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'Profit-making runs in my genes'

Last updated on: October 31, 2007 18:31 IST
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Right from his school days Vikas Kedia would help his father run a small textiles business in Dadar, central Mumbai. Despite the small scale, Vikas and his father would pride themselves for being one of the most profitably-run companies in that line of business.

This stint as an aide to his father taught Vikas a lesson in making profits even out of a small business.

Today Vikas runs and manages a 100 per cent owned gaming company, MobiTrail, out of a 450 sq ft office in Matunga, Mumbai. The enterprise, which he began with only two programmers and a designer, started making operating profits in the very first year of its existence.

"I guess it runs in my genes," says the 27-year-old Vikas who did his BE in electronics ? "I was good in maths and science and not so good in languages" -- from Shah and Anchor Engineering College, Chembur.

"In college," he reminisces, "when my friends discussed what company they wanted to work in, I would be dreaming about how I would start on my own."

Vikas always wanted to be an entrepreneur and now that he has succeeded in becoming one -- albeit a small one by his own admission -- he believes that only the sky's the limit for him and his company.

Proof? With just 10 industry professionals with seven to 10 years of experience he will cut revenues of Rs 5 crore in the next two years. That is, Rs 50 lakhs (Rs 5 million) per employee.

On top of this, MobiTrail will dish out four mobile games every month "making MobiTrail a substantial international player in the mobile gaming industry."

In an e-mail interview with rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore, Vikas spoke about his company's vision and the spirit of entrepreneurship.

How old were you when you started MobiTrail? Was it started by you alone or by a team? Tell us how you got MobiTrail going and the journey from then till now.

After completing a BE (Electronics) from Mumbai, I began my professional career with Mobile2Win, a leading player in the Mobile-Commerce space.

It was there that I picked up the confidence and know-how of gaming. As I began working I got involved with my work and decided at a particular stage that it was time for me to fulfill my childhood dream of being an entrepreneur. Never once did I have a doubt on what industry I wanted to get into. I knew it had to be gaming.

I did the basic spade work and took the leap once I got the relevant knowledge and experience of the mobile industry.

I was 25 years old when I started MobiTrail as my venture. It started with two programmers and a designer. The present team strength of 10 is highly experienced industry professionals with seven to 10 years.

I would say the business model is like that of any other new media business, the mantra being -- "the biggest risk is of not taking any risk."

We started working since July 2006. It's been a year and 4 months since inception. It has been an awesome journey and each day we are more confident of our products and services. In the first year itself we are able to break even with operating profits. I guess it runs in my genes.

Was games a hobby from quite early?

I've been passionate about games since childhood. I've played games on every platform from Atari to the PC. Currently, my favourite platform is obviously mobile.

Being the person I am, I enjoy soft music both classical and Western. I prefer to interact with people who are close to me and with people with whom my wavelength matches. Sports too interest me; a single cricket match is enough to keep me engaged and energetic. A single chess game would keep me engaged for hours.

I always felt that there was a sharp entrepreneurial spirit in me. As a student, when my friends discussed what company they wanted to work in, I would be dreaming about how I would start on my own.

How would you define MobiTrail's business model and who are your clients and competitors worldwide?

MobiTrail is focused on development and distribution of generic games and games based on brand marketing solutions catering to the fast expanding market of games for the casual gamer.

MobiTrail's business model is based on providing:

~ Mobile games for leading consumer brands: Customised games developed and sold to consumer brands directly and through tie ups with resellers and agencies. These games are packaged within a complete mobile marketing solution provided to the brands.

~ Direct to consumer games: These are distributed through commercial arrangements with content aggregators, resellers and direct mobile operator tie-ups.

~ Web-based games and interactive solutions: These are directly projected and created for brands and online gaming portals.

In the next 12 months MobiTrail wishes to release over 50 games on the mobile platform including games with advanced features like multiplayer and bluetooth. The games portfolio will grow by four to five new games every month, making MobiTrail a substantial international player in the mobile gaming industry.

Zapak.com, Hungama Mobile, Games2Win, Mobile2Win, Arena Mobile, Nazara Technologies, Reliance Communications, Koffeebreak Pictures are some of our regular clients.

What are the fundamental principles that guide MobiTrail and what are your future plans?

I would say, the main objective behind MobiTrail is to deliver high quality gaming content to anyone and everyone who likes playing games and concurrently build a lucrative and innovative channel for brands to promote themselves to a potentially wide audience. (Most of us love playing games, just that most aren't exposed to gaming).

The few things I believe that are fundamental to achieving this are:

Quality: I think the time has passed when one could create a company of any value by playing second fiddle to what's done in the west in terms of quality. If we are to compete on a global scale no matter how modest the beginnings, quality of content has to be at least as good if not better than what's offered in the developed markets. Any compromise in this area is sure to hurt in the long run.

Innovation: I believe that the current boom will go bust if we don't think innovation -- it's absolutely essential. Today the world sees us as a lucrative economy chiefly because of the cost-effectiveness we provide.

When the cost advantage starts to wear off, which it will one day, it is our ability to innovate and deliver those innovations effectively that will sustain and further the economic success story. We constantly try to push the existing technologies to the limit, try to be amongst the first ones to try out new technologies. Innovation in our approach (concept, execution, technology and resource management) finally reflects in our offerings.

Access: We try and make our products as accessible as possible to a wide audience. We make sure that our games run on a wide range of handsets and are easily available. Special focus is put on making them more user-friendly.

Integration: Integrating content across media is vital to us -- the user should be able to enjoy the experience on mobile as well as the internet. This also makes it a more complete solution for advertisers to promote their brands.

Value Creation: Creating value for the end user as well as the marketer is what I consider the most fundamental principle. No successful enterprise can be built without the foundation of value creation.

We try to create value for the end user by offering him an entertaining product easily accessible across media. The same is done for the marketer by offering him a well rounded channel.

My dream is to grow MobiTrail to that pinnacle of success where people associate our brand synonymously with anything and everything in the gaming space.

What kind of gaming products are you planning to launch in the Indian market in the near future in the mobile and online space? Tell us also about various gaming products that you offer.

We are creating products with a topical sense and addictive game play to keep the user hooked and create a memorable experience; a product that goes beyond imagination and has great replay value. A few examples from the existing MobiTrail catalogue are:

~ My Friend Ganesha -- A game based on a Bollywood movie offering an interactive extension to the story of the movie and is targeted at kids.

~ Season's Smiley -- The game offers a very addictive game play and is themed with the Christmas season in mind.

~ Battle Line Okinawa -- An action packed historical shooter where the player has to shoot down on coming enemy planes.

Apart from these we have developed many games ranging every genre from racing to strategy.

What are your responsibilities as the founder member of MobiTrail?

I have been totally involved with MobiTrail from its inception to its growth as a comprehensive mobile content provider. A new enterprise is like a new-born baby and requires unflinching attention and nurture. Everything from team-building to ensuring that the office-space stays clean has to be taken care of by the founder.

~Leading a team to develop innovative mobile solutions and products.

~Commercial discussions with key accounts and partners.

~Overall responsibilities of the production team with respect to the execution of individual products.

~The day-to-day operational activities of MobiTrail.

~Interfacing with the clients for the purpose of business development.

~Content management activities on the website and development of new products.

~R&D to generate familiarity with emerging device and infrastructure technology platform and development tools.

~Keeping the morale of the staff high (often overlooked but very important).

What is your revenue model and how much did the company earn in profits in 2006-07? What does 2007-08 have in store for MobiTrail?

Presently the major revenue stream is through direct to consumer games marketed to and distributed through the following channels:

Network operators
Game aggregators
Media portals
Mobile retailers

We expect to have revenues of Rs 5 crore in the next two years with employee strength of just 10 people.

Any advice to budding entrepreneurs in India on how they should go about nurturing their start ups?

I am bad at giving advice. I can share what I have learnt from my experience and will be glad if people can benefit from it in their respective entrepreneurial initiatives.

This is what I learnt?

~ Dream big! Once you take the plunge, you'll be surprised to realise that it is not as difficult as you thought it to be. It all starts with that big dream followed by that big idea.

~ You will meet naysayers throughout your journey. Hear them out. At times negativity hides a valuable advice or two. You'll learn what not to do rather than what to from them and you can utilise this to prove them wrong. Don't let them dishearten you.

~ Conviction is the young entrepreneur's biggest weapon as well as her/his best defense. You cannot convince others and take them along if you are not convinced. At times, when everything else would seem to desert you, your conviction would be your best bet to see you through.

~ Vision is vital. Successful entrepreneurship is all about turning trends to your favor.

~ You are only as good as your team is. Hire competent people who complement your skills rather than just augment them, keep them happy. They are the key to your masterpiece.

What are your dreams or ambitions?

Well personally if I am able to reach a level in life where my parents can tell the world with pride, that Vikas is our son, I believe I would have achieved it all. Being the kind of person I am, there is nothing more important on my personal front than bringing a smile on my parent's face.

Professionally, my dream is to see MobiTrail become synonymous with anything and everything in mobile gaming and beyond.

For people it is mobile games. For me it's magic games. I want to show people where the magic lies.

Advantages and disadvantages of being a young entrepreneur?

Every coin comes with two sides and everyday has its share of light and darkness. Likewise, being a young entrepreneur comes with its share of ups and downs.

The upsides are many -- freedom of expression, doing things at your pace, and much more.

The downsides however are that you are responsible not only for yours but others' acts too. Any failure on your part doesn't stay limited to you. Then there is a sense of uncertainty that every young entrepreneur has to go through.

But a good entrepreneur sees this as positive and considers the immense responsibility to be one of the driving forces of success.

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