Bangalore Startups’ AMA with Anshumani Ruddra, Studio Head of Tiny Mogul Games


Anshumani Ruddra is a cross-functional team leader who is neck-deep into app and game development for the second largest mobile market in the world (and the third largest smart phone market): India. He is excited by the unique opportunity to build products and services from the ground up for a mobile ecosystem, especially in a country where the first screen for most is a mobile phone. He has successfully developed and managed large products, written books and taught students across various age groups. He is currently the Studio Head at Tiny Mogul Games

Personal Blog: http://anshumaniruddra.com/

As the Studio Head of Tiny Mogul Games, he leads a hugely talented and diverse team of developers, artists, game designers and product managers and tackling the challenge of creating market-disrupting, high quality games for the Indian market.

Q: Welcome Anshumani, Thank you for taking time to do the AMA. Can you give us a brief about your history and how you came on to working in Tiny Mogul Games? — Harsha MV

Good to be here, Harsha. Grew up playing a lot of games and reading and writing a lot. Used to design board games in summer holidays when I was in school. Started coding very early in life and loved algorithms. Post a B Tech in Chemical Engineering (I know!! — my speciality was computational fluid dynamics) I decided to take up writing full time. Wrote many books for kids — choose your own adventure style books — where the reader decides what happens next in the story. Wrote for various age groups and taught kids from the ages of 6 to 16. Continued gaming throughout my life. And then Zynga India opened up. They hired me as their first game designer when they started a studio in India. This was 2010.

Q: Wow. Did you also manage to sell any of the board games you made? These days not many people seem to be playing the real life games but sitting around and all stuck to their screens! — Harsha MV

Never published any board games. Do hope to make them someday. It's becoming a strong trend again - fairly large segment playing European board games. These were games made with friends. Lots of classic RPG variants. D&D style. I used to be the dungeon master.

Q: Most of them have a doubt that you are with Hike and does Tiny Mogul has any thing to do with the Messenger and will you also be able to give some insights on the same? — Harsha MV

We are funded by the same parent company and work very closely together. People can access our games through hike.

Q: What motivates you to come into the gaming space? — Mithun Muddan

Have always loved games. Huge potential — both in the way one can impact people and as a business opportunity. Games are integral to humanity - we learn when we play. And we continue playing throughout our lives. In this way games serve a much deeper purpose.

Q: Is there a necessity when you’re making games, that it has to be about things in a happy realm. As in, people are typically buying this because they want it and it will excite them or be a feel good sort of a thing? — Karthik Nagarajan

Games work on different parts of our brains. Pleasure centres, fear centres, etc. Truly immersive games can transport you to a different realm.

Q: Whats you view on Net Neutrality and would you support your apps being listed on Airtel Zero? — Keshav

As far as net neutrality is concerned — we are all for it. It affects us just like it affects every other start up in the country.

Q: Airtel Zero is a controversial topic right now and your founder has come out in support of it. Is this related to your relationship with Airtel? — Kiran Jonnalagadda

Anshumani chose not to answer!

Q: What about zero rating?, considering Airtel’s fishing for compliments right now, and you’re funded by them. Has Airtel asked you to say nice things about Airtel Zero?— Kiran Jonnalagadda

Anshumani chose not to answer!

Q: How do you brainstorm for any gaming project and what are the stages? — Mithun Muddan

Brainstorming depends on what the bigger strategy is for the company. We are focused on developing games for the Indian market. This means that we are making games for people who might be playing their first game on their very first smartphone device. This represents a huge challenge.

Q: Does gaming startups hit big numbers with Indian consumers? If yes how much is the split up - India & the rest ? — Vignesh

No assumptions can be made about the target audience — good game design — casual games that people would love and which will introduce them to the wider world of games are required. So we try and marry good game design with themes we feel will work with an Indian audience.

Q: Why aren’t you guys exploiting the celebrity madness quotient in India for games? Like sort of what Kim Kardhashian did or what Katy pery is doing. Whats your take on this? Do you think this kinda stunt would work for the mobile gaming market in India? — Karthik Nagarajan

I don’t think it is a stunt. The Kim game is huge — both in terms of revenue and user base. I am not sure if we will make a game like that. Time will tell ☺

Q: What is your tech team and stack like? Can you give us a brief of the games you have released as on date?— Melvin

We are under 40 people, split across developers, artists, QAs, PMs and designers. Our focus is Android - the most dominant system in India. This represents a challenge due to fragmentations. We use Cocos2d-x and Unity and have our own gaming sdk (for various services - including analytics, etc). Released 13 games so far. One of our earliest games Shiva: The Time Bender was one of the first Indian made games to be featured by Google across the globe. Dadi vs Jellies won game of the year at GDC last year.

Q: Am I correct to assume your SDK’s are not open source? — Aditya Menon

Our SDK at the moment is for internal consumption and works on our own stack but we do intend to use it once we start publishing 3rd party games.

Q: How many people have downloaded the games? and what is the kind of AD revenues do you guys look at? I remember Games2Win having around $3000/day in AD revenue. Are you guys bigger than that? — Harsha MV

We are not diving into ads on our games yet. Have run a few experiments with video ads but not banner ads.

Q. In continuation of games making an association with Bollywood like what Chennai express did, What is your take on this? Do you think you would be trying to work with a big production house? — Ananth Nagaraj

Not at the moment.

Q: Are you guys monetising at the moment? — Harsha MV

We are — through in app purchases. Cannot discuss numbers☺

Q: I’ve heard that Chinese gamers keep on buying extra lives and other in-app purchases just to keep playing (and winning); Indians don’t prefer in-app purchases but expect the game to be very immersive. Can you share your observations about what Indian gamers expect from games in contrast to what the rest of the world (too general, I know) expects? — Melvin

Don’t agree. Indian gamers are not that different from global players. People would pay if a few things happened: (1) people could make payments without credit cards — perhaps carrier billing, digital wallets, etc (2) the minimum payment needs to go down to INR 5 to 10 as opposed to 50. These things require changes from Google Play (which doesn't support carrier billing in India yet). This will open the market in a big way and game revenues would drastically go up.

Q: Where do you want to see your company in the next two years in terms of the Indian gaming market place? And how big do you think the whole market would be by then? — Ananth Nagaraj

We are hoping that we become the makers of the first home grown monster hit in India. Games are doing well on the various app stores. But they aren't beating regular apps in India. Would love to see our games in the top 10 of apps (and not just games). That hasn't happened yet. But fingers crossed.

Q: What’s the scene been like for indie game dev studios in India? — Abhinav Chhikara

Never been better. Seeing a huge number of indies emerge — making phenomenal games that are being recognised at international levels.

Q: You said you are focusing only on android phones, at the moment. Aren’t there android-based gaming consoles coming up, those that can be plugged into tv. And, then nvidia shield. What are your plans/perspective on those? — Melvin

Too niche. A lot of people have smart phones. Very few people have smart tvs.

Q: With reliance Jio trying to change the market place for smart phones and they are trying to sell 4g phones at sub 8k - 10k. Do you think you should try and pre enable these phones with your games? — Ananth Nagaraj

I am not sure how well pre enabled apps do on phones. Would be interesting to see those numbers. We haven’t done it yet — but if the activation numbers are good — then why not.

Q: Isn’t operating in niche markets good as you can gain dominance if you are the first at the scene? — Aditya Menon

Sure. But first time smart phone users are still a niche in India. A large-ish niche ☺

Q: I’ve heard time and again about merging education and gaming, or education through gaming. Have you ever tried/thought about exploring that area? — Melvin

Not really. Though a lot of people preparing for the IAS seem to be playing our quiz app Quiz Adda☺(It has topics like Indian History and Mythology).

Q: Do you think first time smart phone users would be up for in app purchases? Isn't that like expecting them to take two big steps? — Shree Harsha

Talk to an auto guy, or a cab driver. You’ll realize that they have smartphones. They pay about INR 200 for monthly calls, etc. They don’t usually have data. But they pay a local electronics store INR 50–100 a month to get an SD card loaded with movies, songs and games. They want to pay for what they consume. They just don’t have the infrastructure. Carrier billing and mobile wallets could solve that.

Q: Is there any plan for developer apis? — Pranay Airan

Definitely in the future. We want to grow the game developer community.

Q: Give a shoutout if you guys are hiring! — Karthik Nagarajan

In case anyone wants to apply or refer friends (we are solving some phenomenal problems for the Indian market and making very solid products): http://get.hike.in/career.html

That brought our AMA with Anshumani to a close!

Final words from Anshumani: Thanks Guys, that was hectic and fun. I barely had time to read and respond☺

We want to thank Anshumani for taking the time to chat with us!

We’ve set up a Twitter handle — @blr_startups. We’ll be tweeting updates and such out there.

If you are interested in the startup ecosystem and would like to network with fellow tech founders join the Slack group if you haven’t already! Just fill out this form. If you have already filled the form, you would have received an invite. Contact @kar2905 or @harshamv if you have any issues. This AMA was summarised by @kartikluke and @karthik2502.

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