Unlocking India Part 2: the affiliate essentials

By Dan Kleiner


In the second part of Dan Kleiner’s focus on India, he explores the principal drivers of the market’s recent growth and what it takes for affiliates to enter and scale.

Looking at the projections on the Indian igaming market it’s no wonder that it’s increasingly mentioned in the same breath as Brazil as the major emerging market opportunity for affiliates over the next few years.

H2 Gambling Capital estimates that the total market, including online betting, gaming and lottery, is set to grow by 139% over the next five years to generate more than InR628bn (€7bn) in gross win by 2029.

Last year, some 80% of the entire onshore and offshore igaming market was accounted for by locally licensed lottery and rummy, according to H2. With skill-based games legal in most states, luck-based games are currently banned for Indian players everywhere apart from Sikkim and Nagaland, indicating the potential for affiliates to drive RMG traffic for operators as regulation allows, notwithstanding the tax obstacles considered in Part 1 of this series.

According to Lumikai’s Indian gaming report 2023 with Google, igaming’s growth is taking place amid a wider explosion of games being played online among the huge Indian population.

This is being spearheaded by the midcore and core games category, forecast to grow from US$0.6bn in 2022 to US$2.7bn by 2028, and casual and hypercasual games, estimated to rise from $0.5bn to $2.3bn.

Mobile accessibility

Gourav Pilania, an igaming consultant based in India, tags the growth of all forms of digital gaming to mobile data prices becoming more affordable in India. In cable.co.uk’s global mobile data research in 2023, India came out as the seventh cheapest country. The average 1GB data plan recorded was $0.16, compared to the UK’s $0.62 in 52nd place.

“The most crucial element in the growth of online gaming in recent years in India has been the widespread availability of affordable smartphones,” says Pilania. “In addition to the increasing accessibility of high-speed internet due to the rising graph of digital literacy among the entire spectrum of the population”.

Cultural shift

For the CEO of affiliate business MediaRun Digital, Aryman Raman, the biggest change he’s seen is a cultural shift among Indians.

“The modernisation of the country has led to the acceptance of igaming, which is still largely a taboo,” says Raman. “Now the average Indian has been exposed to igaming from YouTube and social media influencers as well as looking at western entertainment more than ever before.”

This the affiliate CEO believes is also tied to increasing salaries in the country. “With an increased disposable income, Indians have been able to take risks experimenting with how to spend and understand how to enjoy their money.

The modernisation of the country has led to the acceptance of igaming, which is still largely a taboo
Aryman Raman

“There has also been an uptick in travel to Monaco, Las Vegas, Europe and Goa to play at land-based casinos from Indians.”

For Raman, entering the Indian igaming market took two and a half years of failure before getting things right. He emphasises the tough competitive market, where earlier in its journey international agencies understood and knew the industry, but now things have changed.

“Now you see Indian brands are taking over and not only slowly dominating search rankings but also becoming fantastic in player acquisitions across different verticals including PPC, media buying, lead generation, messaging campaigns and social media.”

Buying into localisation

Yet, the biggest challenge Raman faced was localisation. Especially when it comes to language and content preference across the entire country.

“India’s rich diversity means not everyone speaks English and users prefer content which is familiar and comfortable,” explains the MediaRun Digital CEO. “Then there was the issue with spammy sites that seemed more interested in taking money than providing a real service.”

The Indian-based affiliate took its time to understand the players and what they were looking for in igaming. “As we grew we understood that localisation is just not the language but also what users want to play. Horserace betting is popular in the Maharashtra and Bengal states, but not in Rajasthan, while football punters would be found more in Kerala than any others and Kabaddi needs more Hindi content over English.”

If your content is relevant, then it doesn’t matter [about the language]
Deepanshul Rana

Yet, Deepanshul Rana believes with internet browser technology advancing with translation, language has become less of an issue for players to obtain the right information. “If your content is relevant, then it doesn’t matter,” he explains.

“If you write it in English or Hindi, people will understand due to the translation services available especially on Chrome so it’s easier for people to understand and get the content they’re looking for if it’s in their interest.”

From West to East

For affiliates looking to break into the Indian market, Gourav Pilania’s advice is to make sure the brand is fully optimised for mobile before presenting it to Indian players.

“You need to have a mobile-first priority for your brand and optimise resources for that,” he says. “If you look at the search volume for app keywords you’ll quickly realise the importance of mobile.

“Also what works in the west certainly does not work in India. I’ve sometimes come across affiliates and operators using western gaming lingo and jargon which Indian users might not understand and could also be culturally inappropriate,” he adds on the importance of context.

“So it’s really important to develop a relationship with the target audience and having Indian people from across regions on the team to give you a definite edge.”

To understand the Indian igaming audience as a UK marketing company with a presence in India, MediaRun Digital employs a local Indian team who provide local insights to Raman.

“The insights combined with our global perspective and understanding of the industry enable us to anticipate local market trends effectively and provide an edge to local and international competitors.”

I’ve come across affiliates and operators using western gaming jargon which Indian users might not understand and could also be culturally inappropriate
Gourav Pilania

Deepanshul Rana shares Raman’s views on localisation and the necessity to acquire a team based in India to make affiliation work there. “Localisation is definitely required and that’s why people are still looking for Indian talent to then understand where and how they can fit into the ecosystem and understand how it works for those close to the ground.”

It seems despite the uncertainty around India’s future legal position on igaming, it continues to pay to understand the country’s cultural complexities for an affiliate looking to get in on the action. That and having an India-based team to get the most out of the content for the vastly different audiences.

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