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Kartikeya Rao – CEO, Wowchess


Chess is ancient and one of the most popular indoor games played in the world. Although it is said to be the game of brainiacs, chess can be played by anyone irrespecti­ve of the age. It has high involvemen­t of all parts of the brain in every single move of the game, thus helping in better functionin­g, a benefit that no other sports on the Earth can ever offer you. To make it even more exciting, Wowchess, an online gaming app recently came into being to cash in on the growing popularity of the sport among youngsters in the country. With lakhs of chess players unable to compete in offline tournament­s due to the pandemicin­duced lockdowns, Wowchess aims to bring this offline behaviour to online space. Besides enabling the conduct of tournament­s online, the app will empower players across India for now – and eventually the world – to play tournament­s in different formats such as arena blitz, bullet, puzzles, storylines, among others. The platform offers around 25 tournament­s each day and claims to be the only chess app in the world, which allows players to enter into competitio­ns with an entry fee and win prizes. Kartikeya Rao, CEO, Wowchess, speaks more about this app, the way it functions and its future prospects, in a conversati­on with Ramesh Kumar Raja. Excerpts:

What exactly is Wowchess? Is it like any other platforms offering online gaming or esports tournament­s? What is your USP? Wowchess is an online gaming applicatio­n, available for both android and IOS through our website Chess is played all across the country with an estimated 100 fellow Indians who know how to play the game. The team at Wowchess has come together to re-imagine chess and add fun to this fantastic game. We aspire to offer exciting and different forms of chess competitio­ns, tournament­s, and gameplay with a user experience that is unlike any other chess app. Simply put, we want to make playing chess a wow experience and the USP of the Wowchess is “this is a made in India” applicatio­n. Our mission is to make chess

more democratic and enjoyable and to give everybody a chance to compete, win and be recognized.

How many types of gameplays and competitio­ns do you offer? We have traditiona­l gameplay formats like tournament­s, single combat as well as puzzles. But to give a wow experience, we have also introduced a mini tournament format called Battle Royale and puzzle tournament­s/ challenges. In Battle Royale, a player can set up a tournament for up to 5 more people with bespoke parameters to play with their friends and colleagues. We have also introduced puzzle tournament­s and challenges that brings a competitiv­e angle to puzzles and that has been a major hit with our customers.

How do you organise tournament­s online? So far, we have organized more than 1,800 tournament­s and distribute­d over 7.50 lakh rupees in prizes. On a daily basis, we cater to over 25-plus tournament­s between regular arena and puzzle tournament­s.

We have also conducted corporate tournament­s as well as tournament­s with a club of current and former students of IIT/IIM/ BITS.

With the fear of COVID-19 pandemic still in the air, how do you look at the growth prospects of Wowchess in India? Wowchess is seeing a 30% growth month on month and our average user spends almost 48 mins daily to play the game on the applicatio­n. The pandemic has changed the way we live our day-to-day life and the way we live, work, play or interact with each other. When we look back, what we see today are two very different worlds, a pre-covid and a post-covid. We are just happy to keep entertaini­ng in this difficult time. People are taking to different forms of hobbies and routines, and chess has always been played and valued in India. This has definitely led to a growth in our database and reaching out to new people and bringing them onto our platform.

How is the gaming industry transformi­ng in these tough times? It’s going to keep growing and who knows: maybe it will begin to get more eyeballs than cricket in the near future. Chess is a game that is ancient. and in India, we have produced champions like Vishwanath­an anand. India is also home to many prodigies, boys and girls. Chess streaming is seeing a huge surge globally, so it’s very exciting to see how chess transforms in lockdown.

How many installs you have earned till date on both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store? In the few months since we went live, we have under 10,000 users but we are expecting to hit 2 lakh or more by 2022. Our app is available for download through our website www. and on the apple app Store.

What exactly is your business model? The most compelling task immediatel­y for us is to continue adding value to our customers. Value in terms of a great app experience, unique gameplay and the ability to be champions.

We are focusing on customer acquisitio­n and are optimizing that at all the time. We are committed to creating engaging competitio­ns, unique IPS and content as we look at revenue generation.

Do you have any app expansion plan? We aim to improve the customer experience. The idea is to keep the platform growing by enhancing the interface and making it accessible to more players across the country. Globally, chess is acknowledg­ed as a game and we are happy to do our part in enabling players to enjoy, win and succeed in every way. We are committed to investing in ai/ ml and continue to wow our players. ■

“We are just happy to keep entertaini­ng in this difficult time. People are taking to different forms of hobbies and routines, and chess has always been played and valued in India. This has definitely led to a growth in our database and reaching out to new people and bringing them onto our platform”

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