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The story of DigiFury
MUMBAI: A friend’s birthday party two years ago was a game changer for 28-year-old Pratik Khatanhar, who’d quit his job at Turner International India where he looked after brand communications for Pogo and Cartoon Network. At the party he met Hitesh Vanjani, who’d also quit his job at in-flight entertainment company Western Outdoor Interactive (WOI). A few beers down and the two men were all set to form their gaming company DigiFury.
“During our conversation we realised we both have skill sets that complimented each other, and that was the deciding factor for both of us. The very next day we began working from home,” shares DigiFury co-founder, director of marketing Pratik Khatanhar.
A month later, they had a registered gaming company Mapp Digital, later renamed to DigiFury Media Solutions. The company was renamed DigiFury in November 2015.
When DigiFury came into being in 2014, they worked with start-ups that needed gaming content. Their first big client Disney walked in two months later, wanting DigiFury to make a game based on Aamir Khan-starrer film ‘PK’. “We developed an Indian runner game with elements from the movie such as the trumpet and pan (betel leaf), and actors weaved into the game plot. The game did over 5 million downloads,” recalls Khatanhar.
After that, DigiFury developed another game for Disney’s animated movie ‘Arjun’. DigiFury also developed a series of nine games for malt milk brand Horlicks named ‘Horlicks: The Awesome Squad’. It also developed an augmented reality game for Welspun Group.
Presently, the company is working on a virtual reality game for Smaaash Entertainment, a sports-focused virtual entertainment company co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar. This is in addition to other projects. DigiFury continues to work with Disney and has also added Turner to its clientele.
DigiFury has a two-way approach to its business. One, it pitches its own concepts to relevant clients and the IP then rests with the client who buys the idea. For instance, the ‘Chota Bheem’ game was DigiFury’s concept that kids channel Pogo warmed up to. Two, it brings a game to life based on a client’s brief, as it did in the case of ‘PK’ and ‘Arjun’.
The company makes cross-platform games—Playstation, mobile, apps—involving UX, UI design technology. “We have developed over 20 games in the last two years. Most of our games have clocked 5–10 million downloads,” says DigiFury co-founder, director of innovation and technology Hitesh Vanjani.
In December 2015, Symbiosis Advertising founder–director Mangesh Borse invested in the company for 20% stake. He now also holds the position of director of finance and a three-year commitment with the company. Back then, DigiFury was valued at roughly Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million). Hitesh and Pratik each continue holding 40%.
“We started with literally zero investment. In the first few months, none of the team members took any money. We were driven by sheer passion. By the end of the third month, we’d broken-even, and from the sixth month onwards, we began making profits,” says Khatanhar.
“Gaming is a business that tends to grow exponentially after the initial thresholds are surpassed. We hope to close this year at around Rs 20 million,” explains Borse.
While gaming continues to remain at the heart of DigiFury, the company is also foraying into advertising. “We are working towards short films and ads in the animation and live-action space. We are in talks with an FMCG brand and a confectionary brand for the same,” reveals Khatanhar.
In its initial months, DigiFury worked from a co-working space in Malad and today has three offices in Mumbai. The team size has grown from four to 15. In addition to the in-house team, the company has specialists who work on a short-term basis as and when a need arises. It also has about 10 on-call freelancers working for them on a need-to-need basis.
“We have invested in building sound working relationships with people in the industry. We make conscious efforts not to overspend. For instance, we never hired a new member until we were certain we could pay the person for an entire year at least,” adds Khatanhar.
The company works with freelancers based in Kolkata and Bengaluru who offer them work at ‘bro rates’, a term Pratik and Hitesh coined for their long-standing working partners who charge them lower rates than the usual market rates.