Interview with Shan Kadavil, Country Manager Zynga

Even as Facebook has been in news for the $50bn valuation by Goldman Sachs, Zynga has quitely but steadily leading its own growth story. The company behind super success games such as Farmville and Cityville is said to to be valued at $10 bn and has given traditional gaming and entertainment companies a run for their money.

We recently spoke with Shan Kadavil, Country Manager, Zynga India about gaming market dynamics in India, their key priorities, oppportunities for brands for virtual placement and plans for localised content.

Zynga recently set up its largest development centre outside US in Bangalore? What are top 3 priorities for Zynga from its operations in India?

The top 3 priorities for Zynga in India are:

Strong growth – India has grown much faster than our initial prediction. To get super talent on board is necessary to sustain that growth. Currently we are at 100 people and we expect to more than double the head count before the end of the year. So its our number one priority. India’s explosive growth – Second priority is to take advantage of India’s explosive growth when it comes to social media. Just to put it into context, couple years back when we saw the Indian market, it has exceeded all the projections. Currently there are more than 20 million users in India on Facebook and 4.5 million active users playing Zynga games. That’s a huge number. Focusing on user love – We believe we as an organisation have had the support as a social gaming company because of fun and social elements behind our games. We will continue to reinforce that and localise it further for the Indian folks. In December we organised a community event where we had a gathering of all of our passionate players. At this event we launched Zynga India’s first fan club in India. Here people can have fun, see early previews of games, provide suggestions and also continue to help us in making great games. They can also network with other gamers from online to offline world. At this event we also got the feedback that credit cards are difficult to use in India and introduced retail cards for the Indian market.

What are the top 3 trends in social gaming in India? How is the Indian market different from the US market?

Social is becoming mainstream – India has got a more younger crowd than a traditional user base, which is also changing very rapidly. So the penetration of social is now also getting into the more mainstream community. We could see the transition happening, as gaming which is considered a male dominated category, as many women (around 35 years) had come to attend the event we had in December. Also some of them were from other cities as well which showed how passionate they were about gaming. This regained our optimism that the mainstream community is adopting both social and social gaming in India. We know 30% of current base of gamers are women which shows the diversity of gaming in the present scenario. Social is becoming an extension of entertainment – During the 1960′s, radio was the mass market entertainment. Later in 1980′s it got replaced by TV and later as time went on, it came interactive TV and other things. We belive social gaming is extension to the entertainment and it is going to be a mass market phenomenon. It would be a substitute to other means of entertainment. Responses from smaller towns – In India we see a lot of responses coming from traditional audience from Tier 1 cities which is slowly shifting to Tier 2 cities as well. We have a lot of users for Mafia Wars in Ludhiana, Nagpur etc. which is probably due to the fact that Internet accessibility is going to smaller towns now. So social gaming as a concept is not confined to metro cities only but shifting to smaller towns as well.

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