Across the world; be it the U.S, Japan, South Korea or the U.K, popular characters have spawned franchises spanning over clothes to toys to TV shows to movies to figurines to theme parks. The popularity of the comic book characters have inspired a business that continues to thrive among its patrons. Gizmos and figurines have given a new life to these characters.
Moderated by AnimationXpress founder CEO & editor-in-chief, the panelists included DreamTheatre founder and CEO Jiggy George, Green Gold Animation founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka, Black White Orange COO & co-founder Mitali Desai and Entertainment Store co-founder Satish Khemchandani explored the various facets of licensing and merchandising in India.
Is the kind of fan-craze and fanfare often seen in foreign countries possible in India? Can a scalable licensing and merchandising business be built on the back of popular comic characters?
Panelists took turns to throw light on the subject over the course of the session. Character licensing and merchandising have been around in India for years now. While it has evolved to some extent; compared to the west, India still has untapped potential. Throwing light on the scenario, Desai pointed out, “We are at the stage where we have created some great Indian IPS. Chhota Bheem has done phenomenally well. Chhota Bheem probably rules every possible category as of today as far as the whole market is concerned. We have also managed to successfully bring in quite a few global IPS like from the Universal studios; Fast and Furious, Jurassic and Game Of Thrones. Game Of Thrones has been one of our biggest success stories for sure. So yes, we’ve been there and done that.”
Explaining as to what our country needs, she shared, “Like I said there is a long way to go. Frankly, irrespective of local or international; what is common for all of these is a fan base. It is very important that each one of these creates their own community of fans. Fans are obviously the ones that make these brands. They are always looking at taking a piece of it back to their houses, consuming it and making it a part of their day to day lives. The fan base depends on how popular the brand is. If you look at the west, you have brands like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Batman. These are not well-renowned otherwise but they are super successful license properties and that’s because they have managed to create this whole mega world and this culture beyond these films and content, something that the fans can totally immerse themselves into. I think that is where we need to probably step a notch higher and that is the reason I say there is a gap and there is a lot more we can do to fill it.”
Chilaka who has been a pioneer on many fronts with India’s most successful animated IP Chota Bheem shared, “When I had put out a product, I went to Big Bazaar and saw a small kid pointing at “Chhota Bheem” comic. She insisted to her mom to buy the product even if she couldn’t read it and she bought it. That’s a great memory for me. When you see your product in store, it is amazing. We have been in this field for a while and had our own ups and downs.”
According to George the challenge lies in getting fans to connect with commerce in any form. He elaborated, “What is the missing piece really is retail. Even though we keep talking about this great retail story, it is really is not great. A large part of India is unorganised retail; unorganised retail is almost 98 per cent. What happens with unorganised retail is unaccounted for royalties; there can not be royalties and secondly, you won’t see a product placed beautifully.”
Khemchandani shared, “When it comes to writing only comics, I don’t think you can rake in very much. You need collaterals like figurines and merchandise and more.” Recounting how his comics were recognised at Comic Con, Kini shared, “What happened was in around 2011 when the first Comic Con happened, that was when Angry Maushi was tested. There was a particular production house which showed interest in producing it but the figure they were providing was rather insulting. That is when we started the process of copyrighting the IP and secured it.”
On being asked if India is ready for political cartoons and IPS, George answered, “We don’t have a sense of humour. We shouldn’t do anything about politics. The last thing we want is to do that and get into trouble.” Panelists acknowledged that there is a need for organising and combating the problem of piracy.
The session was followed by Wacom senior director Rajiv Malik on Creativity in Online Education. Explaining the background of Wacom, Malik shared, “Wacom is a Japanese brand. And we are a small team in India who works closely with the artists to empower them with our tools. Our community site crossed 100K followers and we are trying to create regional community in India. We have got excellent response.”
Malik shared that Wacom has a become a bridge between corporate and freelance artists. He asserted, “We are trying to cultivate and grow this further. From the product point of view, the matte surface is so smooth that it is almost like they are drawing on paper. That is the USP. Durability and reliability, pressure sensitivity and ergonomics of the pen are the upsides.”
According to Malik, the market has completely changed in terms of the size and what has taken one year would have taken ten years. He highlighted that the adoption of technology has been markedly accelerated in the recent past.