Today (23/10/16) marks the 2nd anniversary of PokerBaazi and this day also happens to be my brother Sirjan’s birthday, which makes this day even more special! Many people have asked me how did I come up with this idea and I am sure everyone would want to know. Honestly, I always used to make up a lot of stuff and stated something which fascinates them, but the truth is that I was really confused about what I wanted to do with life. I was never the type who grew up knowing his dreams and goals.
I wasn't satisfied with my Job at TCS and definitely knew I couldn't manage my father’s business. I had seen my father work so hard and managing so many people so efficiently. Even after a gruelling day at work, he makes sure he comes home puts his clothes to laundry first, puts the shoes in the shoe rack and takes out his clothes for the next day before spending quality time with family. He never complained about anything and there is never a day in the life he has let us know how hard things are. When your dad is your own idol, it is the best feeling in the world. I guess some people are definitely made of steel and I am surely not one of those. I could go on talking about him, but this blog is about the PokerBaazi journey.
I am an IT engineer with a business background who loves poker. The combination of these 3 together made life and my decision to open a poker website really simple and easy. Definitely the next step was to convince family and I was just so blessed to have Puneet then. Puneet is my first cousin, but he means the world to me and he has always been really protective of me. I knew he would listen to this business idea for sure because I had been throwing him really stupid ideas almost every second night for a long time and he would still listen to them very patiently to keep my heart and say fuck off in the end.
After I pitched him this idea, it was the first time he said good night and let’s talk about this again next week instead of just saying fuck off. He was the perfect shoulder I needed that time to fire my ideas to the family and I made sure I fired all the ideas I had. Puneet’s wife came up with the name ‘PokerBaazi’ and it’s so ironic that I came up with a name ‘Seratt’ for their daughter and my niece. Everybody loved the name PokerBaazi and everyone I know finds it really catchy.
After I knew that family was kind of convinced with the idea, I met Anirudh Chaudhry, who is one my closest friends from college. I just knew that he would be thrilled with this idea and of course HCL delaying his offer letter after college definitely helped my cause.
I definitely did a lot of research and met a lot of high profile people involved with different concerned departments. Once the paperwork and company formation was done, we started looking for a software company. From day one I was sure that I wanted it to have all the rights to the software so rather than taking an easy option we started building our own product with a software company.
Whenever you reach your goal, set another one bigger and bolder.
At that time I felt the need for a person who could lead the technology team for me. This is where Avneet Rana comes in. He is also from Manipal and I had known him since then so trust was never an issue. He was also with me in TCS so I knew that he was very efficient with his work even though he is someone who could sleep even if his house is on fire, he would give me very good results. We would sit for hours every day to get every logic and the UI/UX to be perfect. Both of us love clean and minimalist designs so it was a nice experience working together that time on these things.
Once the product was ready, we launched it on 23rd October 2014 and I was really lucky to have a lot of wonderful friends who started playing from day one just to support me and my idea. It was something that motivated me so much. On the day of launch, we had 3 tables running nonstop and this is something till date I haven't seen on any new website.
Since it was a new product, there would a lot of random bugs that would come up in the software. These guys were not only my players that time, but they also acted as my testers in the live environment. My mom would also call me and suggested me things, which kept me motivated. We started in a very small place and there would be a lot of nights we wouldn't go home. We would just keep working tirelessly.
Varun Ganjoo, one of my friends from Manipal was a great help that time. He would come and help us out every day selflessly just to support the venture. He was working for TCS that time, but he would make sure he would take out some time for us every day. That’s when I thought that it just made a lot of sense to get him on the team. It took a lot of convincing to get him on board and I am sure he doesn't regret a thing now. He is someone who is really easy to work with. He is a task master so I gave him the role of a marketing lead.
I am definitely one of the most difficult persons to work with so I feel blessed to have such a wonderful team who are not only efficient but also extremely understanding. This is my A team and I know for sure that if you have a good team and a drive to do well, there is nothing you can’t achieve. You have got to have both trust and a network, everything else can come from that.
“When things go as per plan, remember to celebrate success and recognise the people who helped you achieve it”.
It’s because of this team that I could travel and network and not worry about anything that was going on in the backend. I started traveling afterward and first stop was Bangalore, the poker capital of India. I ended up falling in love with the vibe of that city and stayed there for 3 months. I have traveled all over now and that’s the part I love the most about the work.
My mom has been so supportive that she even started learning the game and came to support our event in Goa. She ended up cashing one of the tournaments and being the crowd favourite so it just tells how much she has supported me. I could just see how proud she was and it was really a very satisfying feeling.
I have been really blessed to have a really good bunch of friends around me who not only help me during stressful times, but also keep me grounded and inspire me to do well. There have been times when we would work almost 24 hours a day and a lot of our friends would come to our office to spend time with us and help us relax and unwind. I owe a lot to them as well.
I made a few good friends in Bangalore as well, so there was no lack of inspiration for me because of all these friends. There have been a lot of good days and a lot of bad days in the last 2 years but these bad days have not only made the team and me stronger, but they have also taught us how to handle a lot of things.
We are a bunch of honest guys who share the same love and passion for poker. I had a vision and I convinced others to jump on the voyage. The secret is to keep testing, iterating, retesting everything we do until we hit on the mix of technology, product, marketing and of course satisfaction.
There was a free roll of 5 lac around 6 months back, which was also the first big free roll and it got canceled because of some technical issues. We as a team felt so bad that time and decided to credit 2000 chips in all 1000 players’ accounts. We being there always and acknowledging the issues has buoyed up our competitors to be more transparent.
We have come a long way from where we started but our principles of making this community and this beautiful game still remain the same. We want to be the most trusted site and they should feel at home playing here. I also monitor the Facebook group ‘PokerBaazigars @ PokerBaazi.com’ personally and there is no query that doesn’t get resolved there.
We are excited to have Sunny Leone as our brand ambassador. Her amazing beauty, grace, confidence, dignity, and sincerity encapsulates everything that we showcase through our platform for the gaming industry. She has certainly appended the hotness quotient to the gaming world.
PokerBaazi Premier League has been the most satisfying thing we did. I have been able to make a lot of good friends, network, made the community bigger. With Baazi poker Tour I have been able to form a big social circle not just for me but also for the players. They used to play online before but due to baazi a lot of them became closer because we started a lot of common interactions and we were the first site where management was actively involved.
PokerBaazi is my baby so I just want to grow it in the right way with good values, transparency, and ethics. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone is to just get started. If I understood how much I would need to know before I started, I probably would have been too horrified to get going. But I’m a big believer of just-in-time learning, and we’ve learned a lot as PokerBaazi grew, and we’ll continue to keep learning as we grow.
It is extremely rewarding to know that we’re able to fulfil the goal we started the company for. We will be focusing more on software revamping, lots of promotions, BPT, live club, making more friends, PPL 5 and creating treasurable PokerBaazi memories.