Krafton invests in Indian video game streaming startup Loco

Loco, an Indian video game streaming platform, has received $ 9 million from investors, including South Korean gaming company Krafton Inc., in the first fundraising effort to capitalize on the growing popularity of game-based entertainment in the South Asian nation. The Mumbai-based startup was also backed in its initial round by Lumikai Ltd. Ltd., India's first gaming media fund, London-based Hiro Capital, and early-stage investors including 3one4 Capital and Axilor Ventures. Loco will use the funds to upgrade its technology and content, the startup said in an announcement Monday.

Livestreaming of games has been popularized globally by companies such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Twitch in the United States and DouYu International Holdings Ltd. and Huya Inc. in China. In India, which does not have a legacy of gaming on consoles or desktops, the genre has received a boost during the pandemic, as hundreds of millions of people locked indoors have turned to their smartphones for entertainment. It was Krafton's PUBG Mobile, previously distributed in India by Tencent Holdings Ltd., had been among the most popular games in the country before it was banned last year and is now re-entering the market.

"Cheap data and cheap phones have created an ideal situation in India, creating a whole new category of entertainment," said co-founder Anirudh Pandita in an interview. "More than 100 million monthly active users in India interact with these games, imagine 100 million people playing a sport that no one else is watching, that’s what Loco set out to solve for."

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Loco Interactive Pte, as the startup is officially called, was founded by Pandita and Ashwin Suresh, who met as engineering students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The duo continued to work on Wall Street before starting Pocket Aces Pvt, a digital studio that creates streaming content to provide an alternative to traditional television entertainment. The gaming startup will separate from Pocket Aces with this funding, according to the statement.

Loco has expanded rapidly in the last year, with the number of monthly active users increasing six times and monthly active streaming devices increasing 10 times. Currently, the startup said its main competitor is YouTube, owned by Google.

"More than two-thirds of millennials in India are gamers," said Salone Sehgal, general partner at Lumikai. The e-sports and streaming industry in India is expected to grow at an annual clip rate of 36% over the next three years, while the watch time of streaming games in India is already twice the world average, added.

Loco has a list of the most popular streaming operators in the country that play popular games like Clash of Clans, FreeFire, and Call of Duty Mobile. It also hosts the best esports teams and tournaments, although this genre is still a niche in India.

"India's big focus is on mobile games," Suresh said. "The best mobile game players in the world will definitely come from India."

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