Mother of 2 turns her childhood love for board games into business, earns lakhs

Ritika Agarwal, Founder, Yuka Games

Ritika Agarwal, Founder, Yuka Games


Better utilization of family time and conscious effort into reducing screen time is driving board game culture across the country, says Ritika Agarwal, Founder, Yuka Games

The Indian toys and games market, which includes board games, has reached a market size of $1.35 billion in 2021 and is expected to touch $2.73 billion by 2027. India will soon catch up with the board game user base present in the Europe and the US, thanks to entrepreneurs in the sector who have come together for building a community through Boardgame Café, Ritika Agarwal, Founder, Yuka Games, tells The Hans India in an exclusive interaction. Love for board games from childhood, the innate skill of an entrepreneur and a mother's concern for her children led to the foundation of Yuka Games, a Hyderabad-based board game startup founded by Ritika Agarwal in September, 2020. These board games, developed for a universal market, are introduced under the product name, Yuka Champs. Her bestseller, Matharon, a mathematics marathon, connects grandchildren with grandparents, friends, peers and strangers too, on a table of fun

How did you come up with the idea to create board games?

I am fond of playing board games from my childhood. There were times when I played Monopoly with my cousins for four days continuously. Later, during MBA, as part of entrepreneurship course, we had to run a live business as project, during which I set up a board game café - Game Space. After my kids were born, I wanted to develop board games for them, which are fun, strategic and a learning experience. The product, Yuka Champs, is named by combining the first two alphabets of my two sons, Yuvaan and Kayan. The concept of developing a new idea by yourself and coming up with a unique and new game, was the driving factor which encouraged me enter this market.

According to you, how the board game market has changed over the period in India?

As a board game designer, I feel there is scope for exploration in India. Previously, board games meant ludo, snake and ladder, pictionary. Now, the level of board games available in the market is unimaginable. From a child to adult, and for every subject there is a game being introduced. Learn through play is the most efficient and fun way. Under the current central government, Made in India has got an impetus. Due to which Indian made games in the market are growing at a rate of 300 per cent. The BIS quality check mandated by the government has created global market for products made in India. Besides, retailers are not permitted to sell products without the ISI seal. Earlier, 99 per cent of board games were pooled in from China. However, from the last three years, as China made board game products are not able to meet the quality mark set by the Indian government, entrepreneurs like us have the opportunity to develop non-toxic products, and create a market for our products in India and elsewhere.

Could you comment on the support Yuka Games has received from We Hub?

Being a sole proprietor, I am able to fast track business decisions. Moreover, coming from a family who are into varied businesses, guidance first comes from home. But, there are other aspects needed to grow as an entrepreneur and We Hub has made it possible. Networking sessions with women entrepreneurs, mentorship from thought leaders, seminars from experts and a platform to pitch our ideas to investors, these can happen only through the ecosystem created by We Hub.

Can you tell us about the research that goes into creating a board game?

I took more than two years to develop a single board game, as Yuka Games does not prefer replicating games present in the market. From ideation to developing the game and play testing it with children and adults, and later designing the game, overall it took us two years. Before the idea can take the form of a game, around 300 play tests are conducted. And before production itself, board games have to be perfected. It's not like an online game wherein we have the convenience of launching the game first and clearing the bug later. A lot of mathematics calculation, permutations and combinations are involved. Here, we maintain a base of 30 per cent luck and the rest is strategy that goes into developing the game. I place importance on developing the gamers emotional quotient as much as that of IQ.

Tells us about the making of board games and your team strength…

The board games are made out of paper and wood which come in backpacks that are relatable for children to carry. We have a parking facility whereas manufacturing is outsourced to offset printers in the city. Different elements of the game are made through different vendors and packed at our facility. Yuka Games has four employees as graphic designers and office staff, while 20 jobs are need-based during packaging.

What is the market network of Yuka Champs?

Yuka Champs is sold in 400 retail stores across India, and through more than 30 online platforms along with Yuka Champs' own website. We also sell our board games to schools as a learning tool. Recently, we have entered the US market through an e-commerce platform having their presence there. We are in talks with distributors present in Europe and UAE. Looking forward, Yuka Champs will partner with event organisers across India to develop board game culture and conduct board games Cafe.

What kind of growth you are looking at?

In the first fiscal year, from the time of launch, our turnover was Rs 10 lakh. In the current financial year, we are looking at closing with Rs 50 lakh. The initial amount of Rs 30 lakh is bootstrapped, but I cannot say that we have reached profit phase as the investments went into research - development and marketing. Within three months of entering the US market we have sold 1000 units. We are going to go aggressive with our plans of entering Europe and other international markets. The funding for which is not yet finalized. However, if our vision matches with that of the investor then we might raise external funds, or else it will be bootstrapped. So far, we have launched seven board games priced at Rs 500 to Rs 1200. Currently, I am working on four SKU's which will be launched by end of this financial year. Our focus is on making Yuka Champs a global brand, which means we are looking at the market for next 20 years from now.

With Indian startups developing innovative games for children, do you think the market will saturate?

Every month, there is a fair and exhibition held for Indian makers to display their products. Here, as a board game community of developers we work together in promoting board game culture. Firstly, the culture of playing board games needs to be developed later the product will be accepted. Games can be developed around any theme, and ideas cannot be saturated. This culture of playing board games is extensive in the Europe, and the US. Now, in India, board game cafes are in trend for friends and peers to spend quality time. We hold board game events at select stores where our products are sold. Board games are like books, there is no clashing of markets, even if it's saturated. Once board gamers start playing a game they will buy new board games just like the readers of books who, after reading one, will tend to buy another book. They understand the value of it.

Has the pandemic brought a shift in trend from online to offline games?

My peers in this segment witnessed high sales during Covid. And, Yuka Champs has seen a wider user base emerge in tier-II and tier-III cities of India. Schools themselves are now promoting board games and learning through play. Online gaming is the biggest industry and it will be so, but we are trying to limit the time spent online. Board games involve physical experiences as children can play with their peers, siblings and parents too. Only if parents involve themselves in playing board games with children, there will be a shift. It is not only about spending offline time but it has to be quality time with family. As parents wonder how best can time be spent indoors with children, I would say, the best option present right now is playing board games which are dexterous of fun, learn and strategy.

(This is the third interview of WTC Shamshabad- WE Hub Startup Series, a collaborative effort of World Trade Center – Shamshabad and WE Hub, the incubator for women-led startups, to showcase startups founded by women entrepreneurs)

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