INDIA LICENSING EXPO (ILE) 2019 was an enriching experience of brand growth and opportunities

The INDIA LICENSING EXPO (ILE) 2019 continued to provide the country’s largest brand licensing platform that collates opportunities, knowledge, recognition and veterans under one roof.  Organised by License India, the third edition of ILE saw an enriching conglomeration of stalwarts shedding insightful inputs on global brands, retail, manufactures, licensing and merchandising, agents and influencers, for two days, 8 and 9 July, of relationship building, deal making and trend spotting. The first day of ILE 2019 was an eventful one with a series of panel discussions, fireside chats, keynote addresses, and presentations followed by Label Awards. The event commenced with the lighting of the lamp and a welcome address by Franchise India editor-in-chief Ritu Marya who noted that sectors like sports, retail, fashion and digital have seen tremendous growth. She said, “It’s about the dialogue we share to establish and extend the industry. We need to shed inhibitions in order to let brands grow. Building a vision is very important before building an equity. You need a purpose and collusive collaboration for the growth and success of the brand.” The first session had Industry Relations and Information Licensing International SVP Martin Brochstein and Licensing International India Head Jiggy George giving an overview looking into ‘The Future Trends In Brand Licensing and Building new Labels’. They focused on millennial cult of new trends, new creativity, new consumers, building Brands without borders, the future of retail and e-commerce, global licensing trends and the fast changing Asian Market and latest trends in IPR.
Martin Brochstein
Brochstein gave an overview on the global opportunities of licensing business. He focused on Licensing International (rebranded from LIMA), being a premiere trade organisation for companies in the business of brand licensing. “Licensing is one of the most powerful contemporary forms of marketing and brand extension. It’s really the reason for our being. We are aimed at growing the future of licensing all around the world. It’s a vigorous, vibrant business that we very much believe in and support expos and sponsor for its growth. Though our headquarters are in U.S., more than 60 per cent of our membership is based outside the USA and that’s really where, the growth is coming from. We’re showing steady growth in the industry. This year we passed 200 billion dollar market and we saw that more and more business is built around not merchandise but experiences and services. That’s a really fast growing part of the business.” George emphasised on the local perspective in India and pointed out brands are even being created out of YouTube brands. He gave examples of Chu Chu TV, Vidya Vox, Bhuvan Bam, Baby Shark and so on who have gone to become huge in the recent days. He informed how licensing and merchandising (L&M) are affected when comics or books are adapted as blockbuster movies/shows, and become huge hits. He cited examples of MCU, DCU, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter franchise and others. George also talked about successful movie franchises adapted as cartoon shows like Little Singham and Golmaal Jr. or even games like PUBG, Fortnite which are currently in rage currently in the L&M business. 
Jiggy George (left) and Martin Brochstein
Next was a fireside chat between Bollywood filmmaker Milan Luthria (The Dirty Picture, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai) and The Economic Times senior editor Alokesh Bhattacharyya. Luthria shared his journey as a director and the changing times of how directors, presently, are less involved with the entire filming process. He said, “People nowadays want to become filmmakers too fast. They don’t go through the labour of giving birth to the film.”  But he also appreciated on the changing phase of Indian Cinema and entertainment with quality content. “The Indian entertainment industry is standing at the cusp of change. The cleansing process has happened over the past year and now we see good content and not shit, that few creators were throwing at us. The hardware has also changed with increase of multiple screen options,” he added.
Milan Luthria with Alokesh Bhattacharyya
Luthria also commented that he sees less scope for animation films becoming mainstream in cinema as the best technicians according to him are absorbed by Hollywood who’re doing a far better job than that of in the country. Famous fashion designer, Wendell Rodricks was up next talking about his fashion line and brand philosophy. He believes in doing charity that goes beyond just paying a cheque. In fact, he is the first designer to incorporate Braille on his clothes for the visually challenged to be able to see it. Rodricks also is transforming his 450 year old house into the first Costume Museum in India. Rodricks was followed by a special address by Indiantelevision dot com group founder, CEO and editor-in- chief and AnimationXpress editor-in- chief and chairman, Anil Wanvari, on the rapid growth of media and entertainment space in the country. He talked about the OTT originals rush, Indian content going global and pressure on pay TV. Mentioned he, “Subscription patterns are growing up. Language has become the niche and it’s the golden era of content creation and creators, with growth of OTT players and Indian content moving out of India.” He also pointed out on how L&M policies are influenced by characters and their popular sayings – be it Chhota Bheem or Apna Time Aayega. 
Anil Wanvari
The event then had its first panel discussion on ‘Creating Entertainment for the Digital Generation’ where the speakers touched on points on why content creators are looking at streaming services, change in viewership nature, content liberation, penetration of local and regional content and much more. The speakers were : Amazon Prime India head of India Originals Aparna Purohit, Adlabs Entertainment joint CEO Dhimant Bakshi, Shemaroo COO Kranti Gada, SonyLIV Business Head – Digital Business Uday Sodhi and Zee Entertainment Global Syndication and International Film Distribution head Vibha Chopra. The session was moderated by The Economic Times features editor Sunny Sen. Purohit commented, “This is the Renaissance of entertainment industry. We’re experiencing an explosion in content with a lot of diversity. Now, is the age of characters which are not black or white but grey.” Talking about the changed audience and consumption pattern, Sodhi further added, “I don’t think the audience has changed but the screens have evolved. Mobile phone is a huge alternative screen. Whether it’s movie content or TV content or original content or even Sports, the consumer will watch whatever is in front of them as they’ve lot of choice.”
From left to right : Sunny Sen, Dhimant Bakshi, Uday Sodhi, Vibha Chopra, Aparna Purohit and Kranti Gada
Post lunch, the second panel discussion was on ‘Building Fashion or Nothing’ that  looked into- making of a global Indian brand, building gender neutral brands, getting fashion label off the ground in record time, building a conversational brand through influencers, technology-led design philosophy, using the power of brands and pageants to build assets, growing importance of trademark, copyright and Law firms. Moderated by Sen again, the panel included – Varija Lifestyles founder Varija Bajaj, PrivateCollection & Co LLC director and board member Roberto Bré, Reliance Retail Limited & Director Reliance Brands Ashwin Khasgiwala, Label Life CEO Preeta Sukhtankar, ABFRL (Pantaloons) Head of Marketing and e-commerce Ryan Fernandes and fashion and lifestyle consultant Neeraj Gaba. The panel had one thing in common – staying true to one’s vision, philosophy and quality. Khasgiwala quoted, “The quality should be the best and catering to the needs of the customer. Standardising Indian sizes are also equally important.” Gaba emphasised, “Customer centricity is crucial. If you can’t provide good service post sales, then you can’t expect customer loyalty and success.” The next session was about ‘A Sports-driven Lifestyle’ which spotlighted on looking beyond cricket, creating brands from non-cricket sports, creating non-cricket brands out of sportsmen, Sports IPs and IPR law, new kind of fan-following and building a sports-first brand. The speakers were Prakash Padukone Sports Management CEO Vijay Lancy, SportzLive co-founder Prasad Mangipudi, Chennaiyin FC & Ultimate Table Tennis group vice president Hiren Mody, LaLiga International Business Development exec Gary Udhwani, Ultimate Kho Kho League chief executive officer Tenzing Niyogi and moderated by Bhattacharya. The discussion reflected the rise of non-Cricket sports and their popularity. On how the limeshight is now shared by the likes of Football, Kabaddi, Kho Kho, Badminton and others. Niyogi commented, “The growth of the non-Cricket sports was remarkable in the last few years. In the USA or Europe, kids are tapped at the age of six or seven, and trained to become gems. This is where India went wrong. So, for Kho-Kho, the game just needed a platform and we thought of going back to the roots.” Lancy spoke about the growth of infrastructure that was triggered by the win of Saina Nehwal at the Commonwealth Games. Now, there’s availability of proper coaching, management and guidance that has aided the sports industry. Udhwani mentioned, “We at LaLiga are trying to grow our brand recognition in the country. We’re following a 360 degree approach and are making our deals accessible to more and more audience. We’ve cracked deal with Facebook and conducting special screenings and contests for fans.” Following was a fireside chat on ‘How to go from Reverence to Relevance?’ between Marya and Indian Bollywood actor Sunny Leone. Leone who is hugely popular but at the same time received a lot of flak, commented about how she ignored criticisms, went on with her passion and now created her brand Infamous by StartStruck – brand of lingerie.  “If I had been bothered about what people talked about me, I wouldn’t have been here today. A lot of people were upset when I came back to India, but I didn’t lose hope, nor gave up. Nobody should ever give up following their passion.” The last session talked about ‘What does the next generation want?’ and the points of discussion were how to build brand presence digitally, rise of targeted advertisement and its problems, data-driven customer segmentation, patenting as important as inventing and innovating. The panel moderated by Brochstein consisted of Godrej Appliances marketing head Swati Rathi, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance CMO Abhishek Gupta, Tata Global Beverages vice president Marketing – India Puneet Das, Oxford Limited managing director Chris Evans, Amway India CMO Sundip Shah and Kellogg South Asia marketing director Sumit Mathur. About brand building and sustenance, Mathur said, “Agility, honesty and quickness works well for brands. You should be able to adapt and evolve for the medium you choose. How authentic we’re in our philosophies, approaches and products are what differentiates between a good/big brand and average brands.” Rathi tagged along, “Lip service won’t work in today’s digital and social era. Transparency of the brand is very important for current generation. They’re far more aware about current problems. Convenience is what they want. They’re pressed for time and will not bother something that’s not quick.”
From left to right : Sumit Mathur, Chris Evans, Puneet Das, Sundeep Shah, Abhishek Gupta, Swati Sethi and Martin Brochstein
Shah quipped about the importance of local and regional content. “Vernacular content is growing by 10X as India is a country of multiple languages, and if you put out a message, better to do it in their own language.” The ILE 2019 Summit was followed by the very popular Label Awards and pulled down the curtains on another successful season with quite decent attendance in spite of inclement weather, and promises a bigger one next year.