecosystem. We felt that the stories of their struggles and making it on their own, are often drowned in all the noise and it was time the world heard their stories,” he said about the formulation of App Chronicles.
App Chronicles Season 1 has been released with five films, each weaving a powerful story of passion and a journey of numerous ups and downs. However, the Indian app ecosystem is the handiwork of several app entrepreneurs, so why only choose these five. Did VMAX follow a certain criteria to select these stories?
“Once we had frozen on the concept of developing the App Chronicles short film series, we spent several months researching and interviewing several app entrepreneurs across the country. All these app developers achieved success only on one key pillar and that is passion. They achieved success without any huge financial backing or support from the app development ecosystem,” Punj highlighted.
“They are all self-made and self-driven app entrepreneurs who have dedicated their time and effort into making their dreams come true against all odds.”
Furthermore, he shared that documenting each app entrepreneur’s personal journey, challenges faced along the way and milestones that they had achieved, was the most interesting part of this journey.
App Chronicles has been created by a small team of 5 people. Ramendra Vashishth, screenwriter and dialogue writer of the award-winning movie Mary Kom helped them write, direct and produce these films. “Ramendra fit our criteria perfectly, as we needed a filmmaker who understood our mission as well as the message we were trying to convey through these moving app developer stories,” he shared.
Indeed, each of the stories have been told in a relatable way so as to find an instant connect with the audience. VMAX considered multiple storytelling formats. With each round of discussion, it felt the next storytelling format would be the best fit, only to realize that a good mix of various formats would be needed for these films to come to life.
“We wanted the stories to bring out the real individuals behind the companies via emotions like humour, inspiration and struggle.”
‘Salaam-E-Risk’, the third film in the App Chronicles series, is the story of Narasimha Reddy, a farmer’s son from Andhra Pradesh who believed that ‘if people can build farms on their mobile phones, why can’t a farmer’s son build apps for mobile.’ Today he has set up Dumadu Games that has many titles to its name and bragging rights to millions of game downloads. The five minute film has been told in an interestingly funny and inspiring manner.
The fourth in the series, ‘Gaming Bachchon ka khel nahin’ is the story of Nikhil Malankar and Prasad Kajarekar who at 19, went on to establish their own mobile game development studio GameEon. At 14, they dreamt about building their own mobile game, when other boys of their age were into acquiring the next popular gaming title in the market!
VMAX is looking to bond with the new generation of app developers and students, as such it needed to be smart with its distribution strategy. The series was launched on its own digital assets – the VMAX Facebook page and YouTube channel. “Our aim was to create virality for each of our films, for it to reach our target audience in the way they prefer. To achieve this we planned to launch and primarily distribute our films on own owned media platforms.”
As the world gets more and more app-driven with brands being built on a single app, banking transactions, social networking, dating, gaming and entertainment, all happening through apps, so also is the world of app monetization. The scope for minting money from your apps has widened, which is good news for Indian app entrepreneurs.
A recent Google report does highlight the need for smart app monetization models. Titled “Mobile App Marketing Insights: Asia report”, that surveyed 10,000 smartphone users and their app behaviour across 10 Asian countries, it finds significant insights about gaming apps and a user’s propensity to pay.
The report found that most users consume free content in Asia while 20% of the respondents pay subscription or make one-off payments on apps. Gaming apps is the most popular category of apps installed and uninstalled by respondents surveyed in Asia. Further, it found that gamers are more comfortable making in-app payments.
And here is where VMAX fits like a glove for India’s app makers. The leading app monetization platform in India and Southeast Asia with its range of ad types, and the promise of maximum yield, has gone out of its way to bond with the makers of the Indian app ecosystem. App Chronicles has been made with passion, about people with passion, for people who want to build on their passion, armed with impactful storytelling.
For VMAX, App Chronicles is an important CSR initiative; there was no monetary transaction involved with any of the app entrepreneur partners. The company is in the initial stages of developing Season 2, it’s open to entries from app entrepreneurs who wish to submit their personal stories, and currently is in the interviewing stage.