Life & Leisure

India prepares for an esports boom as industry grows

By Mikaela Viqueira

New Delhi, Feb 11 (EFE).- The interest of millions of Indians in online gaming during the Covid-19 lockdown has spurred the meteoric rise of esports in the country.

However, the sector still has some big hurdles to overcome in its quest to become a force to reckon with in this country of 1.3 billion inhabitants.

In the last two years, India has seen an exponential growth in this industry as young people were forced to lock themselves up in their homes with limited modes of entertainment during months of strict restrictions due to the spread of Covid-19.

Video games became “a good source of entertainment and a good source to connect to other people, because as it is online you can play a game like ‘Fifa’, ‘Call of Duty’, in which you can talk while playing with others,” regardless of the city or country they live in, the director of the Esports Federation of India, Lokesh Suji, told EFE.

According to a report released in June last year by the consultancy EY, India already has some 150,000 professional esports players, with the number expected to increase to 1.5 million by 2025.

The Indian esports industry’s revenue stands at 3 billion rupees ($40 million) and is estimated to climb to 11 billion rupees by 2025.

The Covid-induced lockdown was the biggest factor in propelling India to becoming the largest mobile gaming market by number of app downloads, accounting for up to 12 percent of the global market, according to a report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in September.

During the pandemic, Indian users’ share of the industry increased by 20 percent, with 50 percent more downloads, and the mobile gaming market in India is expected to soar from $1.8 billion to $6 billion-$7 billion by 2025, the agency added.

Moreover, the IAMAI said, India had some 430 million mobile gaming users in 2021, second only to China, and the number of players is expected to rise to 650 million in 2025.

“We are growing at a very, very rapid pace now,” the head of operations at the talent management agency Cornerstone Sports, Jogesh Lulla, told EFE.

“The good thing about India is that we have a very large population. And now, the accessibility to the internet and phones has improved a lot over the last few years, which has actually led to a lot more people getting interested in playing games,” he added.

“There is potential for India to be one of the top countries as far as esports goes, at least in the Asian market, if not globally,” he said.

However, for India to boost its presence in the esports industry, it needs to get rid of the stigmas surrounding this sport.

“Most parents have not wanted their children to really get into esports too much, because they look at it almost as a recreational thing where they don’t want children playing games all the time, they’d like them to focus more on education,” Lulla explained.

Another challenge facing esports in India concerns women, who are not yet seen as professional players in what is viewed as a male-dominated sport and in a country with deep patriarchal roots.

“So there are many challenges, people are not taking this seriously, girl gamers themselves are compared to the board in a game as if they don’t know how to hold a gun or just click. So that’s the mindset that we used to face, but we took that as a challenge,” Parul ‘Alpha’ Sharma, of the GodLike esports women’s team, told EFE.

Lulla believes that as esports gains popularity around the world, both parents and people in general will begin to take it more seriously.

“The youth is now dominating the country, which is actually helping everyone get into the sport and especially, equality with women is getting a lot better,” he concluded.

The lack of investment and recognition by the country’s authorities is another hurdle for the industry.

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