22 Oct 2019

Feature: Qunami co-founder Seemant Shankar talks about growth of real money quizzing and gamification of education sector


Founded in 2015 as a sports news and content app, Sports Unity (later rebranded as Qunami) has become one of India’s leading trivia and quizzing apps, with over 200,000 registered users, with Nazara Technologies recently acquiring a majority stake in the company for Rs. 7.5 crores.

In this interview, Qunami co-founder Seemant Shankar talks about the hyper growth of the app in the past couple of years, its recent tie-up with filmstar Hrithik Roshan, synergies with Nazara and how the company plans to foray into the education sector in the near future by introducing quiz games for school and college students.

Full interview:

Q. Can you tell us more about Sports Unity and Qunami and why you decided to start this venture?

Seemant Shankar (SS): Sports Unity was founded in June 2015. It was the brainchild of Mr. Purrshottam Bhaggeria, an avid industrialist, whose vision was to make Sports Unity the leading sports news, scores and discussion app, where fans can discover and communicate with each other based on their interests and location.

By July 2016, Rishiraj Shrawat and myself joined the Sports Unity team, to further enforce the vision of making a mobile application that is ubiquitous and scalable enough to capture a sizable market share of the smartphone user community.

Sports Unity grew tremendously in the past couple of years. The user base started to show signs of rapid growth due to the addition and refinement of features within the application. Within just 4 months of my joining, Sports Unity’s user base grew from 500 to nearly 7,000 users.

The Sports Unity team paid a great deal of attention to user feedback. One of the key methods of acquiring those were from closed user groups where new features were discussed and alpha tested. During one such interaction, the team realized that sports enthusiasts took great pride in their domain knowledge. Trivia became the natural progression towards increasing interaction between sports enthusiasts. In order to validate this hypothesis, the team created a section that was dedicated to trivia which was only available on a pre-registration basis and active on select days of the week.

User engagement increased 7x on trivia days and the team decided to pivot Sports Unity to a Sports Trivia app. During this period the team took a bold decision of adding real money within trivia (Something that was never before tried by any trivia app in India). It was an extremely risky proposition as gambling laws in the country were very fuzzy and poker and fantasy sports apps were facing multiple lawsuits.

Fortunately, some landmark judgments by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and various state high courts, declassified games of skill from the ambit of gambling paving the way for rapid legal acceptance of real money gaming apps like poker, fantasy, trivia, etc.

It was time to scale the idea and touch a larger set of audiences by introducing general quizzing. Sports Unity transformed from a niche cricket-based news and scores app to real money cash-based trivia app and was re-branded to a general knowledge Qunami to cater to a wider appeal.

Today, Qunami supports 100,000 monthly active users each of whom spends an average of 20 minutes per day on the app. A typical cash playing user on Qunami stakes upwards of Rs. 300 a month, which bolsters the trust and transparency Qunami has been able to establish within its community.

Q. Qunami recently joined the Mobile Premier League (MPL) platform and started offering quiz games on MPL. How has the response been to the integration of Qunami with MPL?

SS: We are a part of MPL for the past few weeks and the experience is very thrilling. Due to the tremendous increase in traffic on our app on the very first day of joining the MPL platform, we had to upgrade all our servers to handle the surge of traffic. We broke the record of the highest grossing app on the first, as well as, second day of launch!

I think the most appreciable aspect of MPL is their team’s dedication to making stuff work. Everyone, including Shubh and Sai is so hands on. Decision making is quick and fluid and they are not afraid to try out new ways to provide a better experience to users and thereby increasing revenue.

Q. Do you think game developers and gaming apps joining platforms like MPL helps in reaching out to a wider pool of players?

SS: Absolutely! One of the biggest fears of a gaming studio is to fail in reaching out to users. Its not just the number of users that MPL provides us with, its also their quality. MPL has everyone from casual gamers to hardcore enthusiasts. Your game will appeal to one of more segment of users and, using the collected data you can really refine your app’s gameplay logic to better suit business.

Q. Recently, Nazara announced that it had invested Rs. 7.5 crores for a majority stake in Sports Unity. How do you see the association with Nazara helping Sports Unity?

SS: Nazara, along with the money, brings with itself a very vast rolodex of contacts that can be great partnership candidates for Qunami.

For example, just recently we have tied up with Hrithik Roshan to see if Qunami can be a medium to bring his fans together on a common platform. Hrithik Roshan will reach out to his fans to increase their HRX Cred on Qunami, doing so, we will be able to acquire a huge user base who would potentially convert to cash playing users. If this works for us, Nazara can bring many such associations to us.

Q. Finally, can you tell us more about Qunami’s future expansion plans and how you see the digital skill gaming space evolving in India?

SS: Qunami has a lot of interesting features coming up. We are shifting our focus entirely on collaborative and network gameplay where you can associate with up to 4 other friends and form teams. Your team will compete with other teams to win cash rewards that would be finally split between your team members. Collaborative gameplay would also have communication features like voice and chat built in to increase interactivity and excitement.

Having said that, we are also exploring a new variant of Qunami called Platina which provides serious multiplayer quizzing for school as well as college students covering their course material. This gamification of education would totally revolutionize how the education sector as each student on the app will also be representing their institutions giving way to a cult like adoption.