NODWIN Gaming has assigned Nimish Raut as its Head of Global Esports Partnerships and Business Development. In his new role, based out of Singapore, Nimish will oversee global partnerships, business development, and media rights for all NODWIN properties across the world.
Raut comes with 15 years of experience in sports and esports and has worked with companies such as Star Sports, where he led strategy for new sports products. Moreover, he has been the head of sports marketing at Red Bull India. Later, he followed his passion for esports and joined Riot Games as the Senior Manager – Esports for Southeast Asia. During the last few years, he has been actively involved in the advancement of esports in India as the India Lead for Fnatic.
At NODWIN, Raut is pushing forward with his plans to bring direct interest and investment from traditional sports and entertainment industries towards the world of esports. He has already helped close deals with brands such as Gillette, OnePlus, HP and Red Bull.
AFK Gaming, on behalf of Esports Insider, had the opportunity to interview Raut about his new role and his goals to shape the future of South Asia’s esports industry.
Why NODWIN Gaming, and why esports?
Raut explained that given the current ecosystem, the options in India were limited. He wanted a role where he could bring his expertise in mainstream sports marketing to esports.
Following NODWIN’s £16m funding round via Krafton, the firm had the bandwidth to offer Raut a global role where he could work not just in India but potentially in Southeast Asia and beyond. Raut is currently working with NODWIN as a consultant where he has the liberty to pick up his own projects and sometimes work towards goals that are beyond the scope of NODWIN Gaming.
He shared: “I normally try to stay away from the day-to-day nuances of what NODWIN tries to do. I pick up special projects, either create them from scratch, or I actually bring in brands who want to try out fresh ideas.” Raut and Rathee are focusing on bringing in a lot more creativity in the way esports grows, not just in India but in South Asia more broadly. Therefore, Raut’s role in NODWIN is fairly strategic.
Raut also made it clear that his interest lies in competitive gaming only and has no plans to indulge in anything that is not related to esports. “I’m definitely not interested in the word gaming. I’m not interested in people calling themselves esports platforms when actually, they are just casual gaming platforms. So my role is very specific to esports and turning this into the biggest sport that the country has seen,” Raut said.
The role being based out of Singapore is a strategic move from NODWIN as there are plans ahead for the company’s expansion in Southeast Asia. Raut explained that staying connected with the Southeast Asian market will help build better relationships with the big publishers in the region.
Finding the right brands to work with
Raut has already closed some key deals for NODWIN, OnePlus being one of them. Raut said: “OnePlus is a consistent client that I used to work with when I was at Fnatic. And then, of course, we brought that client to the NODWIN family. We did the Dominate series. We are currently in the midst of planning to be very nice to them,” Raut added without going into much detail.
In the month of December, NODWIN brought Gillette on board as a partner for the Valorant Conqueror’s Championship, and are now doing something with Battlegrounds Mobile India. Looking forward, Raut revealed that he is planning to close two or three more partnerships, and get other big brands to come and understand the space a lot better.
We asked Raut what key aspects he keeps in mind when landing a potentially successful deal. He shared that he completely avoids doing ‘run-of-the-mill stuff’ while landing a deal and lamented that this is something that he has lost a lot of business because of.
“The biggest turn off for me is if a brand tells me that they want to do something that every other brand is doing. Not all brands are willing to take that kind of appetite to go to their boss and tell them that I wanted to spend a crore and a half, but I could fail. So that’s why I work with very limited brands and partners.
Learnings from Fnatic
After leading the growth of an international esports organisation in India, Raut moved on to NODWIN with some valuable lessons about franchises and their opportunities in India. “Franchises don’t make money, definitely not in India” Raut said. Be that as it may, Raut and Rathee are working to make sure that NODWIN, as a tournament organiser and industry stakeholder, keeps players and the team owners at the center of everything.
Raising concerns about how the streaming and influencer business is flourishing while there is no sustainable structure in Indian esports and its tournaments, Raut promised to work towards a solution for teams being able to monetise themselves a lot better. Sharing the responsibility with others who are part of the ecosystem, he explained that it is equally important that every esports enthusiast comes forward and makes the ecosystem big enough for sustainable development.
“Hopefully, people don’t undercut each other so that brands can actually see the value in esports and don’t come to me and say do something for us in INR 1 million (~£10k). That’s ridiculous, right? They would never do that with cricket. So why esports? I don’t understand.”
Raut feels that there is a lack of vision when it comes to Indian business partners, sponsors, and tournament organisers. “Nobody knows what they’re doing beyond two months or beyond six months. Which is ridiculous. If I go and ask anyone right now, what are their plans for 2022, apart from telling me that they’re going to do a three month tournament series, they have absolutely zero business plan.”
While he understands that this is the “need of the hour” and the Indian industry will run this course to shape itself, he described it as “frustrating” because, without a very steady marketing & competitive calendar, the entire ecosystem becomes extremely vulnerable.
Raut added that there is still no actual Indian esports ecosystem. “We are just clapping around the fact that we have an esports ecosystem. We don’t have any particular system,” said Raut. “We have a bunch of teams that compete at the highest level, according to them, and we have a bunch of tournament organisers who feel that they are doing a fabulous job with the ecosystem, but they are far from being an ecosystem”.
This story is written in collaboration with AFK Gaming. AFK Gaming is an India-based esports media and content company that aims to provide quality and consistent coverage about teams, players, tournaments, and competitive video games with a primary focus on the Asian region.