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Arun Mehra

Chief Marketing Officer | 22 Apr 2009

Gaming is one of the stickiest mediums available today for users. Websites have to build social interaction among its users, which helps them to make friends and thus forces them to come back and consume its content. Loyalty can’t be forced, but an environment has to be built for users where they feel attached to the system, so features like virtual gratification, gifting under loyalty programme, team building, avatars, challenges and tournaments are important.

Arun Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer, Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd, is an entertainment industry veteran with 13 years’ experience in the industry. After starting his career with O&M, Mehra joined MTV, where he played a vital role in building brand MTV and leveraged its equity for consumer and trade initiatives. He moved to Indiatimes.com, where he is credited with the brain behind the conceptualisation and implementation of Promo Power.

He then moved to launch Zoom. Later, he shifted to Shringar, where he re-launched the Fame Multiplex brand and created a new cinema experience. He was also a part of the team that worked on the IPO and saw the second avatar of the company.

In conversation with exchange4media's Tuhina Anand, Mehra shares his views on Zapak and how it is set to revolutionise the Indian media and entertainment market.

Q. How do you view the online gaming industry in India today?

Gaming is at a young stage in our country now and is the new-found youth passion. With access to broadband in the coming years, gaming in India will touch new heights. As per the recent KPMG report release at FICCI Frames, the overall gaming market in India will see a four-fold growth to reach Rs 27.4 billion in 2013. Since the launch of Zapak in November 2006, we have achieved 6.5 million registered users, which portrays the true potential of this industry in our country.

Q. How would you define the positioning of Zapak in the market?

Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd is India’s No. 1 gaming destination and a vibrant youth brand. It is the largest online vertical in the youth space in India. Zapak is now also looked upon as an exciting youth media house by other brands to use it as a new age media platform to reach out to their target audience.

Q. When you say that Zapak is also a great platform for advertisers to reach the youth, can you tell us if there was a hesitance earlier by clients to get on board as online gaming was new to India and has the response changed now?

Over the last two years, Zapak has successfully managed to overcome hesitation of advertisers, and all leading brands are now gaming on Zapak.com. Zapak can now successfully boast of having worked with over 300 leading brands across various categories and offering them Interactive Advertising solutions through gaming. In fact, Zapak.com is the world’s largest advergaming engine.

Q. What has been the media strategy (media vehicles used to promote) for Zapak, and going forward, what would we see during this year?

Innovative media usage and strong creatives are two things that Zapak has built on. Along with the traditional media vehicles, we also innovated with ambient advertising with space in urinals in various malls and multiplexes when no brand thought of exploring this space. Innovation is the core of our brand building strategy.

Q. Assuming that young people would comprise large number of your consumers, how difficult it is to build loyalty among this group?

Gaming is one of the stickiest mediums available today for users. Websites have to build social interaction among its users, which helps them to make friends and thus forces them to come back and consume its content. Loyalty can’t be forced, but an environment has to be built for users where they feel attached to the system, so features like virtual gratification, gifting under loyalty programme, team building, avatars, challenges and tournaments are important.

Q. Can you share some innovative marketing initiatives planned for this year?

Zapak’s marketing initiatives in the coming year are planned for aggressively expanding the gamer base and further our leadership position. We shall do this by bringing new platforms and events, which shall be supported by 360 marketing initiatives, besides scaling up World Gaming Day and India Gaming Championship. We will also be introducing new properties and initiatives like ZOD! Go Las Vegas, Summer Fest and Indian Online League and more. Also, we shall increase our focus on Zapakgirls, Zapakcricket and Zapakkids with relevant content and focused marketing initiatives.

Q. What plans do you have for Zapakgirls and Zapakkids?

Zapakgirls.com was re-launched in July 2008 with 2,000-plus free games. Today, zapakgirls.com gets 300,000 page views per day and 600,000 unique visitors per month, which makes it the largest Internet destination in India for girls. For Zapakgirls, we will soon be announcing ‘Fab & Fatal’ – the hunt for India’s Girl gamer. This will help portray and showcase the best girl gamer of our country.

Zapakkids.com is India’s first ever site exclusively targeted at the age group below 14 years, which contributes almost 25 per cent of the traffic on Zapak.com. Zapak Kids today offers a portfolio of over 70 games with some very popular titles from Cartoon Network. Edutainment, a virtual world for kids and kid-specific community features are the highlights of this segment. Zapakkids has a section aimed at preschoolers under the section ‘Tiny’, which has edutainment based games – alphabets, numbers, colours, etc. In the next six months, Zapakkids will have virtual worlds where kids can interact with each other over games and activities in a safe Internet environment. This summer, we will introduce two kid-specific properties – ‘Summer Fest’ and ‘Super Gamer’. Summer Fest will be on the lines of a summer camp for kids, where kids will enjoy various activities under one roof. Super Gamer is an initiative which challenges the kids to play online games and the top scorer will get a game dedicated to him/her. He/she will also get a website featuring them as the Super Gamer of India.

Q. Do you plan to launch any further category targeting specific age groups or any particular profession?

India is a cricket crazy nation. Cricket games have been amongst the most popular on Zapak.com since our launch and are played by over a million users month on month. We wanted to provide this cricket community of Zapak with something more and so we launched Zapakcricket.com a few months back. This site offers games, news, articles, score card, schedules, results, and videos, etc. It is India’s largest cricket gaming destination.

Q. Zapak has partnered with celebs, movies and companies in creating games for their promotion. Please tell us about some of your successful associations in the past.

Zapak started associations with the Bollywood world first by associating with the biggest stars in the industry – Salman Khan and Bipasha Basu. We created exclusive games around these stars as we wanted to give more to our users in gaming itself. Zapak has cracked the model of converging gaming and movies. Today, we are the single largest destination for movie producers to create fast and quality gaming content and excitement around their movies.

We had tied up with the movie ‘Bhoothnath’ because of its mass appeal to kids. Kids aged 14 years and below constitute to over 25 per cent of Zapak users online, also serving as the stickiest and the most loyal users on our site, this is definitely an area of focus for Zapak. This game was extremely popular with the kids. Since then we have created games for movies, including ‘Luck By Chance’, ‘13B’ and ‘Aa Dekhen Zara’, to name a few. We have exclusively hosted games on Hollywood movies like ‘Ocean’s 13’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’.

We have also ventured into movie toy merchandising. We started with the movie ‘Bhoothnath’. We also tied up with the movie ‘Lovestory 2050’ for merchandising. Lovestory 2050 as a movie had a futuristic Sci-Fi setting and the products were designed keeping the movie theme in mind. Zapak has the largest distribution network in the toy and gaming space in India. All these toys are available pan-India and are distributed through a network of more than 77 cities across India. The merchandise is sold through 3,000-plus gift/ toys/ high-end stationery stores.

Q. Is there any cut on marketing spends this year for Zapak, considering the economic slowdown?

We have not slashed any marketing budgets. We are initiating our marketing plans as scheduled.

Q. What would you say is the brand equity of Zapak?

With the 6.5 million registered users and 25 million gameplays (a month on average), Zapak is India’s No. 1 gaming destination. Zapak.com is amongst is top 10 casual gaming websites in the world (in terms of page views) and is amongst the top 15 portals overall in India (in terms of page views as per ComScore – January 2009). The Gillette Mach3 Turbo India Gaming Championship 2009 saw a turnout of 1.16 million gamers, which makes it the world’s second largest gaming tournament. With the series of achievements we believe the brand equity of Zapak is very high.

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