Bank­ing on a grow­ing trend

eS­ports brand raises funds to ex­pe­dite foothold in the coun­try

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Star Sme biz - joylmy@thes­ By JOY LEE

IT CAN be said that Haz­man Has­san, 32, is liv­ing out most guys’ child­hood dream. He makes a liv­ing off get­ting peo­ple to­gether for video games.

It’s all about cre­at­ing a space for peo­ple to con­nect, he says.

Haz­man, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of eS­ports brand Ki­ta­men Re­sources Sdn Bhd, notes that the video gam­ing land­scape has changed tremen­dously from the day his seven-year-old self was in­tro­duced to the Sega Mega Drive 2. Games were sim­pler then, tour­na­ments were non-ex­is­tent here and get-to­geth­ers were mainly in cy­ber­cafes.

When he met his co-founder, Fahmi Fairuz, three years ago, the eS­ports mar­ket was al­ready in full swing glob­ally. In Malaysia, though, the duo saw a po­ten­tial to de­velop eS­ports fur­ther.

At that time, tour­na­ments in Malaysia were still few and far be­tween. The Fifa games, for ex­am­ple, were held around five times a year. Now, you can see more than 10 tour­na­ments ev­ery week, he says.

“When Ki­ta­men started, eS­ports was be­ing re­vived here. Ten years ago, eS­ports was kind of pop­u­lar in Malaysia. How­ever, back then, the in­fra­struc­ture was not yet ready to de­liver eS­ports. You need fast In­ter­net, good ma­chines, con­ducive venues and other things.

“So when we started, we thought eS­ports was a good av­enue to pro­mote the pos­i­tiv­ity of video gam­ing it­self. In­stead of just play­ing video games to waste your time, you can come here, cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties and com­pete in games. That’s a health­ier and a more pos­i­tive side of gam­ing,” he says.

Haz­man and his part­ner opened up their first out­let – or a Dojo, as they like to call it – in mid-2015 to pro­vide ac­cess for peo­ple to play com­puter games. A lit­tle like a cy­ber­café of their own, pretty much.

But Haz­man, an ar­chi­tect by train­ing, em­pha­sises that it had to have a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment to draw peo­ple in. They de­signed their gam­ing den as a com­fort­able space for play­ers to come in and train and at the same time, cre­ate a com­mu­nity and bond with new friends.

As it picked up, peo­ple started ap­proach­ing them with an in­ter­est to start their own Do­jos.

This gave the duo an­other busi­ness op­por­tu­nity.

“We started teach­ing oth­ers how to do it. It was bet­ter for us to sell our ser­vices as a con­sul­tant to move the brand for­ward to­gether. We sold our first li­cence in early 2016. At that time, Ki­ta­men was only a brand. So we in­cor­po­rated Ki­ta­men as a com­pany in mid-2016 to grow this model,” he shares.

By the end of 2016, there were eight Ki­ta­men out­lets and as at end of last year, they had 15.

Cur­rently, all its out­lets are op­er­ated by li­censees. This en­ables Haz­man’s team to fo­cus more on build­ing the brand and on de­vel­op­ing the mar­ket as a whole.

Over the last two years, Ki­ta­men has been ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in and putting to­gether eS­ports tour­na­ments. Hav­ing more out­lets alone will not cut it. It is all about events and po­si­tion­ing your pres­ence in the scene it­self to build a name for your­self, says Haz­man.

Haz­man likens eS­ports to any other sport such as foot­ball and bas­ket­ball, which presents the com­pany with a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ki­ta­men chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Chua Ken Jin con­curs, not­ing that eS­ports is a wider ecosys­tem be­yond just a group of play­ers.

“There are a lot of ser­vices that we can ac­tu­ally put into this in­dus­try. It’s a spec­ta­tor in­dus­try. There’ll be brands who want to ad­ver­tise, spon­sors that you want to look for, teams that you want to con­sol­i­date with. There are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties here and Ki­ta­men acts as a plat­form for brands to con­nect with the com­mu­ni­ties,” says Chua.

More im­por­tantly, the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of gam­ing has also changed in re­cent years. Peo­ple are a lot more re­cep­tive of video games these days, al­low­ing the in­dus­try to shed much of its bad rap. This has en­abled more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in the growth of the eS­ports in­dus­try.

With the in­dus­try grow­ing, Haz­man notes that there are a lot more job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the mar­ket like game de­vel­op­ers, pro­fes­sional gamers, event or­gan­is­ers, coaches, even, or shout­cast­ers – much like com­men­ta­tors – once you’ve ac­quired the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence in a game.

“There’s def­i­nitely a lot more things go­ing on now. There are more on­line hubs. There are even jour­nal­ists who are now ded­i­cated to cov­er­ing eS­ports.

“We had a re­cent com­pe­ti­tion in Subang and this bunch of kids were there play­ing Counter Strike. And their par­ents were there sup­port­ing them!” shares Chua.

Ki­ta­men aims to open 30 Do­jos by year’s end and hopes to get work­ing on build­ing its Epi­cen­tre in Kuala Lumpur soon. The Epi­cen­tre will have a stage with event host­ing fa­cil­i­ties, Dojo ar­eas to train, VIP ac­cess, broad­cast­ing rooms, a food and bev­er­age area and co-work­ing spa­ces.

The Epi­cen­tre is ex­pected to con­trib­ute about 30% to Ki­ta­men’s rev­enue mov­ing for­ward. The other 70% will come from li­cens­ing, events, ad­ver­tis­ing and spon­sor­ships.

In its first year of op­er­a­tions, Ki­ta­men gen­er­ated rev­enue of about RM500,000. It is pro­ject­ing sales of more than RM6mil for 2018 and ex­pects rev­enue to top RM19mil by 2022.

To fuel its ex­pan­sion across the coun­try, Ki­ta­men is look­ing to raise RM500,000 to RM2mil in

Up­beat out­look: Haz­man (left) and Chua agree that there is a lot more at­ten­tion given to eS­ports these days. Full house: Ki­ta­men’s Do­jos are filled with se­ri­ous and ca­sual gamers ev­ery week­end. Big­ger crowds: Con­tes­tants lis­ten­ing to a brief­ing be­fore the Fifa com­pe­ti­tion by Ki­ta­men last year. The com­pany has b Gov­ern­ment sup­port: Last March, Ki­ta­men signed a MOU with MDEC to fur­ther de­velop the eS­ports ecosys­tem through var­i­ous ini­tia­tives. — Ber­nama

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