Karuwa Apps: How game developers turned into entrepreneurs

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Karuwa Apps: How game developers turned into entrepreneurs

 

Indie developers rarely rule the sales charts. It is tough for them to get their games published in the first place, and when they do, they are over-shadowed by even the average of games published by major publishers.

A group of indie developers in Nepal, Karuwa Apps (www.karuwaapps.com) is trying to break the barrier and have started as a game publishing platform for developers in Nepal and South Asia. They not only develop games and publish them on Google Play, but also publish games developed by other indie developers through their venture. 

 

Discerning opportunity from a common problem

After participating in Child Gameathon 2015 (a joint initiative of UNICEF and Microsoft Innovation Center Nepal for app development) with their game ‘NUMERAL KNIGHTS’, Gopal Chitaure, 22 and Bikalpa Ghimire, 19 found it hard to take the game to the mass. Though they didn’t win the competition, they were trying to get the game in Play Store. But they lacked enough funds and required resources.

With the help of friends abroad who created an account and made payments to Google, they were finally able to release the game.

In that event, they also realised that other indie developers were facing the same issue and it was a common in Nepal and South Asia. The duo saw an opportunity to start a game publishing company.

 

Starting Karuwa Apps

“Bikalpa and I are from Palpa and karuwa (a drinking water vessel) is a symbol of the place. So we decided to name the venture Karuwa Apps. We had close connection with developers we met at Child Gameathon, especially after the earthquake,” says Gopal, “So we contacted them and formed out team.” 

The team includes Gopal Chitaure (CEO), Bikalpa Ghimire (Co-founder and finance manager), Bhuwan Acharya (Project Manager/Developer), Manish Maharjan (Game Designer), Amrit Sapkota (Head of Marketing). Bhuwan and Amrit had won Child Gameathon 2015 with their game ‘Healthy I’ (a computer and mobile game that seeks to increase awareness about benefits of healthy food), and Manish was in a different team. Although they participated in the competition with different teams, their common problem and common vision to build the platform brought these young game developers together.

“Our team is finally now perfect and we trust each other. We operate on cloud at the moment and have a check-and-balance system among ourselves. The team is accountable for each other’s progress and we compliment each other’s work,” says Gopal.

Providing a platform for publishing indie games and apps, Karuwa Apps was established on May 2016 as a project under Zapper Tech Private Limited (a company co-founded by Gopal). They released their first game Crazy Circle Run (http://bit.ly/23ddt71) on 5 June, 2016 on Android platform, and has seen an immediate success.

 

Crazy Circle Run Success

With a mission to make interesting games with professional touch as a good market offering, Gopal approached Swastik Shahu, an Indian game developer, to publish his game ‘Crazy Circle Run’ through Karuwa Apps in April, 2016. The game had secured fourth place in IndiaHacks Game Competition and Gopal saw huge potential in it. After convincing the developer, he worked with his team to refine the game and make it market-ready before releasing it. “I had done over 15 hours of market research and Manish had to make dozens of designs before the final product was ready. We put a lot of hard work into it and it has paid off,” shares Amrit.

The numbers speak for their success. The game has been rated 4.8 out of 5 on Google Play, reached 72 countries, has around 3000 downloads and has over 30,000 impressions within three weeks of release. The game was also featured in top free games on Google Play. The game is available for free on Android and users can make an in-app purchase for $1.99 to remove ads.

“People were reluctant to play the game at first seeing that it was published by Nepalis. It was difficult to convince people at the beginning. But we started to receive positive feedbacks from initial users and the numbers started growing,” shares Amrit, “The success has gone international now. There are more downloads in Poland than in Nepal.”

 

Struggles living on the fringe of the gaming world

The team has surpassed many challenges and hurdles to achieve this success. Bhuwan recalls, “After we had released the game, we received a lot of comments from people about a particular ad that was annoying users. Gopal called me on rainy night to get the bugs fixed right away. I had no internet at the moment and there was a downpour outside.” So he borrowed his neighbour’s phone and bought a mobile data pack to solve that issue. “User results were great from the very next day. We had to compromise revenue from the ad, but for us, customer satisfaction is of utmost importance.”

Life as game developers in Nepal is tough. According to Manish, they have to deal with power cuts and network issues. Operating on cloud while dealing with power cuts in the city has had a toll on them. Yet they strive to work relentlessly.

Though finance has not been a problem, the lack of payment gateways has added to the struggle. “Financing has not been a problem as of yet because we have received generous support from our personal network. Sagar Aryal, founder of Sano Sansar has funded our domain and there are many others supporting us,” says Gopal, “But the credit payment issues are a bug. Fortunately, our co-founder Bikalpa, who is currently in the US, helped us out with that.”

 

Working for a better future of indie games

The team of Karuwa apps has been successful in building a good foundation of trust among their supporters and users. They plan on establishing themselves as a top game developer and publisher in South Asia by building a brand, taking in good products and making them better.

The team is presently working on releasing games like Healthy I, and Primo (a game based on popular open source game by MIT called 2048), and is taking games and utility apps from indie developers across South Asia to release through their company. They also plan to enter the virtual world of gaming.

 

Comments

  • Guest
    Niraj Thapa Thursday, 14 July 2016

    More power to you guys. So nice to hear about Nepalese talents. And yes downloaded the game. Anyone who read this, do asap. :)

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Guest Friday, 25 May 2018