Fortnite, DOTA 2, PUBG, CS:GO, even Ludo King, along with countless other games are now staples in our lives. Gaming has become a huge part of our modern mores and this wave is not going to recede any time soon. Thanks to esports, the gaming industry is growing exponentially at 11% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) and the overall market size is expected to cross $280 billion by the year 2025. And India is going to be a major driver of this growth story. With increased internet penetration and higher expendable income, India is going to be at the heart of the esports boom. And at the helm of this change is Devesh Kabdwal, former Vice President, Media & Marketing, CobX Gaming Private Limited.
CobX Gaming owned and managed Team Signify, which competitively played DOTA 2 and CS:GO. And up until being disbanded recently, both the teams were undefeated in the country. They also managed to win numerous championships in the nation and competed at some of the highest platforms for their respective games. Devesh is a pioneer when it comes to the gaming industry. And he has come a long way. In his words, “From organizing small-college tournaments to massive international tournaments. From running a successful tier-1 esports team to helping other esports organizations run their team by sharing the knowledge we have acquired, I believe we have come a long way.
In an interview with me, Devesh spoke about his journey from a young boy who loved playing games to managing a tier-1 esports team. He gives a behind the scenes look into the esports industry in India. And more. Excerpts …
What’s your story?
I was always into outdoor games but whenever I could not play outside I used to enjoy video games as well. I got introduced to video games when I was 5, the first game that I played was Contra in 1996. Soon it was followed by other console games. In 2000, I started playing the Age of Empires which quite frankly helped me strategize and manage multiple problems simultaneously. With that my inclination towards video games grew. I started enjoying other games as well like CS 1.6, Max Payne, Prince of Persia, GTA, and Doom. By 2009, I was introduced to DOTA and played it whenever possible.
I had always wanted to work with startups to enhance my knowledge, capabilities and better understand different functions important to run a company successfully. And so I joined a company called Twyst Technologies after finishing my engineering degree where I worked for 2 and half years in different roles such as front end developer, key accounts/operations manager, business development manager.
During this period, I also helped a friend of mine to develop his esports organization where I was responsible for writing his business plan, marketing, and media plan and raise sponsorships. This esports endeavor helped me understand this industry better. I decided to form a company that could work at the grass-root level and help build the ecosystem that was missing in the country. Fast forward to 2017, I joined CobX Gaming and since then I’ve been actively involved in the esports ecosystem.
What inspired you to join esports?
After the first edition of IPL, the perspective of parents towards cricket had changed dramatically. They could see career options in it and hence were encouraging and facilitating their kids to pursue a career in cricket. This was true for my parents too.
In early 2009, I asked my parents to buy me a cricket bat which cost somewhere around 25,000 rupees. As I was playing for my college cricket team I got instant approval on that. Looking at the opportunity my elder brother asked for a graphic card upgrade which cost almost the same amount but the request was denied as my parents did not consider gaming to be optimal use of time. This incident made me realize that if it could happen to him then it must be happening to other gamers as well.
Hence, I wanted to do something which could help change the perspective of parents of gamers in the Indian gaming community. And that’s what I’ve been working towards since.
Why the stigma with esports in India?
It’s primarily because a lot of people confuse gaming to gambling and there is not enough education in Indian parents related to career options available in esports and gaming, having said that even a lot of youngsters who are nowadays engaging in esports don't really understand all of the career options available to them, especially with the rise of mobile games all people understand about esports, is to become an influencer by creating content on streaming platforms or becoming professional title-specific athletes.
What’s next for Indian Esports?
These are very exciting times for esports in India especially with the booming mobile esports market we are witnessing the numbers which point towards a bright future of the Indian esports industry. Although the game-changer would be how well content creators utilize this huge online population which goes for tournament organizers, teams and streamers.
What has been your experience with Team Signify?
I had the honor of working with the best talent in our country for both DOTA 2 and CS: GO which operated under the brand Signify both the teams were undefeated till we announced that the team will disband. All the talents working with us were very professional, competitive and individually highly skilled.
From the very beginning, our focus was to hire a bunch of talented individuals and make them play together for a team keeping aside their egos and differences in opinion, kudos to our player care and management staff who always put in constant effort to make sure the team was always working in the right direction and if at all there were differences our staff made sure that all issues were resolved and we all were working towards one goal which was our success mantra.
Do you think with things becoming mobile-first, PC based games will lose traction?
Both of the industries have different audiences with a little cross-section. Mobile gaming will grab more and more attention from both tournament organizers and professional teams as its viewership rises exponentially.
Having said that, the PC gaming market will continue its steady growth. We have seen over the years that the mobile gaming market will only be beneficial to the PC gaming market to get better numbers in viewership for similar titles, for example, a lot of people play and consume PUBG mobile content so it will also help gain viewership for content generated for PUBG PC as game mechanics for both the games are similar.
Any advice to those who want to work in esports?
Before choosing your area of expertise in esports it's wise to understand all career opportunities that the industry has to offer. Choose the option which appeals the most to you and start developing skills that are required for the job. Also, it is important to understand what kind of financial benefits your job has to offer and what is the growth rate you can expect in that career.
Devesh’s Secret to Success
Work to be a better version of yourself with each and every passing day
About the 21 series:
On the 24th of March 2020, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lock-down for 21 days to fight the pandemic that is the Coronavirus. Citizens mustn’t leave their homes unless absolutely essential. This series aims to bring to the readers 21 positive stories through this 21-day lock-down. Something to inspire them to keep at it and come back out of this horrific tragedy stronger.
If you have an inspiring story or know someone whose story the world must know, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org