Comicclan: An e-commerce venture born purely out of the love for comics

Kartik Venkitaraman and Dhruv Thaker used to watch lot of animes as kids. Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Pokemon were a huge part of their childhood. As they grew up, they looked for one stop online as well as physical stores that sold Manga and Indian Comics, but found none. It was then, that an idea struck both of them and they quit their jobs to start a venture- Comicclan. Oh, but the venture got its name at a much later stage. “We wanted a place from where we could keep buying comics but realised that apart from Amazon and the Comic-Con (which happens once a year), you did not have many options. So one fine day, we thought why not make a website which sells only comics/manga,” said Venkitaraman. And it is from here that the duo started working on this idea which took almost a year and a half to execute. “However, we never thought we would end up making an E-commerce website exclusively for comic books.” On carrying out research, they discovered two things. “First: nobody in India was doing this (creating a platform solely for comics) which was a big motivation for us. Second: there were so many individual artists/publishers in India with amazing artwork and talent but there was no platform where they could showcase their work,” he explained.   When the decision to start this website was finally made, there followed a six-month grind on coming up with a name and creating a logo. In the process, they ended up learning Photoshop and Illustrator. Things took a new turn after that. Around March 2017, their friend who was studying in IIM Udaipur asked them to apply for the institute’s incubation program. With all their study and research documented, the duo applied for the program and started working under their mentor Arun Singhal, who guided them to prepare a business plan. “That was it. We knew we were ready to launch the website. We had our logo ready, we had a domain name and most importantly a business plan. Only thing left was the website,” stated Venkitaraman. An ambitious project of this scale sure comes with its own challenges. For Comicclan, finalising a web developer was the greatest one. “The website was the only thing we had and if that one thing went wrong, the entire project would fail.” The team had to make a framework of how it wanted the look and feel of the website. Uploading the entire range of comics was an arduous task as one comic had to be uploaded at a time and their library consisted close to 15,000 comics. “Just two months after the website was launched, it crashed because of some issue with the server. So we had to quickly migrate the entire website to a new server and we managed to do that in a week.” He shared, “We are truly lucky to have the support of not only all the Indian publishers but also our distributors who literally jumped on to the idea.” When one looks at Comicclan’s library of graphic novels, one realises that it is massive- from major Indian (TBS Planet, Vimanika, ACK, Graphic India, Abhijeet Kini Studios, Campfire, Holy Cow Entertainment) and western publishers (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Archie) to multiple Manga publishers. So how did the duo manage to gather such a wide range of collection? They spoke to: suppliers from Flipkart and Amazon, Indian publishers during Comic Cons and distributors in Mumbai. With this they were able to get contacts of major publishers like Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster etc. “Once we met one publisher or distributor, it became a chain since these guys used to introduce us to other publishers.” All the funding for this venture came from the young entrepreneurs’ savings of previous jobs, along with help from their parents. The company’s customer base lies in the age bracket of 13 to 40, something that the duo deduced through research and survey. “These (customers) are hardcore comic geeks who are mainly into comics and superhero movies. Most of them are ardent followers of the cult and have been into comics for more than a decade, and a few for more than 15 to 20 years,” added Venkitaraman. Their only source of revenue is the website. Apart from that, they recently rented a stall at the Mumbai Shopping Festival at Powai in January this year. “We are not an e-commerce company which has a marketplace model like Amazon and Flipkart. We promote our website mainly through Facebook ads and Instagram ads.” But the duo have their goals and strategies clear, and in place. “To be honest in terms of our business model we are not very different from other e-commerce stores. Our main intent is to create a huge library of comics from around the world and offer it to our customers. We don’t even offer discounts, except, if you are a repeat customer, we offer discounts as a way of saying thank you for considering us once again, but not as a strategy to acquire new customers.” About print media going out of vogue, Venkitaraman has different views. “People in India still prefer print over digital. Indian publishers and customers at Comic-Cons and other events have time and again reiterated that they prefer printed comics to digital ones.” However going forward, they would like to venture into omni-channel retail. “People like to feel comics and then buy,” he said. With not many physical stores selling comics, this is one area they feel they could tap into. “We could have one comic book store like Midtown Comics in the US or The Secret Stash from the Comic-Book Men series,” he smiled. “We want to create an easy platform for all the Indian comic book creators who can come to our website and start directly selling their comics without any hassles.” Sounds more like a love-for-comics than a business idea. And that is what differentiates Comicclan from other e-commerce platforms. Not vying for profits and big publicity, but spreading the love for comics and an easier access for the geeks!
Games