Reliance Jio, the ambitious digital venture of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s wealthiest man and chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, has marked its entry into India’s booming gaming industry.
The Mumbai-headquartered oil-to-retail conglomerate on Wednesday said it has led an undisclosed Series A funding in San Francisco-based augmented reality (AR) gaming startup Krikey.
Founded by sisters and Stanford alumn, Jhanvi and Ketaki Shriram in 2017, Krikey has reportedly raised a total of USD 22 million to date. The three-year-old company has made its debut in India with its new AR action-adventure game called Yaatra.
The game has been launched on Google Play and Apple’s iOS app store, and will soon be made available for JioPhone users as well, the startup said in a media statement. Moreover, Jio users would get exclusive access to features like 3D-avatars and gameplay tokens, which are used to unlock additional weapons and powers. Reportedly, Jio has been supporting its development, positioning it as a made in India AR game.
Yaatra is the journey of Princess Maya, who is banished to the forest where she must find and defeat the monster king to reclaim her rightful place as queen. Users play as Maya’s sibling, joining in her journey in the game, which uses Indian mythological weapons.
“Using weapons such as the bow and arrow, chakra, lightning and fire bolts, players can battle through different levels of combat and puzzle games,” Krikey stated.
Akash Ambani, Mukesh Ambani’s son and director at Jio, in a statement, said “Krikey will inspire a generation of Indians to embrace augmented reality. Our vision is to bring the best experiences from across the world to India, and the introduction of Yaatra is a step in that direction.”
“AR gaming takes the user into a world of its own, and we invite every Jio and non-Jio user to experience AR through Yaatra,” he added.
Krikey marks Jio’s first investment in gaming segment, which has been seeing a spike in gamers since the two-month-long lockdown in late March, which forced millions of users to stay indoors. According to data collated by Sensor Tower, between January and September, India generated 7.3 billion game downloads across the App Store and Google Play, a year-on-year growth of 69.7%. By November 23, the gaming downloads in the world’s second-most-populous country climbed to 8.8 billion.
The staggering numbers have gotten VCs and corporate investors interested in the segment, which has largely been ignored by the larger investor community. Early last month, Walmart-owned e-commerce major Flipkart acquired local gaming startup Mech Mocha for an undisclosed amount in a bid to gain and retain users by offering casual games to its app users.
For Reliance Jio, which is building an ecosystem of digital apps across communications, payments, entertainment, content, education, and health, among others, for its over 400 million subscriber base, the move has enabled it to create its presence in one more sector. Given the Reliance Jio’s appetite for cutting-edge tech companies, investment in Krikey is in line with its strategy to strengthen the portfolio of its new-age product offerings.
While Krikey started out as a virtual reality (VR) gaming company, it pivoted to AR-based gaming as expensive headsets required to experience VR limited its adoption. After three years of product development, the Krikey app went live in February 2020. Aside from Yaatra, the startup has built two other games–Gorillas in association with The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Foundation, and Wingspan in partnership with Stonemaier Games and the National Audubon Society.
“Our vision with Krikey is to bring together inspiration and reality in an immersive way. With augmented reality, we are able to bring fantasy worlds into your home, straight through the window of your mobile phone,” the founders said in a joint statement.