Updated: May 24, 2021
The Bold & Brilliant Women in India’s Gaming Industry Who Dared To Tread A Different Path.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
This is the oft-repeated quote to explain how the lack of female representation and women role models in an industry often perpetuates the status quo. At Lumikai, we want to be part of the change. As gaming becomes mainstream, we believe it’s important to amplify the women who have built and continue to build this industry. Thus, we are proud to launch the First Edition of “Lumikai Pathbreakers”, an initiative to showcase some of the bold, brilliant, and fierce women in the Indian games industry.
Gaming is now becoming a powerful medium of storytelling, however, the notion that games are solely a male bastion prevails. At Lumikai, we want to dispel that notion. Internet subscribers in India now skew more equitably female (in 2019, the ratio was 58:42 female as compared to 61:39 female in 2017) with more smartphone penetration and more importantly, a 33% female gamer ratio. Thus, representation matters.
Gaming is not the obvious, traditional career path for Indians and even when it is a career choice, the industry skews heavily male. This is an inside look at some of the women who dared to walk a path less traveled. We bring to you entrepreneurs, game designers, programmers, art leads, product managers to name a few.
We hope this initiative encourages and inspires more women to understand that their voices today will help define the entertainment and gaming products of tomorrow. We want this initiative to help identify role models, inspire more women to design and code games as per their own cultural touchstones, and hopefully, build more gaming companies. We also hope it encourages existing game companies to take diversity more seriously. As we know it is ever more important for creators and game makers to look like the diverse audiences that consume that content.
Each one of these women has made and continues to make, invaluable contributions to the world of gaming in India.
We couldn’t be more proud to feature them.
Anshu Patni Singhi, Founder, CHNO Media
Anshu is the founder of CHNO Media- a gaming and entertainment content company. She brings with her 14 years of experience across content, talent management, and brand building- working at leading companies such as KWAN Entertainment and Reliance. At CHNO, she strives to bridge the gap between gaming and entertainment content to create a larger and broader viewership- especially in Hindi and vernacular Indian languages. Anshu is also India’s first brand ambassador for Women in Games. At CHNO, Anshu views gaming as a voice not just to connect with youth, but also the larger casual gaming audience in the country.
“It’s the most exciting time for women to be associated with Gaming because the opportunities are now spread from Game development to game marketing, e-sports, casting, and content creation. At CHNO we are always striving to be able to provide equal opportunities for women creators, women working behind the scenes creating content, etc. across all languages and regions.” - Anshu Patni Singh
Bhamini Lakshminarayan, Lead Designer, Bigfatpheonix Interactive
Bhamini started her career in game design at Cuemath, where she was designing comics for a gamified math learning platform. This was followed by a significant stint as one of the early members of Byju’s design core. At Byju’s, Bhamini led the integration of 23 Disney IPs with Byju’s early learning app. In 2019, she joined Bigfatpheonix Interactive as a founding member- where she leads game design to this date. Underpinning all her work is an approach to make games that are inclusive, accessible, and ethical.
“Most of us women in gaming have to constantly prove we’re “hardcore” (more hardcore than men!) to be taken seriously. Well, guess what? We here. We’re not going anywhere. Game. On.” - Bhamini Lakshminarayan
Chhavi Kejriwal, Product Manager, Games2win
Chhavi’s career began in Marketing Communications at Contests2Win and Mobile2Win. She eventually moved to Games2Win where she found success in getting topical games featured in major publications. A responsibility to manage a global online game eventually turned into a keen interest in product management and from thereon, Chhavi transitioned to full-time product management of Games2Win’s international games. She likes to make people happy and believes that gaming is the perfect platform to achieve that.
“Gaming is a profession with no complications. You achieve professional and personal growth, and entertain people at the same time!” - Chhavi Kejriwal
Christelle D’Cruz, Co-Founder and Engineering, SuperGaming
Christelle started her career in gaming making educational games for TapToLearn, where she was also the first female employee and part of the YCombinator journey. At June Gaming, Christelle was the sole developer on children’s games like Chhota Bheem Rush and Motu Patlu Run- which have seen close to 40 million installs in India. She was also the lead UI developer on MaskGun, an FPS shooter that has seen over 45 million installs worldwide. At SuperGaming, Christelle leads overall platform development, including an audio first gaming experience for multiplayer games. She has also been a speaker at NGDC and has attended the YC Female Founders Conference.
“We are no longer in an age where women gamers are rare. Many key roles at SuperGaming are led by women. Given this, I only see more women take up key career roles in gaming.” - Christelle D’Cruz
Keerti Singh, Co-Founder and VP of Growth, Hitwicket
While doing her MBA at the Indian School of Business, Keerti started playing mobile games to de-stress between classes. The practice of short, 10-minute gaming sessions as avenues to de-stress continued as she started working at Amazon. What caught her attention was the universality of mobile gaming as well as India’s mobile-first approach to gaming. Combining that with the mass-appeal of cricket was an opportunity Keerti did not want to miss out on. This led to her starting up HitWicket- which won the Prime Minister’s AatmaNirbhar App Innovation award. Keerti was also selected among the Top 40 Global Women Business Leaders by the Govt. of Victoria, Australia. At Hitwicket, Keerti is in-charge of growth and monetization.
“An inclusive Gaming ecosystem at all levels will foster creativity to delight gamers the world over! This would mean women working at Product, Data, Tech, and Design roles in Gaming.” - Keerti Singh
Laxmi Khanolkar, CEO and Co-Founder, Apar Games
After a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s in information technology, Laxmi’s first foray into gaming was designing interactive e-learning content for kids. She has since worked with companies like Reliance Games and Rediff.com as a game designer and producer. After working in the gaming industry for 7 years, she founded Apar Games. Under her leadership, Apar Games has delivered great games, helped various brands with their gaming projects, and gained global recognition. Being CEO and Co-founder, she is in charge of everything that is required to run a successful gaming company.
“The ratio of women gamers across all genres of games is rising. This is a great opportunity for women to have a career in gaming — as a player or developer.” - Laxmi Khanolkar
Maanvee Singh, Software Engineer, Bombay Play
Maanvee’s love for gaming started at the age of 5, when she was gifted a T.V. Video Game on which her favorite game was Mario. That is when her passion for gaming started. She graduated from IIT Patna in Computer Science Engineering and joined Samsung’s Smart TV division. Post this, she joined Bombay Play- where the first game she worked on was Pokémon Tower Battle. She joined the Lockdown Brawl team at an early stage and contributed to both front-end and back-end features; most notably the multiplayer aspect of the game. As a software engineer, her key roles are to develop and manage the codebase, convert specs into a fully functional game, integrating specs with artwork and animation, and server management.
“When I started gaming, it was always Mario that saved Princess Peach. But now I can proudly say that the Princess Peach of today’s gaming can save not only Mario but Luigi as well.” - Manvee Singh
Mourvi Sharma, Head of Learning, Bigfatpheonix Interactive
Mourvi is an educator and play designer with 11 years of experience designing playful products and learning experiences for young children. She has worked with leading children’s media and research organizations like Sesame Street, Disney, IBM Research, and Byju’s. At Bigfatpheonix Interactive, Mourvi helps design games for kids that aid them in discovering skills that traditional schooling does not teach. Her particular area of focus is finding organic ways of surfacing the learning that games already do naturally and making sure these games meet their learning goals without sacrificing fun. Mourvi strongly believes that learning and play are inherently linked and that it is vital to reimagine education as an emotional pursuit. Trying to make play the backbone of learning experiences for kids has been her constant focus for more than a decade.
“Who said women have to be player number 2?” - Mourvi Sharma
Nishtha Rohatgi, Founder, Providentia
Nishtha has 15 years of industry experience at two large telecom players and two early-stage start-ups. She started her career at LiveWire Telecom- a mobile VAS and gaming company- where she helped the founding team with business development. Post this, she joined Idea Cellular and handled multiple product marketing roles. She was in charge of launching the first telecom-led mobile advertising platform at Idea and also managed the New Product Development vertical. She then served as COO at Nucleus Vision, an IoT company. She’s currently the founder of Providentia- a gamified language learning app.
“A successful game is a balanced mix of creativity, imagination, great storytelling & technology. Women are naturally good at these & their skills will redefine the gaming experience.” - Nishtha Rohatgi
Pavithra Sridhar, Game and Experience Designer, Bigfatpheonix Interactive
A game lover since childhood, Pavithra’s career in games began when she finished her Masters in Game Design from the National Institute of Design and started working as a game designer at Dhruva Interactive. She has since also worked at Byju’s and Bigfatpheonix and delivered hit products such as Heidi- Alpine Adventure, Sara’s Cooking Class, and Disney-Byju’s Early Learn. An astute visualizer who loves to interpret ideas and thoughts in meaningful ways, Pavithra specializes in User Research and Game Experience Design at Bigfatpheonix Interactive.
“Women are pretty much a part of every industry and team. It’s time to break the taboo on categorising industries on gender. The specific term of ‘women in gaming’ needs to fade away as we build a future where gender is not a highlight and ‘career in games’ becomes a generic term across all genders” - Pavithra Sridhar
Poornima Seetharaman, Lead Game Designer, Zynga
Poornima has been a part of the gaming industry since 2006, having worked with companies such as Indiagames (now Disney India), Square Enix India, Jumpstart (NetDragons), GSN Games, and now Zynga. She has also co-founded two indie game dev companies. She has worked on a wide variety of game genres- including casual games, free to play games, FPS, RPG, MMO, social casino and augmented reality. Some of her notable work is on titles such as Bioshock Mobile, NBC’s The Office 3D Mobile, Penguins of Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon, to name a few. She currently leads the design team for Farmville 2: Country Escape. She was the first Indian game developer to be inducted into the Global Women in Games Hall of Fame in 2020, has been a mentor at Google’s Indie Game Accelerator, is a TedX Speaker, and is also a Women in Games Ambassador.
“When life gives you lemons, remember that you don’t have to stick to making lemonades, you can always make a Lemonade Tycoon!”- Poornima Seetharaman
Saumya Iyer, Mobile Games Producer, Gear Inc.
Saumya has been in the games industry in India for over 15 years in a variety of roles, across companies like EA, Zapak, GSN, and JumpStart. She has worked on games from popular and beloved franchises like Bejeweled, Monopoly, and How to Train Your Dragon, among others. Saumya has been playing video games since she was a kid and joined the gaming industry right after graduating- and she’s been here since. She currently works in games production at Gear Inc, where she is in charge of coordinating with development and product teams to create and launch new features and updates for their live titles.
“Women and girls have always been here — as gamers, as fans, as heroes of our own stories, as creators. This is our space as much as anyone’s, and we’re not going anywhere.” - Saumya Iyer
Saumya Singh Rathore, Co-founder, WinZo
Saumya is Co-founder at WinZo. After completing her Masters in Psychology, she joined KPMG’s Strategy Consulting wing. Post this, she joined the Times Group in India where she worked on multiple projects across Print, Radio, and Television. She then joined ZO Rooms during the ideation stage and lead Growth there- the company grew to become the 2nd largest venture in the space, second only to Oyo. At WinZo, she leads Growth, Content, and Product. In the last 12 months, the vernacular gaming platform has grown 10x to 30 million registered users and is clocking 1 billion microtransactions per month.
“I am fortunate that I got to partner with co-builders at WinZO who could leverage the diversity in our team to build a product that is balanced and also addressed the latent need of female audience in our target market.” - Saumya Singh Rathore
Shalini Tewari, Co-founder and COO, CoolBoots Media- Qureka
Shalini has 18+ years of professional experience in the Internet and Digital space. Before venturing into entrepreneurship, Shalini held leadership roles in Marketing, Leadership Development, New initiatives and, Mergers and Integrations. She turned full-time entrepreneur in 2015 with ViralShots- a short content app for unique and trending stories. The app saw 10 million+ page views per day and an average engagement time of 30 minutes and was later acquired by Times Internet. CoolBoots Media is her second venture- with Qureka being the leading name in the trivia category. The app was launched in 2018 and has over 20 million downloads. Being the co-founder, Shalini is involved in all aspects of the business- including product, marketing and analytics, content, operations, revenue, and strategic partnerships.
“In gaming as in business, it’s all about capturing the imagination. With their ingenious perspective, women can & must help shape the gaming space for innovation & more diverse demographic outreach.” - Shalini Tewari
Shilpa Bhat, VP of Games, 99Games
A Computer Science graduate from MIT, Manipal, Shilpa has been working in Game Development for the last 18 years. Soon after graduating, she joined Robosoft where she worked with some of the brightest minds on the Macintosh platform. With her interest and experience in game development, 99Games was launched and she naturally transitioned to game development at 99Games. Their first hit title, Star Chef, was launched in 2014 and went on to become the first successful globally-monetized game from India. Shilpa was also part of successful Bollywood-IP-based titles including Dhoom 3: The Game and Sultan: The Game. As VP of Games, Shilpa has been focusing on scaling Star Chef worldwide and creating a sequel- Star Chef 2. She has served as a mentor in the Google Indie Accelerator Program and was featured alongside globally celebrated women gaming professionals in ‘Women in Gaming: 100 professionals of Play’ by Meagan Marie.
“For talented and passionate women, any industry is inclusive, and gaming is no exception. Pour your heart and soul into your passion. Your life will become a fun and satisfying journey.” - Shilpa Bhat
Shilpa Keswani, Manager Content- Gaming and Comedy, YouTube India
Shilpa worked briefly in television production before joining YouTube, where she has been a part of the content partnerships team for the last 8 years. At YouTube, she has worked with a range of movies, broadcast, and enterprise partners- before shifting her focus to creators. In addition to managing some of the leading Gaming streamers on YouTube, Shilpa also actively works towards growing the gamer-base on the platform. This includes spotting growth trends, adoption and diversification of formats, and building the brand persona of streamers.
“If you are passionate about gaming, what stopping you? Like any other vertical/sector, gaming Is exploding with career opportunities, and with all the focus and attention on the vertical, there can’t be a better time for women to steer the narrative and carve a niche for themselves!” - Shilpa Keswani
Shruti Ghosh, Co-founder and Art Director, Nodding Heads Games
After graduating from art college, Shruti joined a short animation course which turned into an internship, which turned into a successful career in gaming. Her expertise lies in creating stunning game environments and memorable character art. She has worked on titles like EA Burnout Dominator, VC Arts- Fantastic Four, Bejeweled Blitz, Tetris Blitz, Monopoly slots, to name a few. She recently started her own indie video game studio called Nodding Heads Games, intending to put India on the game development map. Their first game, Raji-An Ancient Epic, was released recently to rave reviews.
“Women have been making history in all sorts of jobs and aspects of our lives. I don’t see why women shouldn’t be making their mark in gaming as well. Hard work and passion is all to need to achieve your goals” - Shruti Ghosh
Shruti Sarraf, Co-founder and Director of Tech, BlackLight Games
Shruti has been coding since she was 8. She started her career in a mobile startup that was building games for Symbian devices- her first game was a classic match-3 title created on HTML5 that was played by thousands of players. After working for 1.5 years with SpiceCorp and MakeMyTrip, she bootstrapped BlackLight Games from an outhouse near her house. She and her team of 25 people have launched hit tiles like Ludo Superstar, Carrom Superstar, and CallBreak Superstar. Her solitaire title was featured in Google Developer Stories. BlackLight Games was also part of Google’s Indie Games Accelerator 2019 and Google for Start-Ups Class 4. At BlackLight, she takes care of technology and team management.
“Gaming is an industry which not only values work by women workforce but also needs it.” - Shruti Sarraf
Shruti Verma, Regional Marketing Director, Epic Games
Shruti started her career with NASSCOM, the apex body for the Tech industry in India. There she started the Animation and Gaming Vertical, launched India’s premier Game Developer Conference, initiated matchmaking for studios with publishers and investors, and curated industry reports. Post NASSCOM, Shruti moved to Unity to help build their Indian-subcontinent outreach and partnerships. She currently works with game studios, indie developers, and game developers who are working on Unreal or are part of the Epic Games Ecosystem.
“Women bring a different perspective to every industry that they become part of. Being part of an industry like Gaming, which has always remained at the forefront of technology, it is a good place for women to innovate and experiment.” - Shruti Verma
Tanushree Bansal, Associate Game Designer, Bombay Play
Tanushree is a graduate of DSK Supinfogame and Abertay University. She had stints at Pardy Panda Studios and Cympl, before moving to Bombay Play. At Bombay Play, she is part of the team working on Lockdown Brawl. She finds the versatility of games and their capability as a story-telling medium to be jaw-dropping. According to her, the power of games to bring people together and convey complex stories is unparalleled.
“A character sheet is about stats, it’s about strength, intelligence, dexterity, and charisma and not about gender. Never has gender trumped skills.”- Tanushree Bansal
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