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November - 2006 - issue > Company Profile
Game-on-for-Skava
Sanjeev Jain
Thursday, November 2, 2006
Arish Ali came to India in 2003 to sell the mobile multiplayer gaming technology developed by his then newly founded startup, Skava. During that time, tariffs and mobile phone prices were heading south and the customer volume was moving north. Ali thought Indian operators would soon lap up his technology and spent a year trying to close deals. He didn’t succeed. But he didn’t return to the U.S. empty-handed. With the help of his co-founder, Sudha K V, Ali set up a development center in Coimbatore.

Coimbatore proved to be a smart strategic choice for Skava. Easily accessible from Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai and without the problems of high living costs and employee churn common at technology companies in the big cities, Coimbatore has an abundant supply of good engineering talent in the many highly rated colleges in the city. Today the Coimbatore center is developing some of the most widely downloaded and played mobile phone games in the U.S. and Ali is seeing his profits soar. And there is more good news in store for him. According to IDC, the U.S. market for mobile games will grow to $1.5 billion in 2008 from the present $600 million in 2005.

Ali attributes the success of the Coimbatore team to the fact that the company is focused on developing its own games and applications, instead of simply doing outsourced services for other technology companies. “This gives the employees an opportunity to feel proud and take ownership of the products they develop, and it gives them a lot of satisfaction to know that the mobile games they have designed and developed are being downloaded by thousands of people in the U.S. and other parts of the world.”

Skava has been part of the rapid growth in the rest of the mobile games industry, but at this point—Ali is looking beyond games. He now wants to move up the ladder by selling non-games based services. “While mobile games continue to be our bread and butter business, we are actively exploring non-games mobile products as well. I see a lot of non-games potential. It will be even bigger than mobile gaming,” says Ali.

As mobile phones get smarter, people will depend more on it than their laptops. Skava is targeting this market. It has launched a host of features like Daily Comics, Stock Ticker and Skava Mail. Unlike other companies, where mobile content has to be ordered in a cumbersome process either through SMS or a WAP site, Skava has developed a storefront application. “Skava’s storefront technology is like a catalogue on the phone. You preview and then order,” Ali says.

Early Days

Ali’s first brush with computers was in school. He remembers that the first program he ever wrote was a simple game in GWBASIC on an IBM PC. He developed his skills in technology by studying at IIT Kanpur and University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and then working at Microsoft Corporation. However, it was during his next job at Brience Inc, a wireless startup in Silicon Valley, that Ali got introduced to the mobile industry and saw the disruptive potential of mobile devices for gaming. He left Brience Inc. with a vision of starting his own mobile games company. “I want to build a great products company where people will be happy to work and bring out great products out of India,” says Ali.

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