Passion for stories and storytelling is a strong and persuasive one. It has driven people out of the fancy corporate jobs with rewarding salaries. No one has been spared, not even TBS Planet’s Rajeev Tamhankar.
A 2012 Silver Medalist from IIT Roorkee, Tamhankar joined Flipkart where he worked on private label brands for three years. During the same time, he authored the book Get Corporated before you get fired! – a corporate satire. In July 2016, he joined Xiaomi where he currently manages Mi accessories and ecosystem launches for India. Tamhankar, who has previously written cartoon strips for studios like Aquariuss Animation and Ayam Animation, is currently building TBS Planet – the studio behind comics like Ved, The Puppet Master, Shivaay, Varun and many more. The graphic novels are on a range of topics – Indian superheroes, corporate humour, political satires and household comedies.
AnimationXpress got in touch with this young and dynamic entrepreneur to track his journey in the comics field from the beginning.
Being a new comic studio, what kind of market research did you do before entering the market?
Being a comic fan, I knew the quality of comic books, artworks and pricing at which different publishers were operating. I was also connected with comic fans over social media and constantly got ideas about what kind of artwork is being loved by fans. Thus, being a product evangelist myself helped me with the necessary market data that I needed to start the venture.
What’s your business model? Who are the investors?
We currently retail comic books through Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, Paytm etc. and are building our offline distribution as well. We have also just launched our own canopy shop and intend to expand these across many cities in coming months. Direct sales are currently the source of our revenue. E-commerce and Comic Con events are more effective than offline distribution for the beginning phase as they are easier to venture into.
For the last nine months, we have bootstrapped. I used up my personal savings towards building the startup and hiring the necessary workforce. Last month, we ran our first crowdfunding campaign with a realistic target of Rs 80,000 and a stretch target of Rs 200,000. We manged to raise Rs 100,000 and the funders were from senior profiles in Flipkart, Ebay, Paytm and Xiaomi.
You mentioned most of the funding was from corporate sector. Do you feel there is less awareness about your brand or Indian readers are yet to be more open minded about comic books?
A lot of comic book readers are young kids and early day employees who do not have as much funds to support crowdfunding projects. They helped us in generating awareness. Over 200 fans shared the movement on Facebook alone during the launch and we are extremely grateful towards the same.
Tell us about your team and the software you work on.
We are currently a team of eight folks – Pallavi (operations), Pawan (business partnerships), Shashank, Satyajit and Alok (illustrators) Nagamani (logistics), Rohan (events and stalls) and I (running the business and writing scripts). Apart from this core team, we have freelancer artist and writer who work on different projects.
As for the technology, illustrations are mostly hand-drawn with colouring done in Photoshop. However, we keep experimenting with different styles across genres.
Being a fairly young studio, how did TBS Planet’s association take place with the Bollywood filmmakers?
Being young. Being young makes us extremely agile. When required, all of us have worked day and night to get projects done. We work on pretty much a flat structure, with everyone aware of their jobs. When we connected to Bollywood houses and proposed a comic book on their movie, they wanted to see samples immediately. We worked continuously for hours and presented them with everything they wanted. Our speed of execution has been our key strength.
Why are you planning to venture into producing comics for corporate houses?
We had recently launched comic strips (with two to three frames) around current issues out of which one of them went viral on social media. Having come across those, few corporate houses approached us asking if we could develop content for them as well.
What are your thoughts on the Indian comics industry?
Indian comics industry has been at its peak during 90s and then declined. But it is growing back. Events like Comic Con India show a promising future for the industry.
Distribution of comics is the biggest challenge of the industry. A lot of publishers get the comic book ready but are not able to distribute it to their audiences. This is because a lot of distributors currently support chick-lits and romantic fiction over comic books. That needs to improve.
TBS Planet has so far had Balaji Motion Pictures and Ajay Devgn Films as their clients. They had launched a mobile based comic reading app last year and have recently launched their channel on Reliance’s Jio Chat Mobile App. They also have plans for book launches in different cities.
New-age stories, AR enabled comics and agility set them apart from other comic studios in India. With so much going on under one roof and at such a fast pace, we are sure to see Tamhankar’s TBS Planet and its young team make a name for itself at the global level. Way to go guys!
(The article has been jointly written by Prerna Kothari and Anshita Bhatt)