Siddharth Nayyar – AFK Gaming – Growing esports in India

Esports in India isn’t as developed, nor as popular, as the industry is in regions such as North America and Europe, but it’s on the rise. AFK Gaming, an Asia-focused esports platform, is one of the contributing factors.

Because of this, we reached out to Siddharth Nayyar, Co-Founder of AFK Gaming to discuss the Indian esports scene and how his company is involved in its growth – as well as its new-found partnership with top-tier organisation OpTic Gaming.

Esports Insider: First of all, please introduce yourself, AFK Gaming, and how you found yourself in your current position?

Siddharth Nayyar
Siddharth Nayyar, AFK Gaming

Siddharth Nayyar: I am one of the co-founders of AFK Gaming and manage the Client Services division. I come from a background in professional gaming as well as marketing and brand management. Prior to AFK Gaming, I was a communications manager at Cisco Systems followed by a marketing manager at BenQ ZOWIE. I enjoy Counter-Strike with my friends and colleagues, and indie games when I’m riding solo.

AFK Gaming is an esports content platform that focuses on Asian content for a global audience. AFK started off as a passion project back in 2012, founded by Nishant ‘ClouDx’ Patel and later joined in by Rakesh ‘Chief’ Ramchandran. I was the last one to the party in 2016. A company that started off with a one-man one-room set up has now grown to 19 employees and 2 offices, and a whole long list of partners, clients and well-wishers.

Honestly, I feel it was just honest and passionate love for esports and a little understanding of how not to be financial idiots that led us to where we are today, and will hopefully continue to drive us in the years to come. I hope that answers your question.

ESI: Is AFK Gaming looking to expand beyond Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with a view of becoming the one-stop shop for all things Indian esports?

Siddharth: Yes, post our round of investment last year, we plan to expand into 1 new esports title by end of this year. We are trying not to bite more than we can chew and establish ourselves in CSGO and Dota before taking on new titles.

“The world is far ahead of us in the race already

While I feel we have established ourselves in India as the go-to content portal for these games, we are now also looking to create content for the under-served Asian region for a global audience.

ESI: Do you think the size of esports in India is a result of a lack of willingness from gamers or a lack of exposure, promotion, and investment in the industry?

Siddharth: It’s growing at a decent rate, but it’s still far behind regions such as Europe and North America. I can confirm it’s not due to the lack of willingness from gamers. I would, however, attribute a part of this slow growth to the sub-par infrastructure in India during the initial years of the global esports boom.

When the west was scrimming and practising against the best in the region, Indians were subjected to playing amongst themselves, which could only foster so much growth. Now that we’ve fixed the infrastructure, we’re growing quite rapidly with international brands, teams and investors looking at the region, but the world is far ahead of us in the race already. We’ll get there, I’m sure of it.

ESI: What do you believe the main challenges for esports growth in India to be? Is the lack of highspeed internet the biggest problem?

Siddharth: The lack of infrastructure was a major deterrent for Indian esports for a very long time. Internet speeds were below average, and electricity was a problem for many parts of the nation. The situation has drastically improved in the recent past, however.

“It is also important for domestic teams to step up and give the international teams a run for their money

Cities such as Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai offer high-speed fibre connections now. In my opinion, the challenge that needs to be addressed next is the social perception of gaming and esports.

ESI: Do you think the key to growing esports in India is big international organisations like OpTic Gaming investing in the scene and giving competitors a platform, or homegrown organisations rising up? Or is it a combination of the two?

Siddharth: I think it’s a combination of the two. Like I mentioned earlier, the social perception around the industry will definitely change for the better if we have international organizations such as OpTic recognizing the potential in India and providing it with the opportunity and financial support it needs.

Having said that, it is also important for domestic teams to step up and give the international teams a run for their money. This is what, in my opinion, will make Indian esports spectator friendly and a viable investment opportunity for endemic and non-endemic brands.

ESI: Speaking of OpTic Gaming, how did you get involved with the North American organization in its hunt for an Indian CS:GO roster alongside SoStronk?

Siddharth: OpTic Gaming was in talks with Mr. Piyush Choudhary, a sports and gaming consultant, to introduce them to the Indian market. AFK actually got approached by Piyush to help strategize OpTic’s market entry in India, in addition to doing content for them.

“I think the rise of mobile gaming in India is inevitable

Piyush told us that OpTic was looking to pick up an Indian CSGO squad, which is when we roped in SoStronk since they are the experts in the CS domain. As a result, AFK became “Content Partners” for OpTic India and SoStronk became “Technical Partners.”

ESI: With companies such as Nazara Technologies, who are big in mobile gaming, planning to invest heavily in Indian esports, do you see mobile esports titles being the main attraction? Do you think titles such as League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have a chance of making it big? We know the aforementioned titles are steadily growing in the country.

Siddharth: I think the rise of mobile gaming in India is inevitable. India has 300 million smartphone users –that’s 300 million potential mobile gamers. For perspective, that’s almost the population of US.

You can literally see kids and adults alike playing games such as Clash Royale, Arena of Valor, Mobile Legends, PUBG, etc. everywhere you look. With companies such as Nazara, JetSynthesis and Tencent evaluating investment opportunities in the country, it would be foolish to deny the mobile gaming revolution we are poised for.