For Damini Pawha (35), rising in the gaming industry – a male bastion for long – has been challenging. A gaming enthusiast since childhood, Damini’s decision to take the entrepreneurial route by launching a game and app developing company, was met with scepticism.
“Recruitment was a major challenge since most men refused to take orders from a woman and did not trust my skills and abilities to run a gaming firm,” says Pawha, who is the director of Appsoleut Coders, a Gurgaon-based mobile gaming startup.
Hiring women was also not an option because there were hardly any in the field. Despite being the co-founder of the company, Pawha had to go to great lengths to constantly prove her competence and skills. Today, after being in this industry for half a decade, she says that not much has changed as the idea of women gamers is still an alien concept.
Echoing her, Shiji Sunil (44), who heads the Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) sector between ABAI (a nonprofit organisation) and the Government of Karnataka, says that it is this preconceived notion which makes many doubt their capabilities in the industry.
For women gaming entrepreneurs, says Sunil, there is the additional hurdle of convincing the investors and banks for funds and loans. Even they are reluctant to accept that a woman can be as competent as a man in the field. “This is unfortunate given the ample opportunities in this industry and various new job roles such as game developers, designers, testers, programmers, managers, etc, have come up,” she adds.
Game designers or artists can earn Rs 25,000-30,000 per month, which can go up to Rs 80,000-Rs 1 lakh. On the other hand, game programmers or project managers can start their career with a monthly remuneration of Rs 40,000-50,000.
Sunil who joined the CoE in 2018, says that until now there have been no women entrepreneurs from the AVCG sector across India who approached them for incubation opportunities. Besides, the skill development programmes offered by the centre see few female takers. “Most of them drop out towards course completion since they do not see a possible career opportunity in VFX and gaming.” The mindset of viewing gaming as a ‘man’s job’ has to change as also the tendency to bifurcate the job roles based on gender.
As per a 2017 KPMG report, there are only 17% women gamers in India as against 83% males. Charu Tak, a 24-year-old game developer from Bangalore, says that lack of family support is one of the key reasons why women do not feel confident to take up gaming as a career. Added to this, is the dearth of women role models.
Most Indian parents view gaming as a hobby. To address this, Sunil says that parents and students must be exposed to workshops and orientation programmes. “This will help break the stereotypes and make them more gender-sensitive towards gaming as a career.”