/Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed game startup kicks off India’s tech IPO rush

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed game startup kicks off India’s tech IPO rush

By Saritha Rai

Nazara Technologies Ltd. , the cricket games developer backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, became the first Indian gaming technology company to seek a market debut as mobile entertainment takes off across the world’s No. 2 smartphone arena.

The Mumbai-headquartered startup filed initial public offering documents with India’s market regulator on Friday. Its impending debut on the local exchanges could encourage other Indian startups to tap public markets, after years of explosive growth in mobile and internet usage created giant private firms from Paytm to Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart.

Founded by gamer Nitish Mittersain in 2000, when he was a college undergrad, Nazara is among the firms that have benefited from a global boom in smartphone gaming that began even before the pandemic drove millions online. Mittersain started the company with 30 million rupees borrowed from friends and family, only to get derailed during the dotcom bust. The firm spent its first decade clearing debt, but steadily built market share by acquiring fellow gaming startups.

It’s now seeking to be among the first major Indian startups to go public at a time of burgeoning investor interest in the country’s technology sphere. Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google are pouring billions into partnerships with local operator Jio Platforms Inc., while Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos has said that “the 21st century is going to be the Indian century.”

Nykaa E-Retail Pvt., backed by TPG, is said to be planning an IPO as soon as this year that could value the Indian online cosmetic retailer at more than $ 3 billion. Food delivery startup Zomato Pvt. has said it will file for an IPO in the first half of 2021. Nazara plans to offer up to 4.96 million equity shares for sale, at a face value of 4 rupees each, the filing showed.

The arrival of cheap smartphones and cut-price wireless data rates for 1.3 billion people has galvanized growth for Nazara and its peers. The company’s platform hosts several content categories and is active in esports, while commanding a share of the mobile cricket gaming segment with titles like World Cricket Championship. Nazara, whose backers include Plutus Wealth Management and Jhunjhunwala, an individual stock investor compared locally to Warren Buffett, operates in 52 countries from North America and the Middle East to Africa and Southeast Asia.

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