Indian animation industry is growing with giant strides. With a plethora of original IPs currently existing and popping up everyday, the animation market is seeming to be flourishing in terms of revenue generation, job opportunities and licensing/merchandising deals.
Licensing and merchandising (L&M) has always been a crucial part of the growth and flourishing of IPs and brands across the globe. Though it started in India nearly three decades ago with Disney stepping in with a master franchisee, the sector has only grown over the years and the domestic IPs are presently hugely popular in the business.
With local original shows gaining popularity, there’s an inherent demand for agencies to provide holistic licensing and branding solutions to enter domestic and neighbouring markets for expansion, co-productions, increasing awareness of IP rights, symbiotic business deals and increasing consumer demand from a young Indian population with heavy pockets, L&M has gained tremendous significance.
According to the World Trademark Reviews’ ‘The rise of licensing in India’, retail licensing in India is estimated at $1.26 billion of which, entertainment licensing is valued at $406 million.
Amongst the leaders in the L&M business in India are- Disney India, Turner India, Viacom18, Sony YAY!, Green Gold Animation (the creator of the Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju franchises) besides animation studios like Cosmos-Maya, Toonz Animation and a clutch of selected agencies like Dream Theatre. The products range from apparels, toys, board games, schools products (tiffin boxes, pencil boxes, backpacks, stationery products, sports items and so on), books and more.
Mentions Green Gold Animation CEO Rajiv Chilaka, “We got our first licensing deal for our flagship brand Chhota Bheem, in 2010. Since then, it’s been a glorious ride so far. We started at a time when character licensing was new in India, so it took us time to establish the division and set our policies in place. But at the same time, it also helped us learn, develop and hone our skills in licensing and merchandising.”
In 2011, Chhota Bheem had around 10 active licensees and has grown to 60 active licensees over the years, Chhota Bheem has been licensed by more than 150 brands and the brand is currently present in more than 12 countries and growing. They also had a successful licensing deal with Global Village, Dubai for two years.
“The last 10 years Bheem has seen a lot of milestones in the L&M circle. We have been in the top league and the biggest licensor when it comes to toon character- licensing not only in merchandise but also in events, mobile gaming, e commerce, CSR initiatives and more. We’re keen to explore more licensing opportunity beyond the boundaries of our country,” added Chilaka.
Turner recently has released few Kalari Kids (created by Green Gold Animation) merchandise ahead of its premiere on POGO on 15 April and is sure to be upping their games in the recent future.
The major metros – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru, are most active in buying merchandise as licensees have stronger distribution networks in these prime areas. Though, the offline market still dominate in the country, e-commerce nowadays are playing a crucial role in making these products available to consumers across India. Few licensees closely work with some of the leading ecommerce players to create dedicated character branded stores.
Says Cosmos-Maya CEO Anish Mehta, “There are more than 400 million kids in India which is a huge opportunity in the L&M sector. Chhota Bheem and Motu Patlu are strong cases of Indian IPs which are bringing about this sort of a co-existence between the two businesses and we are currently focused on developing the successor to this legacy.”
Sony YAY! too is taking slow but steady steps into this sector. While they’re still are at a nascent stage of their L&M business, they do envisage a positive impact of the products on the content and vice versa. For this particular vertical, they have associated with BWO – Black White Orange and are currently building plans with them. The distribution plans include reaching out to FMCG products, stationery, and fashion brands amongst others to reach out to our audience.
Added Sony YAY! programming head Ronojoy Chakraborty, “Our plan is to be where the kids are, be a part of their ecosystem and create a 360 degree design for this. Our L&M offering is a step in this direction. By extending their favourite toon characters to the line of consumer products, kids can now enjoy the company of their best friends in every aspect of their lives. While the idea is to feature products that kids will use directly and will relate with, every detail of a product is carefully planned out before it is merchandised. And as our shows have a universal appeal, the product line we will be introducing is fairly universal as well.”
Another house that’s making its presence felt in this market is Toonz Animation who are licensing iconic kids and family brands and taking them to their Global fans. For example: Gummy Bear & Friends.
Noted Toonz Media Group head of L&M division Rohit Sobti, “Gummy Bear & Friends is one of our flagship brands. We are working with International Licensing Best practices and building processes to lay a robust foundation for a Global L&M enterprise. We have operations through agents/sub-agents in USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Turkey, Japan, MENA and will kick off operations in few more important markets in early 2019. Our first milestone is to establish business in the Top 10 Licensing markets which we are expecting to achieve in mid 2019.”
Earlier this year, Chennai-based Indian YouTube kids channel ChuChu TV with 16.1 million subscribers, signed a deal with Dream Theatre to launch a range of global products that’ll help rolling out merchandise and toys modelled on its characters, ensuring that its IP is licence-ready.
The L&M business in India faces its own challenges, the biggest being piracy which is the result of organised retail that remains less than 10 per cent of the market in the country, indicating a vast gap in the supply and demand of authentic licensed products. Thus, L&M sector in India, requires long-term vision and strategy being a part of the blueprint when a brand is created. Licensors should bear in mind that India is a price-sensitive market; therefore, products must be available at a suitable price for Indian consumers.