“Pocket52” is an E-Sports Platform, crafted with love and passion by outstanding team of Visionaries, Avid Gamers, Business Moguls & Technology Gurus. Pocket52 (Registered Name NIRDESA NETWORKS PVT LTD) was launched on 13th December 2018.
About the founders
Sometime in early 2018, 4 entrepreneurs met in Bangalore – Nitesh, Saurav, Debashish & Satyam. As a concept, they wanted to sport harder but no playground was big enough wrt online poker, so they built their own. And so, ‘Pocket52’ was realised – a dream platform designed to #Churn out all the peculiarities in online poker. Through rigorous gap analysis, they identified a vast area of improvement in online poker. After all, poker was life to them. The team built an in-house ‘cryptographically secure Random Number Generator (RNG+) technology which aimed to revolutionize the trust levels in the poker players of our country and beyond. The four entrepreneurs met Abhigya Sagar, considered one of India’s biggest poker sports personalities. Abhigya was awestruck with the development team had made and decided to join the gang as an angel and a core team member. There are five co-founders:
- The Pocket52 team is comprised of IIT/NIT alumni and industry stalwarts from variegated backgrounds. The core team includes Nitesh Salvi (CEO), an alumnus from IIT Bombay and co-founder of Plancess, with 7+ years experience in leading businesses.
- Saurav Suman (COO), also an alumnus from IIT Bombay and co-founder of TimeMyTask with 4+ years experience in business development & technology across various consumer tech startups,
- Debashish Bhattacharjee (CMO) co-founder & director of LearnCue, with 15+ years of Marketing & Business KnowHow across Edtech, Mobile, Telco, Petroleum, L&D, FMCG, FMCD & Gaming verticals.
- Satyam Verma (CTO) is an alumnus from NIT Trichy and co-founder & CTO of Twoosh with 7+ years experience in developing technology products. Worked across GoIbibo & Cisco.
- Abhigya Sagar (CSO) one of India’s top poker players with 10+ years of professional poker experience, an entrepreneur himself who launched NobleAces, an online poker company in the past.
Currently, the total team size is 30+ and is growing aggressively.
We are publishing an interview with Mr. Nitesh Salvi:
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Ans: Trust (Safety & Security) & Player Liquidity. Most Indian poker companies fail to understand two crucial things: player liquidity and growing a homegrown poker product which is not only safe but also secure for a worldwide audience.
We created India’s first cryptographically secure RNG+ online poker platform as well as a poker network, a domestic shared omnichannel network for online poker platforms in India.
Growing a stand-alone platform requires regular spend on marketing, branding and engagement. Most platforms see poker as a marketing venture and launch their online poker platform without much understanding of player liquidity and how they plan to solve it. There is a good amount of funding required to create liquidity on the platform by providing bonuses, cashback, continuous tournaments with increasing guaranteed amount.
Q.: Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: It is seriously painful and magical at the same time when you envisage a vision of bringing poker players together from multiple sites that would otherwise be segregated. Via Pocket52 Network, online poker operators in India are now able to increase the volume of activity on their platforms, commonly referred to as their ‘liquidity’.
Pocket52 Network is open and allows online poker companies that operate in Indian jurisdictions to combine their players into a single player pool. Allowing greater access to online poker sites produces bigger tournament prize pool and the ability to offer a wider variety of games; both which are significant contributing factors leading to increased revenue.
Since the network’s inception, our insights highlighted that online poker traffic figures are one of the first indicators that the new shared liquidity pool was yielding positive results. As expected, poker traffic on shared network spiked soon after Pocket52’s association with a domestic poker client, Calling Station. The move signalled confidence that the combined player pools would increase participation by players at levels greater than the sum of the two markets individually, thereby solving one of the biggest problems in e-sports, and, especially online poker.
The trust issue was another factor that was big enough for us to make us focus on creating a tamper-proof online poker network. Enter India’s first cryptographically secure random number generator online poker platform.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: We did close to 30+ campaigns to acquire poker players with prizes spanning across 10L to 50L each over a period of 1 year (an amazing year of learning, as we like to call it). One of our biggest mentors were our customers whose active participation and feedback helped us create and iterate campaigns based on what they wanted. One thing that we understood was to build an awesome customer loyalty program, and so we introduced Pocket Vault which gives players upto 100% rakeback (commission) on top of their winnings. Also, as an aggressive initiator of responsible gaming and skill upliftment, we also introduced mental coaching for Indian poker players. Having done over 9 free webinars on the Mental Game of Poker with international coaches, the overall response was beyond expected. To summarize, almost everything went like clockwork with our RNG solution creating trust among poker players and, to sum it all, our unique network module largely solves player liquidity at the core of any gaming action for aspiring domestic poker clients.
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: Pocket52 Network. Pocket52 is currently India’s first and only online poker network to offer a shared liquidity player pool that connects players from all across the subcontinent. The shared network will significantly boost marketing and revenue potential for online poker room operators. Pocket52 aims to redefine the gaming ecosystem of e-sports and online poker by bringing together all the poker players playing in different online poker platforms in India under a single network where the action is on all day, every day!
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: When we launched Pocket52, we assumed that creating a good product would automatically attract customers. That didn’t go as well as we had hoped. So, we asked for feedback from our players and worked on perfecting our platform to ensure it stood apart from the rest.
In poker, there are 2 kinds of the ‘ideal customer’ – one who is scared and doesn’t want to play online because of trust issues, scams etc. and one who takes charge of the light brigade by creating awareness that poker is a skill-based game and that people can make a career out of playing this game of skill.
Yes, there are many such ideal players who are part of the Pocket52 family.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: Being a poker player, I understand that poker is a game of skill. But, since poker and other skill-based games are still labelled as games of chance, as an entrepreneur, my biggest failure has been not being able to completely eradicate this common misconception that is imbibed in our mentality.
A basic thing to remember is when a poker player loses a few hands, that’s not a failure either. Even the best poker player in the world who makes all the right moves won’t win every single hand, but if you consistently make the right bets and decisions, you will come out ahead in the long run.
Although poker in India has found its own space over the last decade, there is still a long way to go before poker gains complete acceptance from the Indian masses.
Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Ans: Sometime during July 2018 when we were still perfecting our product, there was this poker player who followed our social media channels and kept inquiring about when we were going to launch Pocket52. Being fed up with subpar UX and doctored RNG, he kept pushing us to release our product as soon as possible. Once we officially launched, he quickly signed up and dedicatedly started playing poker on our platform. Soon enough, he took Pocket52 by storm making a massive profit within a few short months by playing on micro stakes.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: Pocket52 began building the product in early 2018 and were already in touch with a slew of Angel Investors, VC funds and professional poker players. As of now, Pocket52 has raised over $600K in funds which was led by Speciale Invest Managing Partner Vishesh Ramrajan along with marquee poker players Abhigya Sagar, Former FMSCI President & National Competitive Racing Champion Vicky Chandhok, Mehul Agarwal COO & Co-Founder Cars 24, Vijay Jacob Director New Quest Partners and a slew of more astute entrepreneurs.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it.
Ans: There are many interesting stories but to mention one of Pocket52’s promotion (Pot of Gold), where an additional pot is added as a bonus and the value of this pot keeps increasing with every hand played at the table (with the last man sitting at the table taking home the entire bonus), ran for an uninterrupted 3 days on 25/50 stakes, generating over ₹45K bonus in 71 hours, creating history as the longest-running continuous cash table session in online poker! However, only a week later, another Pot of Gold table on the same stakes ran for over 100+ hours and generated over ₹70K in the bonus pot to eventually break its own record set the previous week.
Another success story that left a great impression was that of a customer, a young player with the username ‘Beerus’ who started playing micro stakes (0.5/1 & 1/2 stakes) poker at Pocket52. Through one of the many promotions we run to encourage and nurture micro stakes players, he found the confidence to play at higher stakes. From starting at 0.5/1 stakes, today, Beerus sits comfortably on 10/20 & 25/50 tables against veteran poker players, becoming a winning player himself in less than a year!
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Pocket52 aspires to be India’s biggest online poker platform and software provider in the next couple of years. And, the release of our poker network gives us additional advantage to make our presence felt across the global market with our B2B services to international poker platforms.
We plan to invest aggressively into expanding the company’s footprint internationally with the business-to-business model and plans to equip clients with the best tamper-proof gaming software. We also have plans to introduce Poker Analytics to empower our players with dos & don’ts while nurturing them with appropriate learning content to level up their personal game.
Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? The uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans: There is an inherent trust issue when it comes to online gaming involving some amount of chance. For players, the question has always been, “Can I trust this platform will ensure fair play?” Since most platforms run on third-party platforms, very few operators seriously consider this issue while launching their poker rooms.
This is what made us start Pocket52 in the first place. The uniqueness of Pocket52 lies in our uncrackable RNG algorithm which always guarantees fair play. We focused on the key core question of solving the ‘trust issues’ of poker players to come up with the perfect solution to ensure fair play.
Our RNG encryption, powered by lava lamps and built from scratch in-house, is one of the most unique things ever witnessed in the poker industry.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles
Ans: As CEO, my major role is to provide inspired leadership company-wide. I make major decisions, manage Pocket52’s overall resources and operations, and communicate with the board of directors, management team, and corporate operations.
Saurav Suman, as COO, has a major role in overseeing Pocket52’s business operations. He ensures the company has effective operational and financial procedures in place and spearheads strategies to steer the company’s future in a positive direction and driving the company’s operating capabilities to surpass customer satisfaction and retention, and company goals.
Debashish Bhattacharjee, as CMO, is a part data scientist, part psychologist. He balances quantitative and qualitative evaluation skills, tracking measurable data but also asking open-ended questions that lead to deeper insights.
Satyam Verma, as CTO, is into the development of the company’s strategy for using technological resources, ensuring technologies are used efficiently, profitably and securely, evaluating and implementing new systems and infrastructure. Satyam lives by the words, “When you’re CTO, innovation isn’t optional”.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: Actually, everyone starting from Pokerstars, Adda52, Pokerbaazi, Spartan and many more are trying their level best to expand the ecosystem with a plethora of innovations.
The key differentiator would be Pocket52 Network for sure, a one-stop solution for building an online poker platform in India! The omnichannel poker network is the prima-facie of Pocket52 and is outfitted with the top tier poker users, complete with customizable poker rooms offering various online poker variants like Texas Holdem Poker Online, Omaha, 5 Card PLO and so forth alongside a plethora of action-packed features.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Ans: Pocket52 aims at positioning themselves among India’s top online poker platforms in the upcoming 2-3 years by providing the best and safest gaming experience for the users, alongside building a diverse community of poker players. We are also looking to step into the international market within the next year by providing solutions through our B2B services. So, the upcoming 6 months are very crucial for us.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: My suggestion for fellow entrepreneurs is to have a solid business plan, build a team that shares your vision & mission, prepare for financial challenges and be frugal with your approach. Remember: you’re THE start-up, don’t be afraid to ask for help and put your faith in a trusted mentor or mentors. Never stop learning and failing, for you cannot smell success without tasting defeat first.
Thanks Nitesh. Best wishes!