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From Tech Management to Gamineazy
By Hitesh Shetty

The booming IT-BPO Sector has given many men and women the opportunity, finances and inspiration to give form to their great ideas.  Meet Navin Rajendran who had a very successful stint as at a number of blue chip tech giants like Wipro and ITC Infotech before completing an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad.  These days he is the Founder and CEO of Gamineazy Entertainment Private Limited.

His business partner Chirag has a Bachelor of Engineering with specialization in Computer Science and Engineering. He completed engineering in 1997 and started his career at Siemens Networks in Bangalore as an Application Developer. As years progressed, Chirag went from being an app developer in Siemens and GE to Team Lead in Wipro Technologies to Program Manager in KLA-Tencor. Chirag ended his very successful technical career in Cisco systems as a Senior Project Manager. Along the way, he did an MBA from IGNOU.


Techgoss (TG): Tell us about your educational qualifications? Tell us about your Techie background?
Navin: I completed my B.E. in Electronics and Communication in 1997 from Bangalore Institute of Technology. Subsequently, after over 12 years of the Indian IT industry, working for companies like CGI, Wipro and ITC Infotech and playing various roles from engineer to manager working across geographies/ countries, I took a break from my career in 2010 to pursue an MBA at IIM, Ahmedabad.


TG: How and when did you get interested in gaming? What are the joys of gaming to you as compared to your other activities?
Navin: I’ve been a gamer for over 25 years and have enjoyed playing on platforms ranging from micro-computers like ZX81 (with a mere 4K memory), ZX Spectrum (48k memory) , the ever-changing PC platform – starting from the humble 286 all the way to PCs with dual-core processors and on to powerful gaming console systems. Of course, it helps to be the son of a very tech-savvy engineer, who made it easy for me to access varying technology and the games that were available at the time. My father used to upgrade his computer regularly and as PC technology evolved, so did the games, which were collectively my primary reason for being interested in computers.

Gaming has always been a great way to unwind and take a break from reality. After I started working, I began another chapter in building my own Gaming rig and tried to keep it upgraded so that I could play newer and more demanding, resource-hungry games. I’ve always been amazed of what game developers and publishers are able to achieve when sufficient computing power is made available. My current choice of gaming platform is Sony’s PlayStation3, especially motion-gaming, which has opened up a whole new world of immersive gaming entertainment that was hitherto just the stuff of dreams.


TG: How did you stumble upon the idea of starting a gaming portal 'Gamineazy'? What challenges did you face along the way?
Navin: I’ve always loved to entertain people using technology and used to treat my friends often, to audio-visual entertainment at home using mid-end surround speaker systems and projection displays for movies/ gaming. I had an inclination toward choosing gaming and/or entertainment as a potential career path after IT but I was not sure about any specific area to create a sustainable business venture. It was during my MBA at IIM, Ahmedabad that Chirag and I finalized a business model around gaming. Gamineazy Entertainment is my first venture, started with the vision that high-end gaming technology should be made accessible and affordable for the common man. 


TG: What is the future of motion gaming in India? How have the gaming patrons responded to your startup?
Navin: In the US, Europe, Australia and elsewhere, a concept called "exergaming" (part-exercise, part-gaming) is becoming very popular. In India, the concept is in its nascent stages, but the Gamineazy team is very passionate about the potential of exergaming to affect people in a positive, holistic manner, while at the same time, providing much-needed entertainment in our stressful lives.

The Gamineazy team strives to promote Gaming as a healthy life-style choice among Indians, by focusing on the "entertainment + recreation + exercise" advantage that motion-sensor technology provides. Motion gaming or Active gaming involves a level of interactivity between gamers and the game in an immersive, sensory experience that is both entertaining and healthy. Our company hopes to bring this to people in various settings and help them understand the multi-fold benefits of exergaming. We make it easy for people to access the technology and experience it first-hand through our innovative lounge/retail/event-management model.

PC gamers still form the majority in India’s Gaming community. Traditionally, the number of people opting for consoles has been less, partly due to the prohibitive costs but also due to the lack of awareness of the various benefits of owning consoles, many of them beyond gaming. As a retailer, we have seen perceptions change when we mention the non-gaming features that consoles like Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 have as well as the amazing variety of gaming experiences possible. Motion gaming has a huge potential in almost all aspects of life – be it simple pure gaming, exergaming, or simulations. We firmly believe that the potential of motion gaming is just being tapped. What we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg, not just in India but worldwide.

A common feedback that we get, from our regular Gaming lounge patrons and other store-visitors who come in for game-trading or purchases, is that the kind of gaming-related knowledge we have as a team or the variety of experience we provide is something that they do not get anywhere else. The personal touch we provide for each customer and knowing his/her likes/ dislikes makes us a special destination for casual and hardcore gamers in the community. We are grateful to have a growing appreciative fan-community and a set of regular clients who visit our store to play and/or purchase gaming merchandise. In fact, our social-media presence has been growing rapidly, as indicated by a fan base of 1350+ fans on our Facebook page. We’re striving to be a one-stop shop for any console-gaming need and given the kind of traction we have built over the last several months, we think we’re getting there!


TG: Do IT/ BPO employees constitute a sizeable number of your clients? What are the pros of gaming according to you, as often its cons are brought out to discourage the younger lots these days?
Navin: IT and BPO employees are a part of our regular customer demographics in the lounge, but the majority of our customers are still in the teens/young-adult category. We do have specific services targeted toward IT/ BPO companies, especially team-parties in the lounge and through our Integrated Gaming Facilities services, which involve the setup of high-tech, professionally managed gaming recreational facilities. Both the founders of the company have been IT managers and have personally experienced the need to identify ways to keep their teams motivated and stress-free. Regular team-outings no longer seemed to have the same effect and these were not always cost-effective. We have felt the need for something more in-house to allow a sense of fun and liveliness back into the cubicle world, a place for people to unwind, de-stress and maybe shake a few joints and get some exercise, providing a much-needed break after being slouched in front of the computers for hours on end. Gamineazy’s corporate services were created to serve this market.

We believe that the need for a fun-way to exercise is just going to be felt more acutely as the years go by, especially for kids and young adults who seem to be turning away from pastimes that involve physical activity. The challenge is to make the technology accessible and affordable, which is what Gamineazy envisions to achieve through our various service-offerings. Some of the highlights of our facilities for motion-gaming are:

- High-tech facilities for entertainment + recreation + exercise - an awesome combination!
- A great stress-reliever! A few minutes of exergaming can work wonders for energy-levels, health and overall well-being.
- Provides a very social environment for children and their parents to bond and interact with the use of easy-to-use technology.
- Allays concerns by parents that kids playing games get little or no exercise.
- Enjoyable way to get some exercise – from basic flexing of muscles/ joints to cardio-work-outs

Both the founders of the company have been IT managers and have personally experienced the need to identify ways to keep their teams motivated and stress-free. Regular team-outings no longer seemed to have the same effect and these were not always cost-effective. We have felt the need for something more in-house to allow a sense of fun and liveliness back into the cubicle world, a place for people to unwind, de-stress and maybe shake a few joints and get some exercise, providing a much-needed break after being slouched in front of the computers for hours on end. Gamineazy’s corporate services were created to serve this market.

It is quite unfortunate that the pros of gaming are not widely publicized. The cons seem to get a lot of attention though. Contrary to popular belief, recent studies have revealed that gaming does not spoil eye-sight but actually helps to improve vision and perception. Motion-gaming in particular seems to have increased the potential of gamers improving their hand-eye coordination. Having been playing games since our childhood, we know that gaming provides a wonderful way to beat stress and feel great about ourselves resulting in a lot of positive energy. Another misconception is that gaming is anti–social. Gaming can be as social as users want it to be, providing entertainment as well as exercise in a world where time is scarce and open spaces for wholesome entertainment are dwindling.

Today if we are running this startup together, it is simply because the founders bonded over gaming more than anything else. Certain games actually provide a wonderful way to solve puzzles individually, but more importantly as a team where each person has to perform a specific task in order to help his/her team mate. With the advent of motion-gaming, the sheer extent of physical activity that gaming can provide is unprecedented. Let’s face it. Parents nowadays want to their children to have more physical activity, while children want to just sit in front of the TV. Motion gaming is a wonderful way of combining both!


TG: More and more women in the world are taking to Gaming.  How would your organization try to ensure that women feel comfortable enough to come and play at your outlets?
Navin: We have taken special care to ensure that each Gamineazy outlet is seen as a family-friendly entertainment venue, ensuring that women feel safe while playing, in well-lit-areas and/or private rooms, without being disturbed by others. As part of our staffing, we also ensure that we have women on our staff fully trained to assist our female customers. There are several motion-games that generally appeal to women, especially dance games. In fact, we’ve had ladies-only parties at our lounge, involving young girls, teens and their mothers.


TG: Any other projects in the pipeline?
Navin: Gamineazy hopes to own and operate a nation-wide chain of one-stop Gaming destinations, providing classy gaming lounges with integrated retail stores, establishing a strong presence across various locations in malls and high-street areas in Bangalore and then moving on to other cities in India. We see a lot of potential in certain tier-II cities/ towns that are currently under-served with regard to entertainment options and aim to open stores/ kiosks and create innovative entertainment avenues for the residents in those areas. We are also looking to enhance and increase the reach of our integrated gaming facilities services for corporate and commercial establishments.

While we endeavour to attract angel investors and VCs, we are also striving to expand our presence inorganically by our Franchising model. Gamineazy registered on India’s leading Franchise portal called Franchiseindia.com and started to invite potential franchisees to get in touch with us. The responses have been overwhelming, with requests/ interests coming in from Tier-1 cities as well as tier-2/3 cities in India. We are currently screening the profiles and determining suitability of the proposed locations/ partners.


(5/22/2013)
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