South Korean gaming company Krafton, the creator of PUBG, has led a USD 48 million Series D funding round in Bengaluru-based online storytelling platform Pratilipi.
The six-year-old company’s existing backer Omidyar Network India also participated in the round, along with a host of start-up founders like Hemesh Singh and Gaurav Munjal of Unacademy, Nishith Rastogi of Locus, Sahil Barua of Delhivery, and Vidit Aatrey of Meesho. Ranjeet Pratap Singh, co-founder and CEO of Pratilipi, also chipped in.
The latest funding round takes the total capital raised by Pratilipi to USD 78.8 million. With the fresh capital, Pratilipi plans to strengthen its intellectual property acquisition and further its development across various formats, including audiobooks, podcasts, comics, web series, movies, and games. Part of the investment will be utilized for expansion in several overseas markets, the company said.
Set up in 2015 by Singh, Prashant Gupta, Sahradayi Modi, Rahul Ranjan, Sankaranarayanan Devarajan, the company is a self-publishing platform that lets writers publish their work in Indian languages and lets readers discover, read and share these stories, poems, and books. In 2019, Pratilipi landed a USD 15 million check from Qiming Venture Partners and its existing backers like Nexus Venture Partners, WEH Ventures, and Shunwei Capital. A year later, Tencent came onboard Partilipi’s cap table leading a USD 9.4 million round, just as India barred Chinese investors from pumping money into Indian companies without the government’s approval.
“Over the last 12–18 months, we have seen a lot of progress, expanding into several new formats as well as finding newer ways for our creators to be successful,” said Pratilipi’s CEO Singh.
Within the last 18 months, the startup launched two new products, Pratilipi FM and Pratilipi Comics, and acquired two companies, multilingual podcast network IVM Podcasts and smaller rival The Write Order. Subsequently, it has grown to have 370,000 and 30 million monthly active readers in 12 Indian languages.
“It has also started partnering with ecosystem partners to bring engaging, high-quality literary content to other formats such as traditional books, web series, and animation,” said Avendus Capital, a financial advisor to Pratilipi on the transaction, in a statement.
Pratilipi and Krafton will now start working on finding the Pratilipi stories that can be translated into global gaming franchises, it added.
“It is exciting to see the growth of Indian local IPs in online literature, comics, and audio platforms in Pratilipi, which is already the largest player in India in multiple categories,” said Sean Hyunil Sohn, head of Krafton’s India division. “Krafton believes in the long-term potential of local Indian IPs that can be successful not just in India but globally as well across formats including literature, comics, and gaming, and our investment in Pratilipi is another step in realizing that vision.”
Krafton seems to be taking Tencent’s approach of creating a network of content platforms to pick some of their content to turn into games and movies. It would save the gaming major the cost of acquiring IPs.
The development comes barely two weeks after Krafton announced a USD 9 million investment in Mumbai-based game streaming platform Loco. Pratilipi is the company’s third investment in India. Earlier in March, Krafton wrote local e-sports platform Nodwin Gaming, a subsidiary of local gaming giant Nazara, a USD 22.4 million check.
Earlier this month, Krafton also released PUBG under a new name in the country, Battlegrounds Mobile India, which is made exclusively for Indian gamers. PUBG Mobile—among the top ten downloaded games last year in India—was banned in September 2020 by the government along with hundreds of other Chinese apps as it was distributed by Chinese internet giant Tencent. Within a week of its launch on the Google Play Store, PUBG Mobile amassed 34 million users across the country.