"Creative dissatisfaction": Why Indian indie Shailesh Prabhu swapped Mumbai for Copenhagen

Leaving home to chase the art

"Creative dissatisfaction": Why Indian indie Shailesh Prabhu swapped Mumbai for Copenhagen

Shailesh Prabhu, founder of Indian indie studio Yellow Monkey, has recently left his home in Mumbai in favour of Copenhagen.

An Indian Maven and prominent member of the indie scene in the region, Prabhu revealed to that the move was "mostly due to creative dissatisfaction back in India."

Keen to hear more about his motivations, and the creative difficulties faced by game developers in India, reached out to Prabhu as he settles into his new city. Tell us a little about when/why you decided to leave India.

Shailesh Prabhu: The idea to leave India has been slow burning for a while now.

I have been working for 10 years in India as a game designer and most of it has been with my own studio Yellow Monkey, which was initially started due to the lack of any creative work being done by the studios here.

It's always been Bollywood, cricket, and now we can add Teen Patti  to that.

Even today, what I see from most of the industry is almost like Silicon Valley the TV Show - a lot of bullish behaviour, keep saying "everything is great" and attract more investments from VCs when the realities are very different.

I have been involved with trade organisations and communities in India and the experience has been pretty much the same - keep being boastful and hush any negatives about the market realities.

I have tried to do my bit, but I dont see myself being 100% productive in India.
Shailesh Prabhu

That leads me to believe that the community isn't in a very healthy state. I have tried to do my bit and will continue to do so. But, I dont see myself being 100% productive in this environment.

I am not saying it's a dead space, there are a bunch of people doing interesting things, but to me it feels too few and far between.

Why Copenhagen?

A number of reasons.

I don't know what it is about the Nordic region but they make some amazing games. They have a very lively community and everyone is very warm, welcoming and helpful.

You can just go to a bar or cafe and meet 30 game developers and bounce ideas, talk about games and playtest.

That's something you can't do in India, maybe once or twice a year, but not without 30 more people asking you about monetisation or what Indian skin you want to use even before you have a base mechanic ready.

I have a lot of friends here and have visited a number of times, sometimes staying for months.

The added bonus is the proximity to Malmo and Gothenburg which have they own and equally active community. Plus, being in Europe makes it easier to go to other European cities.

I got a great opportunity at Cape Copenhagen to work with a really talented team on what promises to be an amazing game, and the studio has been very helpful in my move and have made me feel totally at home.

Also Copenhagen is a really amazing city and offers a good life.

Will you be remaining in your position as Director of Yellow Monkey Studios, or does your relocation mark a move to pastures new?

Well, I will be terminating our operations in India as it is really painful to do all the legalities and paperwork for an Indian company, especially remotely.

But I am starting something here which, in spirit, will be the same.

You mentioned the "creative dissatisfaction" you felt in India. Could you elaborate on this, and how do you feel your relocation will help you?

I spoke about this a bit in the first question already but to be fair there are a few people doing amazing work in India, too.  

You can go to a bar, meet 30 game devs and bounce ideas, talk about games and playtest.
Shailesh Prabh

I would say at least 20 developers all over India are making projects that are somewhat exciting to me.

But there are definitely a lot more of those in Copenhagen itself, not to mention the nearby regions. Consdering the size of India, it should be a lot more.

Is there anything you will miss about the Indian development scene, and will you try to remain in touch with it?

Of course! I think I have made a lot of friends in the Indian development scene, and I will miss them.

I also discovered some unique and amazing games while running some of the communities. I will try and be in touch with them and all the unique awesome games I discovered.

I will also continue to try and discover more of what's happening and to try and help out wherever I am needed.

I still feel we have some amazing games to offer from India and once we stop second-guessing ourselves and stopping short all the time, we will realise them.

What are you working on right now, and when can we expect to see it?

Currently with Cape, I am working on The Gentleman, a rhythm/musical narrative driven game based on 1920s swing jazz aesthetic. This will be for PC and consoles and I dont think we have a fixed release date as of now.

Among my personal projects. I am continuing work on Sky Sutra, a local multiplayer game about flying carpets which is also for PC and consoles which should see the light of day in 2 months.

On the mobile side, I worked on One More Pass with Supersike games. OMP is a casual, arcade soccer game. The game should be out at some point in July.

I also have a few prototypes in collaboration with a few developers back home in India which we are yet to figure out where to take. But as things settle down on my end we will pick them up again.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.