India’s Loco has raised $42 million led by South Korea’s early-stage venture fund, Hashed, as a gaming frenzy takes hold in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

New investors including Makers Fund, outsourcing billionaire Narayana Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures, and Korea Investment Partners participated in the Series A round, along with existing investors such as Krafton Inc., Lumikai Ltd. and Hiro Capital, the live-streamed games company said in an announcement on Thursday.  

The capital infusion will take the two-year-old start-up’s valuation to about $200 million, said two people familiar with the deal who didn’t want to be named. A spokeswoman for Loco Interactive Pte, as the company is officially named, declined to comment on the valuation.

The funds will support acceleration in streaming technologies, content creation and developing the gamer and creator ecosystem, Loco said in its release.

Live-streamed games are still relatively new in India unlike in countries like the US, South Korea and Japan where it is a mainstream form of entertainment. Indian users play and access live-streams mainly via their mobile devices, whereas console-based and PC-based gaming are popular in mature gaming markets.

Growing number of users

“India has 400 million gamers currently,” said Anirudh Pandita, co-founder of Loco, in a Zoom interview.  “Younger Indians are spending a significant amount of time in the virtual world, and gaming is breaking urban and rural boundaries.”

Loco’s daily user numbers have grown over 15 times since January of last year and “live watch hours,” the amount of time users spend on live-streamed games, has grown nearly 80 times, Pandita said.

Pandita and Ashwin Suresh, Loco’s other co-founder, met as engineering undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and went on to work on Wall Street before starting Pocket Aces Pvt., a digital studio creating streaming content to provide an alternative to traditional television entertainment, along with a third founder Aditi Shrivastava.

The gaming start-up spun away from Pocket Aces last year and Shrivastava, married to Suresh, continues to lead Pocket Aces.

“India is one of the most interesting gaming markets” and 40 per cent of its gaming population belong to the 10-30 year age group that forms the bedrock of gaming and e -sports communities worldwide, said Ethan Kim, co-founder and Partner at Hashed.