The Valorant esports ecosystem in India is on a steady rise, and one can surely expect a boom in the coming months.
It’s not just the tournament organisers who are behind the staggering success that Riot Games’ shooter is experiencing in the nation. Esports organisations, teams and even the promise of a Mumbai-based server are some of the major benefactors as well.
And when it comes to the topic of esports organisations, who haven’t heard of Global Esports and the success that they have garnered internationally over the years?
The org had 25 teams across various competitive IPs and is even home to one of the best Valorant rosters in India.
In an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda’s Abhishek Mallick, CEO & co-founder of Global Esports Dr. Rushindra Sinha provides an insight into his journey as a successful entrepreneur and gives his thoughts on the state of competitive esports in India.
Dr. Sinha is a man of many talents, and it won’t be fair on our part to go over the oeuvre of his accomplishments by ourselves. So here is an excerpt from our conversation with the man himself.
Q. First things first. Before we get into the whole Global Esports and Valorant India discussion, I would like us to start today’s interview by having you tell us a bit about yourself. It’s not every day that we find someone with as many accolades under their belt as you. So can you shine some light on your journey from game designing, medicine and programming to story writing, acting and now as an incredibly successful entrepreneur?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: My name is Dr. Rushindra Sinha. I’m a doctor by profession and a gamer by passion. I’ve always been into video games but never really thought of it as a career option.
I’ve been playing LAN tournaments as far back as 2000-2001, starting off with CS and then Dota. I have played all levels of competitive gameplay.
Soon, school work caught up and I stopped playing as much LAN as before. I discovered the magic of online games and got really caught up in MMORPGs like Ragnarok Online and World of Warcraft. I absolutely loved both and spent a whole bunch of hours playing it but that wasn’t enough for me. I went from playing Ragnarok to wanting to learn how to code and to build my own version of it. So I started learning programming and scripting and taught myself how to build my own Ragnarok private server which then went on to become the number 1 private server globally.
Shortly after that, I got into medical school and had an offer from an Australian company which wanted to acquire my RO server and since I wouldn’t have the time to handle the server during med school, I ended up selling it to them.
During med school, I spent more time learning how to code and started doing freelance web and app development. There came a point where I was spending more time on my computer than in the hospital so that’s when I knew I had to give this a shot.
So, I moved to San Francisco, stayed at this placed called the Hacker House with some of the brightest people I’ve ever met (working at companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Uber, Lyft etc. or having their own startups).
I worked in the start-up space and learned all about the tech ecosystem. I then moved to LA to co-found a social media start-up with a few friends. I got into Stanford Graduate School of Business, so I decided to gain more knowledge and understand the business side of things.
In 2017, when I got done with Stanford, I decided to explore the esports space a bit more and that is when Global Esports was born (in August 2017).
The first year, I was still doing it part-time till I really understood the space and in August 2018, me and my co-founder, Mohit Israney both quit our full-time jobs (me as a doctor, him as a Bollywood filmmaker and Tribeca Film Festival winner) to do this full-time.
Q. How did Global Esports come to be? What made you want to invest so much of your time and energy in building up teams for competitive video games?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: It all started when we wanted to watch the Dota 2 'International' tournament (Rs 200cr prize) with our friends. We asked around, and the demand was so insane that we booked a private space for us to watch the game. This escalated into a ticketed event with sponsors, merchandise stalls and experience zones. This was a void in the industry that we filled, and we soon started hosting more events. We dove deeper into this space by sponsoring teams and acquiring them. We built these teams to perform on a global stage.
In the last 3 years, GE has owned 25 teams, playing over 12 different titles with players from over 18 countries across the globe.
This all came to be because everyone at Global Esports either currently is or previously has been an esports athlete themselves. So, in essence, we only created something we'd have wanted for ourselves back in the day (or if we were entering the industry now).
We currently hold the Fortnite World Record and own 2 World Cup teams in Overwatch (Singapore & India).
We're the first Indian company to raise seed funding in this space, and we've represented India on a global stage at more than 20 international events.
Q. Global Esports currently has various professional esports teams. Now apart from Valorant and CS: GO, you’re also supporting teams/players in esport titles that have not had much following in India, like Overwatch, Fortnite and maybe COD Mobile to a certain extent. What is the thinking behind investing in these titles at their latent stages?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: Global Esports stands true to its name, we have a presence all around the world. Over the next few years we wish to grow this to the point of segment domination. GE is already considered one of the fastest-growing esports companies in Asia, and we wish to make it global.
We actually started our competitive journey in South Korea by setting up a boot camp there and working with the top Korean talent for Overwatch and Fortnite. We were always of the belief that we have to create superstars instead of hiring them, and the testament to this was when we took a bunch of kids no one had heard of and trained them in Overwatch. That season, our team was the first to go 10 - 0 in Asia without losing a single game in the season. This is similar with our Fortnite players as well.
Once we had all this knowledge and learning, we then expanded to India to take everything we've learned and apply it to the Indian ecosystem.
Before we came into the picture, India wasn’t even eligible for the Overwatch World Cup, and we actively worked with Blizzard to make it happen. In fact, they even asked us to make a video about our journey.
Q. You entered the esports ecosystem before the whole competitive mobile esports boom in India. After seeing the various transitions in the industry, how would you describe your personal journey in Indian esports so far?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: Our journey has had its ups and downs. We were primarily focused on the PC ecosystem because that’s where the matured esports ecosystem was internationally. Then, around the time of the Overwatch World Cup, we saw so much growth in the mobile esports ecosystem. So instead of diving in headfirst, we decided to tip-toe and test the waters. That is where our partnership with Synergy Gaming came into being, which we later built into SynerGE (SGE) which housed some of the best mobile esports talent in the country.
The Indian ecosystem is very different than the global market, and that has its pros and cons. Fortunately for us, we have the international experience and we've been in this space long enough to know what we need to do and how we're going to do it, which is why we have sustained longer than almost any other esports organisation in India. We have a long-term vision and while that may not translate into viral numbers right now, we know the sustainability we bring will allow us to grow the Indian ecosystem to where we want it to be over the next few years.
Q. So let’s start with our Valorant discussion, shall we? What attracted you the most about the game? What made you feel like it would be a good investment to get your very own Indian Valorant squad up and running?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: FPS games have always been close to our heart. We started with CS:GO in a Lan Cafe in Bandra in 2000, and things have never been the same. Even Overwatch was an FPS game, so we have a tonne of experience there.
When Valorant came in its beta stage, we knew the game was the perfect midpoint between CS & Overwatch and with Riot's experience in running the best esports leagues in the world, we knew it would be the next best thing. So, we dove in headfirst into the ecosystem. In fact, a lot of the best players in the country today started out with Valorant through Global Esports.
Q. How do you feel about the current popularity of Valorant in India? How far do you see the game going in the current esports demographic of the nation?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: We see tremendous potential for Valorant especially since the system requirements for the game are not very high. This is where Fortnite lost out on with the Indian audience because it required a high-end PC, which is not very affordable, while Valorant can run on a mid-tier PC which can be built for cheaper than the cost of a high-end iPhone.
Also, the learning curve required to get into the game isn’t very steep, which makes it a lot more inclusive when compared to a game like Overwatch.
Q. Global Esports have been a stalwart of the CS GO scene over the past two years with multiple line-ups. What is your personal opinion on the whole Valorant vs CS: GO debate? Do you think there is space for both communities to co-exist even after the likes of Tejas “Rite2Ace” Sawant and Sabyasachi “Antidote” Bose left the CS: GO competitive scene?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: I think Valorant has a bright future because the entire game is built with esports as its core. CS:GO evolved into an esport because the audience loved the game while Valorant was built with the intent of being an esports from the get-go, with some of the organisations (including ours) hosting tournaments even while the game was in beta.
The fact that its system requirements aren't very high makes it more inclusive, and Riot Games really knows what they're doing when it comes to building titles for the masses, with League of Legends being the most viewed esport in history (last year’s LOL World Championship had 99 million viewers).
I still believe there will be an audience that plays CS:GO for the fun of the game and for nostalgia but as an esport, Riot is just more equipped and proactive when compared to Valve.
Q. Why were the GodSquad members number one on your priority list when it came to drafting your first Valorant roster? What kind of potential did you see in the players at the time, and what are your expectations of them moving forward?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: So, the primary reason was that the players from God Squad already had the raw skill and aim required for the game since a lot of their talent from CS:GO directly translated to great aim in this game.
Of course, another added bonus was that almost all the members of God Squad were already representing us in CS:GO and were signed to us, so that allowed the transition to be a lot smoother in terms of the paperwork.
We are also exploring more players as part of an academy team.
Q. I couldn’t help but notice that your current Global Esports Valorant roster has Bhavin ‘HellRangeR’ Kotwani and Sagnik ‘HellF’ Roy as the two of the five members. Now both HillRangerR and HellF were two of the biggest pillars of your CS: GO line-up and were integral to the amount of success that your org was able to garner in the ‘C’ and ‘B’- tier tournaments. Will this shift not cause some problems for your current CS: GO roster?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: We actually have some potentially interesting announcements with regards to CS:GO but we'd like to wait for things to finalise before we reveal anything.
The current CS:GO community might actually do better with the existing pros moving on to Valorant, allowing the players that have been struggling for so long to come into the limelight. They will get the exposure they deserved now that there aren't any shadows from the legacy pros who have been around in the last decade.
Q. Historically, you have been quite vocal about your love for Overwatch, and you are usually a tracer main. How do you feel about Valorant as a player when compared to Overwatch? And would you mind becoming a professional player in Riot’s fps yourself, if given an opportunity?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: Haha… I spent a lot of time on Overwatch practicing diligently with sheer focus before we started Global Esports which is how I ended up becoming one of the highest-ranked Overwatch Players in the country.
I really enjoy playing Valorant and I think it’s the perfect sweet spot between CS & Overwatch. If I can find the time to dedicate and practise the way I did for Overwatch, I’m pretty sure I’ll get a chance to compete against the pros, although their raw skill and talent might still edge over my age since 30 is considered considerably old when it comes to being a pro player (but I'd give them a good fight for their money).
Q. What are your current thoughts on the Overwatch esports scene as a whole? Like most fans, do you feel that the Brigette-GOAT meta kind of killed the game?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: Overwatch is an absolute treasure as an esport.
Being on the inside and working with the community and Blizzard on multiple large scale projects in the last 3 years as well as talking to Overwatch League team owners boiled things down to 2 main reasons which killed the game.
a) Overwatch is a fairly complex game when it comes to viewership (there are a lot of heroes and skills and if you don’t already know them, it’s hard to follow the game as an audience member since it’s so fast-paced).
b) Blizzard-Activision put all their focus way too early on the Overwatch League which killed the entire tier 2 and tier 3 ecosystem.
Q. How excited are you for Overwatch 2?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: If Blizzard can fix the 2 points I mentioned above with Overwatch 2 and take a bunch of ideas from how Riot is treating Valorant, then I think they may have a winner on their hands. However, knowing them, it's unlikely (although a fan can still hope).
Q. What are your thoughts on Velocity Gamings dominant run so far?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: VLT is a great team and we've seen their synergy as a team before (considering more than half their roster was part of our CS:GO roster).
We're glad we had the opportunity to work with them in the past. In fact, we even got them Beta access to test Valorant and were instrumental in helping them in their transition from CS:GO to Valorant.
Their biggest strength is their teamwork, which allows them to topple over teams that might be more mechanically skilled than they are. A huge part of that credit goes to senior players like Rite2Ace and Amaterasu who help keep the team leveled. This is where experience comes into play since both players have such a long heritage of playing competitively for so many years.
Q. Global Esports have been playing second fiddle to Velocity Gaming for some time now. Can fans finally look forward to you overthrowing them as the best team in India anytime soon?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: Haha… we've actually not even made any formal announcements regarding our Valorant roster since we're still ironing out a few things at our end. Once we go all in and get our hands dirty, the Indian community will be thoroughly entertained with what we bring to the table and VLT will have to work a lot harder than they are to keep their undefeated title.
If we're able to match up so close to them by putting in the time, effort and resources we currently are, then they should be worried about us when we go all in.
Q. Who, in your opinion, is the best Valorant player in India at the moment?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: It’s difficult to answer this question because there are so many variables involved in a game like Valorant, with team gameplay being the strongest aspect of the game. Fraggers take all the glory but it’s often the lurkers and support players that set the field for victory.
In terms of raw skill and aim, that title still goes to Deathmaker which is kind of ironical for 2 reasons: one being he's also considered the best CS:GO player in India and the other being he's not even keen to transition to Valorant as a game and is still focusing all his time and attention on CS:GO (There’s a big announcement regarding this that we'll be making soon).
Q. Being an avid gamer yourself, we can perhaps assume that you have tried out Valorant for yourself, at least a couple of times. Who is your favorite Agent in the game and why?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: I started off with playing Jett and really loved the mobility of the Hero as it reminded me a lot of 'Tracer' from Overwatch. I then moved onto Sage because of her ability to support the team. Most recently, I’ve been practising and playing a lot of Phoenix, and I think that’s the perfect balance between the two for me.
Q. Tell us about the upcoming Indian Valorant server, will the competitive ecosystem of the game develop because of this?
Dr. Rushindra Sinha: I think the timing couldn't be better. Riot have ignored the Indian market for far too long with their other titles because of the sheer lack of players. Valorant's release and popularity, timed with the PUBG ban, had so many content creators and pros switching over that it gave the game the eyeballs it needed and created the audience for the game, pushing things to the point that Riot couldn't ignore.
We're so glad that we're finally getting servers because this opens up so much not just in terms of players but also the competitive ecosystem, which will now flourish because of this move. We are very positive about Valorant as being at the forefront of esports in India (at least until PUBG Mobile comes back) and with the rumours of a possible Mobile version, I think there might be a lot of potential even for the mobile audience.