Paid to play a global game
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"My office is just a stone's throw away. So I had to just walk across," he says with a smile. "As you can guess we are pretty informal at office, and everyone is upto playing some game or the other." Paid to game, lucky bunch!
"About 300 million people play our games globally. That's a country in itself," says Shan as we settle in. It's been a year since Zynga opened its India office in Bangalore and it's about time to celebrate. "We are taking all our employees to Thailand with their spouses in April."
Zynga's India office is an assortment of varied talents. "We have Bollywood musicians, we have people advertising from the advertising and media worlds, and then are animators and of course gaming technologists," says Shan.
India is already one of the largest online markets in the world, behind US and China, and hence there's a lot for Zynga to explore. Talne is also available in plenty here. "So setting up shop in India was an easy decision."
Zynga's mission is simple—connect the world through gaming. "So it's not just for the serious gamers. There's gamer in everyone!" For Zynga, Facebook has been a great platform. "Many of the games on Facebook were developed by us. But we are also present across other platforms too like MySpace, Yahoo and we are looking at other social networking platforms as well.
Its latest offering CityVille, is a new social game that allows people to build their dream city from the ground up. CityVille is said to be Zynga's most social game to date with new features that allow players to build a city, interact with friends' cities, and build franchises with the help of their friends.
Shan, from an early age, wanted to be an entrepreneur. "My dad and several family members are doctors. But somehow my dad never wanted me to become a doctor. That suited me as well. I always wanted to be a businessman and Dubai (where he grew up) was a good place to nurture that dream. My first venture was trying to develop surgical instruments out of shark fins!"
But he never gave in. "That attempt failed, but I kept at it. I travelled across the globe, occupying various positions in New York, California and other locations. But I always wanted to come to India. That's when Zynga happened."
"My most challenging and rewarding assignment till date has been building Zynga India. While I have been involved in building many other software companies from scratch in India, Zynga has been very a different experience in comparison. Zynga has been rewriting all the rules in this space and growing at a pace rarely seen before in the industry, touching the lives of over 299 million users each month. For a company like Zynga to establish its presence in India at such an early phase of its growth is again a rarity."
"A good example is the creation of an open source database called Membase co-founded by the Zynga India team. Given its rocket ship growth, Zynga is one of the world's largest data intense distributed computing environments and was faced with the tough computer science problem of dealing with the large volumes of data that go across our millions of users and our game servers."
"At our scale, we could no longer rely on the traditional data bases to efficiently deal with this data. The team did some amazing out of the box thinking and came up with the idea of writing a database tuned to our requirements. Typically, such an idea would have been thought of as hard to execute, given the complexities involved in creating such a large software product. We brought together some of the best minds from Zynga and the open source world making this achievement possible in record time," says Shan.
People seem to love his leadership style. "I have come to realise that the real strength of a leader is to ensure that he or she is not "managing" people but rather creating an environment where everyone takes ownership and moves forward. Today there is a fundamental shift in people's attitude at all levels giving them an equal stake in running the company I also like to take risks and push the envelope on innovation. Quite often leaders try to mitigate risks, sometimes at the expense of innovation. I strongly believe in taking risks and making course corrections early from the lessons that come of such risks."
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