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Aug. 15, 2022

#018: India's Biggest Gaming Metaverse ft. Anshul Rustaggi

On this special episode, Anshul Rustaggi, talks about his love for gaming, about building zero-to-one experiences, developing games for India, challenges with India's current Web 3.0 ecosystem, and about building Zionverse - India's Biggest Gaming Metaverse Project based on Indian culture and mythology that is powered by playable NFTs.

And while we are celebrating the 75th year of India's Independence, we wish you all a very Happy Independence Day!

Totality Corp Website:
Sign Up for the Zionverse (Use my Referral Code - ZV033150):
Join the Zionverse Discord:
Anshul Rustaggi on Twitter:
Anshul Rustaggi on LinkedIn:
Transcript and Chapter Markers:

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India's Biggest Gaming Metaverse ft. Anshul Rustaggi

Roy: Hello everyone and Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Indian friends in my community. We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of India's independence today. And since we are celebrating such a special occasion, we have a very special guest to speak about India's biggest metaverse out there. 

We have Anshul Rustaggi, the founder of Totality Corp, which is a Web 3.0 gaming company that is developing a gaming metaverse called the ZionVerse, which is based on Indian mythology and is powered by playable NFTs. 

Anshul is passionate about building innovative gaming products where communities can see large benefits for themselves to create thriving digital ecosystems. 

You're listening to The MetaRoy Podcast. This is your host, Roy, and I welcome you again to a brand new episode. If you have tuned in for the first time, welcome! If you have been following us for a while, welcome back! 

On this podcast we like to break down the complexities of Web 3.0 and make understanding the space simple and fun for people who are going to build the next big Web 3.0 project out there.

Before we start, just a quick disclaimer. This content is informational only, so please do not consider this as financial advice. Please do your own research and due diligence before making any moves in the Web 3.0 space. 

With that out of the way, let's get started.

Anshul’s Background

Roy: Anshul thank you so much for joining us on The MetaRoy Podcast. It is truly my pleasure to have you here. How are you doing today? 

Anshul: I'm doing really well. Thanks so much Prasant, and thank you for having me here. Really looking forward to our conversation. 

Roy: Thank you. So Anshul, let's first talk about you. We would love our audience to actually know the story behind your journey, especially your entrepreneurial journey. So can you take us through your background, please? 

Anshul: Sure. So like with any journey, it's a little bit important to understand what motivated the journey. So my quick background, I'm from Delhi, went to IIT Delhi for my engineering, IIM Bangalore for my MBA. 

Straight after that, spent the next eleven years in the hedge fund world in London. I was a hedge fund manager at the 7th largest hedge fund in the world. Moved back to India in 2013, decided to take a break. I went back to law school. So I did LLB from Delhi University Campus Law Center. Finished that in 2016. 

And my dad is an entrepreneur, right. So while I was growing up, I was always very fascinated and obviously as a child, that’s when the impressions form the most, right? So I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I came back. I think all my friends from IIT Delhi are either startup entrepreneurs or they were working as very senior people in other startups, right? So 1mg, CarDekho or Zivame. Tons of startups come from my classmates and my friends. And I think all I heard when I came back was startup this, startup that, challenge, difficulty, VC world. It just felt extremely dynamic, extremely challenging, something that I really wanted to do. And I think that was the last push for me to get into that market. 

And I said, well, I'm going to start doing this right and given where I was in my sort of life cycle of career, right, so I was fortunate enough to have made some money while I was in the hedge fund world. And now what I was really targeting is that I wanted to create something which has a massive impact and by impact I mean it touches the most number of people that I can in any business. 

So my theory of starting any company was always that, look, I obviously always have to execute well. Like you have to do everything but you have to pick an area which has the potential to become really big and you have to pick it early. Right? So my lens of always entering into sectors has always been very new frontiers and the reason is that I pick the new frontier right, if the frontier and the sector grows and I execute well in it, it's almost like I'm running but now I have a wind behind me which is at a 150 km/hour. So my running is triple or four times what I am actually doing. Right? So I really need that sail behind me. 

So that's why I started with Vaping, Hemp. We were the first guys who did real money gaming for casual games. We then did an interactive video app which was UGC. And then in July 2020 we started with the Metaverse. So I think the easiest way to explain this is that while looking at frontier markets then you look at things you believe in, right? 

Like I'm not a smoker by the way, but I believe that Vaping is going to replace sort of what happens with cigarettes. I think the cigarette industry has been able to quash down the Vaping revolution at least it's quite down for now with Hemp being used in our Ayurvedic medicines for a long time that revolution has picked off, albeit not at a very fast pace, but it is picking up every year in India. 

Same with real money. Gaming market is huge and humongous. Interactive video, that sector really did not take off. So that bet didn't pay off. But Metaverse was obviously July 2020 sounds like not that far away but the world pre Facebook rebranding to Meta versus now are two completely different worlds. So that's how I look at business and that's how the way I picked up ideas. 

Roy: Awesome. You just mentioned about it like you wanted to build a lot of stuff. I think that is why you named it Totality Corp if I'm not wrong. Right. But from what I understood about you is you are a zero to one guy, right? You like building things from scratch and building things first before anybody else does it. So which is why all the fields that you mentioned are different things, right? 

Why build a Metaverse Platform?

Since we are talking about the Metaverse, let's first start with that. How did you kind of foresee before even Mark Zuckerberg did, to be honest? How did you foresee that the metadata will become the biggest thing going forward? This is like you literally thinking ten years ahead. So what was the vision that you had in your mind? 

Anshul: I have read the book. So Metaverse was the term as well as the entire concept comes from this book called Snow Crash, right? So I have read the book Snow Crash a while back. It is actually surprisingly, the book was written in the 90s, right? So this thought was always there. 

Metaverse has been sort of a very nerdy club sort of play prior to Facebook rebranding themselves and making it popular and accessible to the mass market. And I think we were always talking about it at the back of her mind was always the idea that what is going to be the next social network where people move. Right? 

So our bet on Real Money gaming was that gaming is already very big in India. It's the second largest number of gamers in the world. But monetization wise we are in rank 52nd or 53rd in the world. So monetization is poor. Real money bridges that particular gap. 

When you went to interactive video, the bet was that the network is going to move from short video entertainment towards interactive. That may have happened, but obviously the TikTok ban came and then we almost went back to square one where everyone started building the short video again. Right? So there was no progression. 

And I had been playing Roblox with my niece for a long time, so I'm a gamer myself and as I kept playing Roblox with her, my understanding became that for me, gaming wasn't really as social. To be honest, for me gaming is very competitive. So the social element for me was I'm competing with others. But it wasn't an element of hanging out. Right. 

When I played the Roblox with my niece, I really understood that games are actually now become places where you hang out. Like I used to as a kid with my friends in my colony, doing nothing, we would just walk, we would just talk about whatever. We would just cycle around. And my niece, the Gen Z and Gen Alpha is doing the exact same thing, but digitally inside of games. Right? And that struck a chord. 

So it's like we were already looking for an answer and the answer was right there in front of me and one day we just said, okay, you know what, this actually makes a lot of sense. We believe that this is going to be a secular trend which is going to last a really long time and we want to get in at the very early stages of doing it. 

And I think you're spot on. I love really hard, complex problems and zero to one, because that is a boon and a bane. The boon part of it is I'm not afraid to go into areas where people have no clue. Actually, weirdly enough, that's where I feel the most comfortable. The bane of that is sometimes I overcomplicate things because I just love that complication in life and a lot of times business is uncomplicated, to be fair. 

Roy: Yes, and I completely agree with you, actually. 

Anshul’s love for Gaming

Roy: You're a gamer yourself. What are the three top games that you have played? 

Anshul: So the game that I've spent a lot of time on is Quake 3D. I used to play that for hours when I was doing my MBA in IIM Bangalore. At that time, there was a batch of 180. We were 40 of us who were very active, probably playing it almost daily, particularly in exams when you needed to destress yourself. We used to play a lot on our LAN network, so Quake 3D will probably be my number one. Age of Empires. Played that a lot during my IIT days. 

Right now, I'm a mobile gamer. I play Clash of Clans a lot. I've recently gotten back to Brawl Stars, so I'm a very big SuperCell fan. As a company, I admire them, their game design, I admire the way they have done. The economy, I admire. So irrespective of whether I personally liked the game a lot or not, I always played a lot because I want to understand what are the intricacies of what they have actually built. So Class of Clans right now is my number one game where I spend a lot of time and then Brawl Stars. 

Roy: Awesome. Which town hall? 

Anshul: Town hall? 14 max. 

Roy: Oh, my God. That's awesome. 

Anshul: I think when it was released, I think it was 2012. When it was released, 2012, December, if I'm not mistaken, with the game. I think they're about to celebrate their ten year anniversary, and I think I've been playing the game for that entire time. And I think by default over the last five years, I've been buying their Battle Pass as well, or whenever it was released because they brought the Battle Pass monetization much later to Clash of Clans. And I just loved that game. 

Roy: Exactly. I think the most important aspect of a game like Clash of Clans, for example, is the community that is built around it. People love this about the game. There is a culture that Clash of Clans players have developed, and you have to participate in it with your team. It's not something that you do by yourself, right? 

So I think the same community, the same feeling is there in the Web 3.0 space as well. But in addition, you also have a chance to drive the culture of a game, which is not something you would usually have in the Web 2.0 space right. And I think some of the learnings that you might have had from whatever you learned as a game in Clash of Clans, you would have definitely taken ahead to Zionverse right?

What is Anshul’s vision around the Zionverse?

Roy: So let's talk about the Zionverse a bit. Can you tell our audience what it is and what is your vision around Zionverse? 

Anshul: So the vision is quite simple. Look, more and more we are spending a lot of time digitally. That's going to continue. We spend anywhere. I spent around 14 hours digitally every day. But that's also because my work is for a tech start up. Most people probably spend 6 to 8 hours. The more time we spend digitally, we would need places which give us more fulfillment.

So I think what we are really trying to create is the place where you live digitally, and it's being built for Indians living in India and all over the world, right? Which is why the theme is around Indian culture and mythology, because we want to give a place for people to live and feel like they belong to that particular place right? And that's the idea right? 

Yes. If I come on to Facebook and Instagram and the content is in my language, it feels like I can connect with it. And yes, the people creating the content are people I can feel I relate to. But yet we do not yet have an app or a digital experience where I can have that sense, particularly in games. There are almost no games that have come out of India which are extremely popular in India, right? So I think that's the essence of why we wanted to do things around Indian culture and mythology, because at the core, we really feel very strongly that this place where I live digitally needs to be a place where I feel like I belong, right? 

And I understand that really well because I've spent eleven years in London. And I think this feeling can only be understood by a lot of people who are NRIs once you move out of the country. As much as some people might want to say. Like. Hey. I want to go abroad. Irrespective of whatever you get out in terms of economic opportunities away from India. Once you move away from your roots and the roots are not just your parents. Even if your parents move with you. Your roots of the country. The place you see, the Cholewalle that I go and eat to right next door, the Pan walla I go to at night, the traffic, the chaos. 

And I always say that once I moved back to India, I've fallen in love with this, what I call organized chaos in India. Right. So coming back to that feeling, which is in everything that we do language, clothes, how people greet each other, what food we eat, et cetera, that is what we are trying to recreate digitally. 

Roy: Exactly. I went through your project litepaper, obviously, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an investor in the Zionverse as well. And your litepaper itself sounds like organized chaos, to be honest. 

The Different Playable NFTs in Zionverse

Roy: But let's sift through this chaos, let's understand the different aspects of it. So, I think the first NFT that you had launched was the Lakshmi NFT. Recently you launched the Vishwaas NFT and that was also a sellout. And in the upcoming quarter, we're getting the Trimurti NFTs as well, right? So can you take us through what these different NFTs are and what are the differences between these NFTs so that it is easier for our audience to understand? 

Anshul: Yeah, sure. So look, when we started with this Indian culture and mythology, and I think if people remember, October 2021 was the time when Facebook rebranded to Meta, right? And that was the time when suddenly when people used to ask me prior to that, including my mother, what are you doing? And I had to explain Metaverse. 

Honestly, when I used to say Web 3.0, people used to say, was there a Web 2.0 also? We didn't know. We thought the web was the web, right? What is this, Web 3.0? I had to actually start using the term 3D Internet, right? Like, oh, it's the Internet, but it's 3D space. That is how I had to explain to people. 

Thanks to Facebook, everybody became metaverse experts in a matter of a week, right? So we really felt that this is the time to really expand our community. Because prior to that, we were really building the technology solution that we already have to build a metaverse where users can come and create their own content, right? And we thought that there is nothing better than to actually launch Lakshmi NFT around the Diwali time. 

So we started with Lakshmi NFT. And what we really wanted to understand is, and prove to the community is there is a community of people who care about Web 3.0. There's a community of that, a subset of that, people who care about Indian culture and mythology and they care enough to be able to back it like you have done with their own money. Right? 

So the Lakshmi NFT is an NFT to relate to the Zionverse project. Every NFT that we do has utility. So it has the utility of giving you staking rewards in USDC rather than giving it in some other sort of token. We had felt even last year that USDC was the safest. So that's what Lakshmi NFT is. And almost all NFTs we will do will give you a playback character that you can actually become your identity inside of Zionverse. So Lakshmi NFT will also have the same. 

The Trimurti NFT is obviously now that we are starting the Zionverse universe. The Trimurti are three main gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The idea is again here, your utility is that you get access to a governance token, which is Shakti, which is almost like your shares of Zionverse, because you get access to a percentage of revenue which is going to come from the Zionverse platform. And again, you're going to get playable characters out as well. 

Why did we do Vishwaas NFT? So obviously the last three months have overall been tough, quite tough for the crypto market. Bitcoin went from $69,000 to just below $20,000 now at around $24,000 odd. In terms of dollars, we had crashed in tons of altcoins, most dropping 80 plus percent. And then unfortunately, we also had Vauld freezing their deposits, which hit India because they are very big in India, but also hit our community because we had partnered with Vauld to enable Lakshmi NFT sale, right? 

So I came out and showed people that listen, your rewards are safe. Whatever rewards you are going to get for Lakshmi NFT, whatever hit comes from Vauld comes to us. And I thought that the promise is not enough given the macro environment, given what has happened. And that's why we said to Vishwaas NFT holders, that we are actually going to show you that you can trust not only the Zioinverse, but overall Web 3.0. 

Yes, there are some projects which still may fail even if your intention is right. Yes, there have been some projects where the intention was wrong. All of this happens in new technology, but you will trust us and we want to in turn make sure that you also trust this technology, which is the future, and we are going to drive towards it. 

So the idea of Vishwaas was you want your rewards early, six months early than what we promised you, sell the NFT back to us. If you want to convert it to a Trimurti NFT which gives you sort of the flagship NFT of the universe's, you're able to do that at a 35% discount as well and you can get that NFT. So I think we got a really positive, overwhelming response from the community. And I think that was the idea. The idea was to really make sure that the community has faith, the community has trust. So that's the Vishwaas, that's what we're really sort of trying to build because we are not in this to make a couple of bucks and get out or just showcase something out of interest. We think this is a multi decade play. This is going to be the future. 

And as the future builds, this isn't just a digital play, right? This isn't just a Facebook or Instagram where your existing social systems are now digital. Web 3.0, the beauty is that it is actually transforming the way we interact with each other and the way we trust, right? And the paradoxical thing is that the entire backbone of Web 3.0, because of blockchain, was that you codify trust but weirdly enough. The thing that you need to solve for the most, for this new technology is actually trust. And trust doesn't get solved by technology itself, it gets solved by actions, right? 

And that's the foundation of the Vishwaas NFT to say that we are taking those actions to prove to you that you should have that trust and not just selling you on, hey, here is a smart contract. It's audited. Trust the technology, because at the end, we are humans. Technology is an enabler. It isn't something that it is going to enable us to form those relationships and have that frictionless experience, but we will get there. So I think the most important thing I have realized about in my Web 3.0 journey, that even though Web 3.0 solved for trust, the thing that you need to solve for most in a community is gaining that trust from the community. 

Roy: And especially in a country like India. Right. Trust itself comes at a cost. Right. Yeah. It's commendable the way you have restored that trust. Because we have been through a very difficult phase in the Web 3.0 space. We have had different projects facing financial challenges. Three Arrows Capital, Celsius Network, which are literally one of the biggest names out there. The Terra Luna crash. Everything coming together. And it was just unfortunate to see how this space collapsed like a house of cards. Right. 

Plus, as you mentioned, you had walked as your partner and they were not able to withdraw the rewards that they have been receiving. So you have to kind of reestablish the entire trust at some point right? And you had to address the fact that this was not possible. Right. I really appreciate the way you did that. You kind of reinstated this trust and I'm sure everybody in this community definitely supports you and your project. 

Zionverse’s Massive Roadmap

Roy: Let's continue understanding the Zionverse a bit more before we go into other topics. So it's not just individual NFT projects. Right. It's going to be a metaverse and it's going to be an ecosystem. Right. So when I went through your litepaper, you are literally kind of building decentralized planets. If I have to put it in a different world. Right. 

There is something around user generated gaming which I feel is somewhat similar or something related to Roblox. There is a streaming planet for influencers. There is KalakaarDAO, et cetera. So can you take us through this organized chaos in the Zionverse world and help us understand all these different projects in our vision for Zionverse? 

Anshul: Sure. So I think organized chaos is probably the best way to put the way we are also executing it because there is a lot of chaos in the Web 3.0 world. There are a lot of experiments to see how do we get the most number of people interested in this metaverse rather than just keep doing some sales and get to an IGO? Because like I said, our aim is not valuation. Our aim is impact. Right. The valuation may or may not be a byproduct of it. So we see this as five phases. 

Phase one is your identity slash ticket to the metaverse, which is why NFTs are important and what we are doing and I'll say this, this is something I've told only a discord community. We are also going to do a drop called DesiNFTs. Right? And what the DesiNFTs is about is really again identity of all of us as Indians. Which is why I just used the word exactly Desi, because a lot of people said addy sure it means the right thing. I said it absolutely means the right thing. It's something I am very proud of and everyone should be proud of it. Right? 

And the idea of that is it starts with 15 August where there'll be 3D stamp NFTs to collect initially five freedom fighters Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Rani Lakshmi Bai and Dr. B R Ambedkar right? After that we are actually going to keep doing these drops. They'll be all freebies for people to come and collect. The 3D stamp NFTs are 3D stamps, they're only collectibles after that. We are going to do urban Indians, Indian pop culture, statewide Indian identities. Each of these mints will again be free but you will get a playable character which becomes your identity inside of Zionverse. Right? So that way we are really expanding what we are doing at Zionverse itself, right? We have 16,000 registered users on Zionverse. We already have 100,000+ community following us on our different socials and what we want to do now is really expand that to millions, right? So this Desis going to over the next six months be a 1 million NFT Drop. Again. Like I said, free. 

The second phase is engage in the metaverse or experience the metaverse. That's where streaming coming into seeing monuments like the Taj Mahal, seeing areas where you can watch videos together, seeing other experiences where they can come and have an audio chat, text chat with another part of the community, getting some NFT artists to have their virtual art gallery inside of Zionverse. That is the engaging or experiencing the metaverse part that comes. 

The third part will be gaming because we are basically increasing the knowledge of interaction which is what games do. And we are launching four games this year. There's Rann Bhumi whose trailer is already out so it's already ready. There is going to be Chaucer Ludo. So we are taking Ludo back to its actual roots of Chaucer which is how it was played during Mahabharata. There is Divine Rummy which we are going to launch around Diwali and there is going to be Vijay Dash which is an obstacle course game which was obviously being built for the luxury NFT holders but also for the entire Zionverse community. 

The fourth aspect of it will be the user creation. And why user creation? Because for sustaining new content but also for coming to a place where I want to live, I need to have an area of expression, right? If I want to live in an area like if I am in my house, I can only feel comfortable with it if I can express myself in the area that I live in. So unless I give user creation, it cannot be a place I want to live, whether it's digital or physical. Right. So that's the essence of it. So you'll be able to create 3D assets. You can create your own NFTs, you'll be able to create your own games and publish it. You can have your own streaming worlds if you want to start streaming, et cetera. So there'll be an unlimited amount of that. 

And then the last phase will actually be ownership, right? Which is you can buy some games using Shakti tokens. You can say that there will be ten game rooms of Chaucer Ludo. I want to buy it because there is a passive amount of investment to be done. And this is important in the way we are going about this. Right. 

What has happened in the Web 3.0 world is they have started in reverse. They said, why don't you own stuff, buy land, buy NFTs, and then we will figure out if you want to engage in it. Then we will figure out if someone else wants to pay for it. Right. And what has that triggered? Now the idea was fine because first incentivize people financially, get them inside. But what happened is that people only came for the financial incentive, right? 

Like Axie Infinity is a great example. Amazing team that is trying a lot on the tide, and I hope they do. But right now something that they faced is everyone who came for financial gains is just there for the financial gains. They don't want to play the game for the fun of it. The only fun anyone has in that game so far is that how much money can I make? What is my ROI on the Axie NFT that I have actually bought? Right. And we don't want that. Right. 

Web 3.0 isn't about, hey, yes, you're going to make money. Yes, you'll make money. Yes, if you do investments early, it will yield a lot of benefit. But the point isn't like we aren't living in this world to state that hey the ultimate aim is all of us become millionaires and billionaires, right? Yes. Money is a necessity. Yes, that is something that will happen. But that can't be the only motive for you to do a particular social experience. So it is an important motive. It is not the only motive. And that's the way why we are building it in this phase and in this particular sequence itself. 

Roy: Got it. And I completely agree with you. I think play to earn games, for example, in the Web 3.0 space, like how you mentioned Axie Infinity, right. These have become economies of their own. Countries like Indonesia are literally having players who are earning more than their regular day to day jobs. Right? And at some point you'll figure out because actually Axie Infinity, honestly, is not an interesting game in itself, right? And there is a level of investment that you kind of have to do, which is why you have guilds and everything out there. 

But it is heartening to see how you're building the gaming aspect back into it, the enjoyment aspect back into the game itself and not just making it about the money. The money is obviously out there. It's always going to be there. But that is more of a side thought than the main aspect of it itself. And I'm glad that you are thinking in this direction. 

And personally, I'm a gamer myself, so I understand how difficult it is to play a game just for money. It's literally like similar to how you would work for a game testing company, right? You're doing it for the money, but you don't actually enjoy the game itself, which is the bigger aspect of it. Right. And I just appreciate how you're doing that, so well. 

Anshul: Thank you.

Sensitivity around Religion and Mythology in India 

Roy: I think one of my next question is, and I have had this for a while, right. In a country like India, and you mentioned this briefly earlier as well. In a country like India, religion is a very sensitive topic, to be honest. And you have literally tried to bring these characters to life. If I have to put it in words, these are mythological characters. They are not just characters which you talked about, but you kind of embody these stories in your day to day life, right? The ideal man is supposed to be Ram, for example, right. So there are things that people kind of embody. 

And I guess you understand that a lot of people in the Web 3.0 space are young and crypto natives. They understand these aspects of the community and everything. But how do you perceive people who are not used to this Web 3.0 gaming space and it's usually the older demographic. How do you perceive such people to actually respond to mythology and religion being introduced in the metaverse? What are your thoughts around this? 

Anshul: Yeah, no, I think that's a very good question. And look, this is something that we are also very conscious about. We are hoping that we'll always be able to keep a good balance here. But this is a very tricky balance to keep, right? Because we are not a religious app. We are saying that this is all about our culture and the gods and their personalities. Like you rightly said the lessons from what their life is and what their qualities are is what the important part is and their stories is what is part of our culture. Right? 

So one thing we have done is that the NFTs, where they are related to the gods and goddesses, they're only limited to the NFTs. The playable characters will be disciples of the gods, almost as if they are getting some ashirwad from it. We are obviously creating a lore around Zionverse well, which is something we have started to discuss and talk about. And that lore also will have the same idea. That is the origin of this lore, right? 

So the equivalent of India's Marvel, which a lot of people now keep talking about, but I don't know what people are doing about it. Right? And the idea is that also this comes from our own religion, right? I unfortunately think that some part of what we are doing in India is we forget our own religion and stories and we come and say oh, XYZ thing is popular. Let's put it in the Indian context, right? 

So if Superman is popular, how can I indianize Superman? No, that's not the point. We already had Hanumanji. He's definitely more powerful than Superman. So why can't we build stories around Hanumanji and show those qualities and in an interactive manner that those stories are distinctive to Indians, right, without offending people's religious values. So we're not doing anything around like prayers or temples directly. Even if Lakshmiji is our NFT, your playable character is going to be a disciple. So that way we are having a little bit of separation and I would say that this is a tricky and sensitive balance to keep maintaining. Right.

So this is also the other reason why we are doing the NFT to say that, listen, don't just consider us as a mythology or god related area. We are talking about Indian culture overall and obviously what we are doing as part of our religion, gods goddesses are a very important part of our culture. So we cannot ignore it. It's a foundation of what our culture is. 

But at the same time, that's not the only thing that our culture is. We are not religious. We are more about the culture of India and that belongingness in an interactive manner. Right? And the thing I would say is at the end we are all humans, right? It's not like people in other countries don't care about the religion. They care about the religion deeply. Right? 

So if you see Greek mythology, Irish mythology, now Norse mythology with Vikings, Chinese mythology where they have a monkey god that Jet Li has also done movies around it and everybody knows about it. The same is true for India, right? 

I was talking to a company out of Germany regarding being a wallet solutions provider and then I said Trimurti, he said wait, so is Shiva part of that? And I said yes. He's like, oh, my God, I would love to get the Shiva NFT because I've heard so much about Shiva. But obviously I understand Greek mythology, Norse mythology, a lot more sitting in Europe. But I would love to know more about Indian mythology. But there isn't really a lot that I can interact with. Right. Because all our interactions are very serious, very religious and the world is changing. 

If we want to have our younger generation interact with our culture, and understand those values. There is no option for us but to have it in this interactive media format to bring out the essence of it, rather than just keep it on a TV screen and give it only the religious angle itself. 

Roy: Exactly. And I think a lot of people in India itself do not understand religion. Unfortunately. You just follow people blindly, which is why all these problems are occurring. But it is heartening to see out how you are really bringing out these concepts of mythology and helping people understand this space as well. Because a lot of people, even, for example, like how you mentioned the German person actually asked you about the Trimurti NFT and they knew who Shiva was, they just didn't know the story behind it. And it is also true for some people in India as well, right? Because even they don't know what the real story behind Shiva is. 

But I just love the way you have brought these stories to life and how you have given the power for everyone in your community to embody these stories through your project as well. 

Challenges around the Gaming Industry in India

Roy: In terms of gaming, I had a question. So what are the other issues that you kind of foresee when you are building Zionverse? What are the other issues that you see for gaming itself in India? Because it is kind of a difficult topic to talk about before because people just associate it with laziness and being like a good for nothing person, right. So gaming often is usually seen in that way. How do you kind of want to address these issues around gaming and as a follow up question, around blockchain and Web 3.0 gaming? Because that is even more difficult to drive adoption for, right? 

Anshul: Yeah. So I think, again, very important point that you're bringing up about gaming. I would say that when I was a kid and a lot of us who would want to become sports people, the answer that our parents would have and they had the right reasons to say that that can't be a career, right? Because unless you became part of the Indian national cricket team where the chances were super duper low, there is no career for you as IPL happened, et cetera. A - the career opportunities are expanded. B - what everyone realized in our generation and as we are having kids, we are doing it is sports isn't just about a career, it's about your way of living. Tons of skills you learn of team, competitiveness, discipline, preparedness. 

So now all parents will make sure that their kids play some sports on a very regular basis, not just as a hobby cricket. It is a lot more framework oriented. The same thing I, by the way, say for gaming, right? Like a lot of parents now, they're like, oh my God, the game teaches nothing. Actually, I have learned a lot from game. My reason of loving this organized chaos and this complexity comes from gaming. Every engineer's mindset is like a gameplayer's mindset where you are right? 

So that mindset comes if you are also playing games regularly. You figure out that what is the design in the system. You figure out that I have to keep attempting it. You figure out that I have to keep learning. You figure out that it's actually your actions which determine the outcome at the end. There are certain elements of chance that every game has to keep it interesting, to keep it more replayable all the time. There's a lot of coordination that you do. 

And like I said, as the world is moving more digital, digital isn't a substitute for the real world, right? It is an augmentation of it. And the best part about gaming is that there are no physical constraints, right? Like, if I want to now start doing drone racing around Jupiter or around Saturn's moon, that is not possible in the physical world yet, maybe all these rockets, et cetera, will take me there in 10-15 years time. 

But it's already possible in the gaming world, right? By the time they do that, the gaming world would have evolved to something even crazier, right? And this removal of constraints just expands your mind and what you can do completely. Right? 

So, again, gaming like people saying that, hey, at least if I play cricket, I learn a particular thing. But if I play a game, you're not exercising. Yeah. Games are not supposed to be a substitute to exercise. You go to exercise, you go to keep fit. But the fact that can you learn team play? Can you learn the skills in an environment which is infinitely different? Absolutely. Which is why the beauty of games is and I think in another decade, parents will ask people to play games like they're asking people to play sports. So that's one.

Two before I come to blockchain gaming, see, in India, for a lot of reasons, real money gaming is much bigger than normal gaming, right? So the real money gaming sector is today $1.7 billion. The normal gaming sector is probably under $500 million. Right? And I think the one part is that as Indians, we love the thrill of money. And that has been part of our culture. Right? So there's an interesting story which I would love to say is that why do we play so much chance games? Like, Team Patti is a very chance oriented games. Even the Supreme Court has said it. But why do we play games of chance around Diwali? Right? 

And one of the stories goes that Goddess Lakshmi said that you need to play games of chance around Diwali. Because what you need to understand is that money, success and life chance plays a big role. And when you play games of chance, whether you are good or not, won't matter as much because sometimes the things will be unfavorable and you will lose. You will learn how to overcome those losses and those challenges and keep continuing the process, right? 

Which is why games like poker, which have some elements of chance, but it's largely a game of skill. Rummy is largely a game of skill, sports largely a game of skill. It's not like there is no chance in those games are getting propagated a lot more, right? And I think in India, what we also love is the thrill of money, right? 

So no one is playing Team Patti for money during Diwali because they want to make money, right? Maybe there are certain professionals who do that, but largely 99% of the audience is playing. So because that putting the money adds that extra thrill, right? The same as with blockchain gaming, right? 

So one portion which is I will play with the token. The token stands for something tangible, is an additional thrill in itself, right? So we have to consider this real money token part as an additional thrill. There are a lot of other benefits of blockchain gaming in terms of ownership, in terms of forming a community, rewarding the community, which obviously we can go into. 

But really the large challenge in India to build anything Web 3.0 is obviously the lack of regulation and the silence on the regulation, right? If it's going to get banned, then just do it. If it's not going to get banned, which is what the case is right now, then say something which gives us clarity on what it is, right? These shadow bans of payments, we will not bear it, but we will not let you do it either. And this reverse psychology that is being played with the market is just hurting us, right?

 Like, I was very bullish last year, and I have said this very publicly, that I'm very optimistic that India becomes a Web 3.0 capital of the world. Now I think we have no chance. We were anyway starting to lose the battle to other places like Dubai, Canada, Singapore. Now Singapore is again making a big push to become the Web 3.0 capital of the world. And in India, for some reason, we are very okay to just do the work. We are very OK with labor, right? 

So when Web 1.0 came, US was the champion, providing all the talent. When Web 2.0 came, China was the champion. We were still the guys building the apps for them. Now when Web 3.0 has come, we are still okay with doing that. Most entrepreneurs that I'm coming to meet who are building in Web 3.0 are either sitting in Dubai right now and they're right, I can't blame them. They are right. Given the lack of regulation, they have to protect themselves, their families, their capital, their investors or other people are just saying, look, we will build for the US companies, we will build for the Singapore companies. Again, why are we leaving ourselves behind? I just don't get it. And that is the major challenge, right? 

So unfortunately, the legal part of it, particularly to do with fiat on-ramps GST, angle, capital gains. I mean, I have spent more time on legal things this last six months than I have on actually building the product. And I'm sure most founders in victory have done that. And that's just sad.

Roy: That is definitely very sad. Because this is a chance for us to start from the same space as these developed countries have been all the time. Right. Over the period of these years, we have not had a chance to lead the way in the web 1.0 space, in the web 2.0 space. But right now this is a chance where you are all on the same page. Even Mark Zuckerberg is kind of starting from scratch when you see him rebrand Facebook to Meta and everything, right?

Anshul: Correct. 

Roy: It is very difficult to see the state of the Indian ecosystem and governance where we have to literally fight with the government to see these kind of Web 3.0 projects come to light. And this is something not just for everyone in the Web 3.0 space, but regulators should definitely take concern of this. And this is something we should all push for. Right. Because this is a chance that we might lose out in a lifetime. We won't get another chance like this. Maybe, maybe not, but we won't get something else like that in a lifetime like this. Right?

Tokenomics of Zionverse

Roy: Again, coming back to the Zion verse, I just had one other question on the Zion verse as well. You mentioned about different tokens, Shakti and Sanskaar. Right. So can you help us understand the tokenomics of this project in a simple way? 

Anshul: Sure. So Sanskaar token is our social currency that's already live. Sanskar token, you can't buy it from Zionverse. You can only earn it from Zionverse by doing positive contributions. So today that means interacting with the community, being more active on our Twitter, coming to our livestreams, taking part in a lot of other activities that we do as we launch games. The more you play, the more you're going to earn, the more social experiences you take part in, the more you're going to earn Sanskaar, the more you create. 

Once we launch the creation module, the lot more you will earn Sanskaar. And the idea is that we are going to give a lot of intangible rewards to these Sanskaar tokens, right? In some cases we will do certain games where you can actually get USDC against it. In a lot of cases you will get access to content which only people with Sanskaar tokens can get access to. Tools that only you can get access to with Sanskaar tokens, IRL events which you can only get access to with Sanskaar tokens, et cetera. Right. 

Shakti token is our governance token. That's sort of the token where the revenue share of Zionverse will eventually go into a DAO treasury which is controlled by the Shakti token holders, whether they distribute it to themselves or whether they fund other projects with it is a decision that then that starts taking. And that's truly the roadmap to make this entire product completely decentralized. Right. And the reason we have planets is also to say that we do not know what use cases are going to come. Right. 

So Zion verse is this entire sort of the Metaverse, but also the multiverse. And every planet is that specific use case. So today we know streaming is big. It's an obvious use case inside of the Metaverse itself. So there is plenty of streaming. KalakaarDAO is to promote all NFT artists. Like you mentioned, there'll be different gaming planets of different game genres. We do not know what other use cases and how we interact with each other socially comes while we are building designers. 

And the planet is an infinite way for us to keep expanding to say, okay, here is another planet. If, let's say tomorrow Tata comes and says that look, we want to be part of Zionverse. Maybe there is a Tata planet where instead of the Tata Neu app, you go inside the Tata planet to actually experience all their products and get the benefits there itself. So that way we make it decentralized, that way we make it accessible, that way we make it permissionless. And that's the beauty of the Shakti Token. 

So, whether you want to start a planet, you want to own the planet, you want to own certain game rooms, everything will happen through Shakti. If you are a passive Shakti Token holder, you will get a portion of revenues in the DAO treasury and obviously you get the governance right to determine where does Zionverse go. 

Roy: Absolutely. And I just understand it now much better having heard from you directly. And I love how you have made it more scalable. Right. This is not something that it is not something that is going to be limited to gaming or streaming or promoting musicians or their art in general. It is going to have an infinite number of users. And when the DAO chooses what users they want to incorporate into the existing system, they can do that. And it is something that is voted on, I'm assuming, right? Because you just mentioned that it is going to be a DAO. Or is it already a DAO? 

Anshul: The dow is already established. Obviously, the first Shakti tokens you can only get access to NFT. So obviously the DAO has already established that company or that trust is already formed. So as more and more people get Shakti tokens, they'll be able to start taking those decisions. 

Roy: Exactly. So with this token, people can actually invest in this project. People can make decisions regarding this project, which is something you would really hear in the web 2.0 space, right? You can't just go to Facebook and say hey Mark, can you remove the like button? I just don't like it. 

I think that is what sets this space apart, and the ability to make choices, the ability to own those choices and own your data and money and whatnot. All of these are aspects that Web 3.0 is kind of helping us with, I'm sure. 

Anshul’s thoughts on the Crypto Markets

Roy: I just had a few questions about the crypto market right now, we have seen this decline of the market itself, and as I mentioned, this has been triggered by various reasons. But what are your thoughts about the market in general? 

Anshul: So, one, I think I am very bullish. Web 3.0, I am very bullish that blockchain technology is the future. Web 3.0 is the future, and it's already being formed. We are still seeing a lot of adoption. And I think one key aspect you mentioned, which is this ownership. A lot of people are still like, so what? Everything we do is part of that. Right? If I feel that I'm part of this community, I'm an owner in it, I will take 10-11 more steps, right? 

I always say this in Zionverse. As a company, we are 50 people, but given the community, we are actually 200 people company, right? Because the amount of effort other community members put in, like, a lot of people will send me a five page document on comparing us to some other project and giving me recommendations. Some will just give those recommendations on discord chat and put a lot of effort, and they're not getting anything out of it. But the fact that they are owners of it, and because they are owners of it, they feel compelled to actually make that community and system better. Right? And I think that in itself is going to pull this ahead of any technological revolution that we have actually seen. So I'm very bullish on it. 

Does that transform to being bullish on prices in general? For most tokens, yes. I think the one thing I would always caution, and this is something I've been saying from last year, even when this bullish market was going, and I think that bullish market will come back, right? It's only a matter of when it comes back or if it comes back. 

With Web 3.0, one of the things we have done is we have actually put the cart before the horse, right? So it's only in this business where everyone wants to only invest in the infrastructure. Right now, everyone is like, we know Web 3.0 is the future, let's build the infrastructure. If you ask them what is the use case? They're like, don't know. Or whatever the use case is, we need the infrastructure. 

So let's build a blockchain, let's build the NFT platforms, we will build the exchanges, we will build everything. Okay? Which NFT? In India also, there are many companies chasing Shopify for NFTs, right? And some of them approached us and I was like, is NFT so popular that we don't even have an Amazon for NFT? We have OpenSea, but we don't have the equivalent of Flipkart for India, but yet we are building Shopify. They're like yeah, everyone is doing NFT. I don't think so. 

Honestly, we are one of the largest communities on Discord in Web 3.0 and we have 14,000 members, right. Like all others which are large in India is around the same number, the top two or three. And that's still a very small percentage of people. We are 100,000 community across our different social media channels, which is nothing, right? We will start seeing these use cases when there are hundreds of millions of people coming. 

So far, the one thing I would always caution people on is that don't invest so much in infrastructure where we don't even know what the use case is. Right? Like Bluray was a great infrastructure, did not take off at all for people who know what Bluray is, backed by Sony, one of the biggest media companies in the world, everything went to zero, CD went to zero. Right? So use cases or humans needs are never going to disappear. They're going to evolve. But infrastructure can disappear. 2g doesn't exist anymore, they're moving to 5G. So infrastructure bets is tricky. Right? 

And that's the only thing I would caution people that it's not a no brainer eyes shut that I am a big believer of ethereum. Right? But it's not a no brainer eyes shut that Web 3.0 can't happen without ethereum, right? It absolutely can. And very likely that the larger the use cases are, those people build the infrastructure themselves at a later stage. Right? I don't agree. 

Amazon built AWS because they had a need and then they figured out everyone has that same need, so let's build AWS. Jeff Bezos did not build Amazon to build AWS, which is what people are forecasting right now. Everyone wants to be the AWS of Web 3.0. No one knows what the Amazon of Web 3.0 is going to be. Right? So that is the problem and I am going to build those use cases directly. The infrastructure is needed, but the infrastructure is needed for the end result, not the other way out. 

Roy: Exactly. 

Staking Rewards from Lakshmi NFT

Roy: And speaking of the market, this is a question that somebody asked from the Zionverse community. Maybe they weren't aware about the updates or haven't followed the updates for a while. But that person actually asked me like we were getting these staking rewards from Lakshmi NFT and Vauld has stopped withdrawals and declared financial emergencies and everything. So can you outline it again for the Zionverse community and for investors of Lakshmi NFT, what kind of happens to their staking rewards? 

Anshul: Yeah, sure. So I think what we have done is this is exactly the point of visualize irrespective of the rarity of Lakshmi NFT you have, there is a minimum 65 USDC that everyone is going to get, which was the minimum gaming reward of 50 USDC and minimum staking reward of 15 USDC. Right. But obviously if you are a tier six or above Lakshmi NFT holder you have more staking rewards which you're going to get at the end of December. 

So what we did is we said people have already got the Vishwaas NFT as of 2nd August you can sell the Vishwaas NFT to us to Zionverse and get 65 USDC in your Metamask today itself right.

If you want to convert that to a Trimurti NFT which would be sold at 101 USDC later you can do that so you're getting a 35 plus percent discount if you choose to do that itself at the end of December there are further staking rewards and further gaming rewards which are obviously promised or based on your performance in the Vijayi Dash game that you will also get in either your MetaMask or we are actually looking at certain wallet solutions which are not noncustodial ourselves right so that it becomes the UX of MetaMask is not that great so we want to solve that particular problem because a lot of people who are interacting with us today. 

And it's not like we didn't know this problem are complaining about the sort of UX we can't control the MetaMask UX so we are looking at sort of other solutions there so the point of which was NFT was to bring forward by six months the 65 USDC minimum guaranteed payment to all the Lakshmi NFT holders which we are doing as we speak the remaining will also come into your particular account what ends up happening with Vauld may affect you because you may have your personal funds inside of Vauld and unfortunately we don't have any control over it but as far as your Lakshmi NFT future rewards are concerned those are safe and Vishwaas NFTs to show to you that you can take a large portion of that right now itself

Roy: Exactly and for all the people who have believed in this project like I have I would urge you not to sell your Vishwaas NFTs as well wait for the Trimurti NFTS, participate in the Vijayi Dash game and earn all of these extra rewards like Anshul mentioned. 

Is the Zionverse Anshul’s Legacy?

Roy: Anshul, my final question to you is do you think Zionverse is going to be your legacy or is there more to Anshul than what meets the eye? What do you want to be remembered as? 

Anshul: Just as someone who was doing interesting experiments and hopefully one of them made a large impact, that's my idea. Look. Every business I've started I've always said that this is going to be really big all of them and that's why I always say like Totality which is the company doing all of the different products is literally sort of my child and I think of it as a person not just a legal entity or a company itself as probably I think most entrepreneurs and founders do for their respect. I don't know this is what I get the feeling from when I talk to those other people. And I think that our idea is at the end of the day, that we take the Zionverse to a level where people get something, where they have that feeling of belonging, right? And that's what I'm really chasing after.

Because I can tell, like I told you, eleven years living in London, I used to celebrate Diwali for seven days when I was in London itself. Same with Holi. You lose a little bit of that when you're back here because you're now back to your roots and that need isn't there. But all of us have that need to feel to be in a place where we belong. And that should be the legacy of Zionverse. And if people will remember me for giving that as an opportunity, I'll be very grateful that that becomes my legacy. 

Roy: Awesome. 

Closing Thoughts

Roy: Anshul it was just great talking to you about the Zionverse, the metaverse, and gaming in general. All of these insights have really helped our community grow, our audience learn as well. And I'm sure they are inspired by the story itself about building this space, which is a difficult space in India itself, and taking all of these challenges head on and still fighting enough and kind of making this Zionverse a reality for all the Indian people out there. 

Because I'm sure this is the biggest Indian gaming metaverse that has come out of India as far as I can remember at least. So thank you for sharing these insights with our audience. And personally, I have been part of this community, I know how great it is. So I would urge my audience as well to go check out Zionverse, and be a part of the Zion verse community. All the links are in the description or the show notes below. 

And finally, thank you so much Anshul for taking the time out and talking to us and answering some really difficult questions. So once again, thank you so much and I wish you and Totality Corp all the best. 

Anshul: Thank you. Prasant, thank you so much for having me on this podcast. And thank you so much for being part of the Zionverse community and being our early support. And it's only going to remain possible as we keep getting support from community members like yourself. Thank you so much for having me. 

Roy: Thank you. 

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Anshul Rustaggi Profile Photo

Anshul Rustaggi

Founder - Totality Corp

Anshul Rustaggi is the Founder of Totality Corp. He is an alumnus of IIT Delhi, IIM Bangalore and LSE (London School of Economics). In addition, he is a law graduate as well from the Campus Law Centre.

Anshul is building Zionverse - a gaming metaverse based on Indian mythology - powered with playable NFTs through this current venture Totality Corp, a Web3 Gaming company.

Prior to venturing in Web3 gaming space, Anshul has been a pioneer in mobile gaming with his Mobile Gaming Premier League (MGPL) which garnered 2.2 Mn users. He, later, pivoted to an interactive video gaming platform; one more time his thought was ahead of the times. His experience with these initiatives has led him to finally arrive at the idea of building a gaming metaverse.

Anshul is passionate about building innovative gaming products, where communities can see large benefits for themselves to create thriving digital ecosystems. He is an innovative and inspiring leader and focuses on achieving fruitful results in the highly competitive gaming environment.