GEMS: How talent agencies help young streamers grow & stay relevant

Many Indian gamers are giving up their jobs to stream full-time


KOLKATA: Shagufta Iqbal aka Xyaa, a young YouTube game caster, quit her job as a computer engineer to stream full-time. Iqbal mainly focuses on Call of Duty but makes sure her streams are a mixed bag. She described herself as more of an entertainment streamer. During a panel discussion at GEMS 2020, Iqbal joked: “I don’t know what to do if streaming fails.” However, she has a back-up plan, which involves branching into vlogging and podcasts.

Another YouTuber, Ketan Patel, has amassed a following of 7 lakh plus gaming enthusiasts on his K18 gaming channel. Patel rose to prominence with the casting of PUBG tournaments before the game got banned in India. Now, the 22-year-old has ventured into vlogging too. “I am more of an entertainment gamer,” Patel said.

Clearly, instances of millennials like Iqbal giving up a traditional career to make a living out of gaming are on the rise. According to a KMPG report, the number of online gamers in India was nearing the 400 million mark as of July 2020. It’s a testament to the popularity of online gaming and streaming in the country.

Both Iqbal and Patel stated the importance of having a positive headspace in order to click with viewers. “You need to have a positive personality for your audiences. It does not to be too fancy but they should get something positive out of it,” added Patel.

While streaming, gamers can’t let their emotions run away with them either. Iqbal said she doesn’t use expletives and always maintains proper language since there are many minors who tune in to watch.

Young Indians are earning thousands by turning video games into a spectator sport. Yet, at the outset, many remain unaware of the obstacles they may encounter down the line; or after a certain point, they may flounder to stay relevant.

Now, these emerging stars are turning to talent agencies to help them work towards their goals. Loco VP operations Firasat Durrani said that the streaming platform is aiming at creating a better product for millions of new gamers. “We have had a huge inrush of casters for the last few months. We have also seen people who were not big on any other platform on social media or had never live-streamed on any other platform actually match up to the number of live streamers who are big on other platforms. We are not just offering a service but also trying to create a level playing field,” he claimed.

“At the start, no content creator knows that he/she will be a success right from the get-go; everyone starts from zero. And, the idea that you will be prepared to manage expectations is something like a dream and a vision at the beginning. This is one of the hardest parts of the job that we as managers have to do,” added Durrani.

Trinity Gaming India managing director Abhishek Aggarwal termed his job as “streaming or gaming a viable career for talents”. He went on to say how the industry has grown multi-fold in just two years. Back in 2018 when Aggarwal started his career, there were only two or three live streamers. Now, platforms like Loco alone have a database of 300-400 live streamers. Hence, it is important to keep the talents financially motivated to make them stay in the industry for a long time.

Talking about the role of talent management agencies, he said that they work as enablers. “We make them do what they want to do. We provide them with whatever facilities they need like creative support, design support, social media manager. We have an in-house business development team that goes out and pitch brands for the talents to help with connections and partnerships,” he explained.

“Currently, we have 21  partners who are streaming through Loco. We are looking after their KPIs whatever provided by Loco. We are helping them deliver a minimum number of streaming hours, social media shoutcasting, social media partnerships, etc.” Aggarwal added.

Agreeing with him, Loco’s Durrani cited an example. A streamer from Nepal wanted to get on board with Loco. Since Loco never had a streamer from abroad, the team was full of doubts and questions. The streamer lacked knowledge on how to make money in such a situation. Aggarwal’s agency mediated to help both the creator and the platform.

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