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What do you do once you’re done shopping on an e-commerce app like, say, fashion-focused Ajio? Most would simply close the app and probably not open it again until the next time they needed to buy something. But that’s bad business for Ajio. It needs users on the app, browsing and impulse-buying. Ajio found its solution in gaming.

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That leap of logic isn’t as bizarre as it first seems. Gamification, where you add game mechanics to non-game environments, is a proven way to boostboostForbesPlay To Pay: Gamification Is The Future Of Retail AppsRead more customer engagement and retention. From there, it’s just a short hop, skip, and jump to casual gaming—hosting actual games within your website and app to keep a user occupied.

The formula is simple. Add a casual game to your app, something as basic as building blocks or bowling, to grab eyeballs and screentime. Throw in some advertisements for an additional revenue channel or take it a notch further by rewarding users with points or micro money. These games don’t need any prerequisite skills or tech to play; a basic smartphone is all that’s required. They’re also short and easy enough to attempt while one is waiting, for instance, for a sale to kick off on an app.

This urge to keep users constantly engaged reaches across segments, from social commerce and e-commerce to ticket reservation apps and even over-the-top (OTT) streaming apps. Netflix, which once famously said it competed with online video game Fortnite more often than its peer HBO, introducedintroducedThe VergeNetflix Games starts global rollout on Android, with iOS ‘on the way’Read more casual games on its app in early November.

This quest for engagement isn’t just giving consumer-facing apps a leg up, it has also spawned a clutch of casual gaming startups in the country. And like a symbiote, they grow by driving engagement for their much-bigger and better-established clients. Take Gamezop, for instance. The Gurugram-based startup claims to provide gaming services to over 3,500 clients, including Ajio, OTT platforms MX Player and SonyLIV, e-commerce behemoth Amazon, and even online travel agent (OTA) Goibibo. Or the 2012-founded Atechnos, which launched GoGames.run in 2020 and now claims to see 3 million monthly active users (MAU).

These startups capitalise on a massive chunk of the population who have smartphones, access to cheap data, and are desperately in search of ways to pass the time in a post-pandemic world. According to a June 2021June 2021KPMGBeyond the tipping point : A primer on online casual gaming in IndiaRead more report by consulting firm KPMG, the vast majority of India’s online gamers—420 million out of 433 million—are casual gamers.