Comic books have been around in India since the time of Indian independence. The comic book industry is a significant niche industry all over the world but is more popular outside India, especially in the U.S., Japan, Canada, the U.K., and others. Although India also has a plethora of comic books, the youth is more interested in international comic books based on superheroes belonging to the universe of Marvel and DC and manga.
Touching upon the subject of international comic books, most of you must have seen Stuart’s classic comic book store in The Big Bang Theory and would’ve wondered when will such a comic book store open in India where you go can go along with fellow comic lovers and debate on which issue or character is better or just to have fun. To put an end to your wait, Hamza Sayed has opened India’s first licensed comic book store called The Comic Book Store in Bandra West, Mumbai. Although the store was launched in India three years ago as an online venture to cater to the needs of Indian customers and fanbase, Sayed felt that he should make a shift offline as well while continuing the business online.
Animation Xpress got a chance to visit the store where we met the founder (Sayed) who said, “I was not inspired to start this business by anyone or any show; it was something I always wanted to accomplish for a long time.” The comic book store is built on his vision that comic book stores should be purely there for comics and not for merchandise.
Coming from a social media and marketing background, Sayed’s passion for comic books is what made him quit his mainstream job and pursue his passion and start this store. He stated that as a child, he longed to read comic novels, but they were not available in India. Sayed refers to comic books as single-issue books, which he currently offers on his website and store, rather than graphic novels.
The comic books that Sayed sells in his store and on the website are directly sourced from the publishers like Marvel, DC, and others. Apart from Marvel and DC, The Comic Book Store has a range of comics from other publishers like Image, I.W., AfterShock, Vault, mangas and others. The store has a 10 per cent stock of mangas, which they would want to increase to around 40 per cent in the near future.
Talking about the bestsellers, he brought to the fore the fact that mangas, Batman and comic books based on Avengers like Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Deadpool, and Iron Man are best sellers.
Furthering the conversation about the Indian comic book industry, he said, “I have got all the love and respect for all the indie artists and creators, and they are more than welcome here.” On planning to keep Indian comic books in the store, he said, “I am open to have them here. Indian comic book publishers/creators are more than welcome to sell their comic books here. It is a no loss situation for anyone; if it sells, it sells.”
While discussing the marketing strategy, Sayed shared, “We don’t need a marketing strategy, and we do not spend anything on it because this business does not require a constant reminder. People who always read comics will keep coming back.” Sayed feels that comic books have a cult following, hence marketing is not needed to promote his business, and he is proud to be a part of this cult. Another reason why he does not need a marketing strategy for this business is because he feels that word of mouth is enough. Also when people visit the store, they post stories on their social media and from their posts, it reaches out to more people and that is how his store is organically getting promoted.
To add an element of fun and madness, The Comic Book Store also organises contests occasionally. Recently, during the release of Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, they held a giveaway contest in which the lucky winner got two tickets for the movie. They have planned other events and contests like cosplay, mystery boxes, signing events and much more.
Not keen on selling merchandise, Sayed mentioned that although he has some t-shirts which are imported from the U.S. in the store, he does not plan to keep and manufacture merchandise. The Comic Book Store houses collectables and signed items which are hard to find and sometimes the memorabilia are imported on a made to order basis. Sayed emphasised on the fact that he sells premium comic books at non-premium prices in India along with some of the comic books signed by the legend Stan Lee himself.
It’s a known fact that the comic book industry is still niche in India where there’s a lack of awareness about it and opening a store is no easy feat. Talking about the challenges he faced, Sayed revealed, “It is difficult to explain to customers and it is also a sad reality that they don’t know what a comic book is. Some customers find it hard to know how a thin comic book can be expensive, and the old editions of comic books are much more expensive, so some are bewildered to know the value of a comic book.” In his opinion, the collectors know the correct value of the comic books and collectable items, and they are willing to buy them at the price Sayed’s store is offering. Sayed elucidated that they opened The Comic Book Store to make people aware of the beautiful art form of the comic books which in future can be sold at record high prices.
While shedding light on the business model and expansion plans, Sayed asserted that they are planning to expand through a franchise model across India. He said, “It can be opened in 30 days’ time.” A franchisee then does not need to worry about acquiring the license as it takes a lot of time to get a license for a comic books store. He concluded by claiming, “The franchisees will get their investment back in 100 days and no other business can guarantee you that!”