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Exploring the Scope of Entertainment Licensing in India Global interest around Indian IPs has grown massively over the years

By Aastha Singal

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Entrepreneur India

The concept of licensing is fast gaining acceptability in India. Multiple international brands are planning to cater to this highly diversified market via licensing and merchandising to expand the scope of their IPs and tap the potential customer-base of 1.3 billion. Earlier, the owners of home-grown brands had limited their focus to core functions but today, licensing could help them extend their brand visibility.

It is the time when the attraction of licensing trademarks for business intentions appears to be at an all-time high. While the penetration of data has raised the nation's awareness about this interesting business aspect, the emergence of modern and more organized retail in the country has set the ball rolling for new collaborations between International Licensing companies and Indian business houses.

Licensing prospects now exist in all spheres in India. Manufacturers from various industry sectors including apparel, consumer goods, toys, gifts, accessories, sports are keen on taking licenses. The entertainment industry is not far behind. According to a report, retail licensing in India was estimated at $1.26 billion in 2018 with entertainment licensing valued at $406 million.

The Testimonials

India's Entertainment industry constitutes nearly 5 per cent of the global licensing and merchandising market. While small but India makes for a significant portion for every superhero franchise to provide the market with figurines or branded accessories. Until last year, Indian brands made up less than 10 per cent of licensing and merchandising activity in India. The numbers are catching up.

"The owners of intellectual properties (IPs), including major cartoon, entertainment and corporate brands, are keen to enter the Indian markets," License India Chairman, Gaurav Marya had earlier told IANS. Despite Hollywood and US pop culture ruling the licensing trends, production studios have started putting their weight behind popular domestic TV icons and Bollywood.

Say how Hotstar is leveraging the popular TV characters to entice the audience or Sony Network has played on the popularity of their popular quiz show "Kaun Banega Crorepati'. Character and entertainment licensing have witnessed terrific activity. Many eminent personalities and fashion designers in India have started licensing their products to Business Houses who independently produce and sell on a large scale and give royalties to designers.

Celebrity licensing is hightailing the race. Indian film stars are developing their own licensed merchandise. From Salman Khan's Being Human to Hrithik Roshan's HRX and Shahid Kapoor's SKULT along with Deepika Padukone's All About You and Alia Bhatt's eponymous fashion line, are all following the model to stay ahead of the curve.

Leveraging Films

Bollywood movies have the greatest merchandising potential. Indian superhero films like Ra. One and Krrish have launched significant merchandising campaigns for promotions. You sure have seen the asymmetric mask that got extremely popular when Hrithik Roshan's big hit was released, for both the times and those Ra. One figurine that Shah Rukh Khan tried hard to sell.

Hindi cinema might have a long way to go for challenging its western counterparts who have locked the mystery on the right treat way to treat merchandising as a revenue stream rather than just a marketing tool. Giving examples of recent successes Baahubali, Sacred Games and Gully Boy, Jatin Varma, the Founder of Comic Con India expressed that the interest in local content has grown over the years.

While India is yet to realize the importance of IP, "but we are getting there especially within the International IP space with local brands trying to leverage associations, case in point The GOT line from Masaba Gupta or the many direct & indirect associations around Avengers Endgame earlier this year," he stated.

Unlike Varma, Rahul Puri, the Executive Director of Mukta Arts Limited believes that Indian IPs have the potential to go global in the next 5 years. However, he did share an incident where his attempt to launch a set of collectable pop dolls was shot down due to major interest lies in the US characters. Nonetheless, India has woken up to the idea of stronger IPs. Moreover, the explosion of OTTs has furthered the interest in local content for licenses apparel & accessories.

Children's Entertainment

Children's entertainment market is steadily gaining pace in India. The nation's love for cartoons and growing population of young adults has furthered the scope of brands such as Superman, Batman and Pokémon, as well as The Simpsons, Star Wars and Family Guy, that are profiting from growing popularity in licensed products aimed at adult consumers.

From the apparel, footwear, phone and computer accessories to stationery, gifts and novelties, the advancement of online marketplaces have opened up an effective sales channel for these products in India. Among the biggest success stories with home-grown intellectual property is the animated TV brand Chota Bheem, which enjoys a hugely successful licensing programme.

Notably, while some local characters are popular among the children, they are unable to leverage the same success in regard to merchandising. Puri reasoned, "We need to go back and look at the kind of content we are creating for kids and how that stacks up against the international content that the children are watching on a regular basis. Then try and see how it can be leveraged."

Licensing, while is widely accepted, requires long-term vision and strategy. India is a price-sensitive market and licensors should bear in mind that products must be available at a suitable price for Indian consumers. Catering to the overflowing demand of merchandised products is piracy, through which customers get the desired on their price-point and hence, add another bottleneck to the path of a fully organized retail sector.

Sports Merchandising

Sports licensing was estimated at $30 million until last year. One of the latest home-grown brands to enter the licensing market is the Indian Premier League (IPL). Almost 12 years since its launch, the IPL has experienced a spike in its brand value and is today worth over $6 billion. Individual IPL teams have also witnessed an increase in brand value, having forayed into licensing.

Licensing in sports has also developed into a multibillion-dollar systematic business in India with the formation of various leagues. Puri believes that sports tournaments around Kabaddi, Badminton and even Hockey are pulling strings to create an IP. IP has been built around live events such as Weekender, NH7 or Supersonic as well, further providing testimony to their sector's potential.

Many international brands including FIFA, Real Madrid, The Smiley Company and the NBA are generating business, retail and consumer interest in India. Manchester United has, in fact, established licensed academies and now sells a wide range of merchandise in India.

The increasing popularity of sporting merchandise stems from the sale of adult apparel, accessories and footwear both online and in physical marketplaces. Sports stars are also not much behind. Indian icons like Mahendra Singh Dhoni with Seven, Virat Kohli with WROGN and Yuvraj Singh through Yhave too are creating a space on the retail shelf.

Editor's Note:

For more insight into the world of entertainment licensing, the third edition of country's largest brand licensing platform - India Licensing Expo 2019 is all set to make a return on July 8-9,2019 at Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre, Mumbai.

Register for the event here.

Aastha Singal

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Features Writer

A business journalist looking to find happiness in the world of startups, investments, MSMEs and more. Officially started her career as a news reporter for News World India, Aastha had short stints with NDTV and NewsX. A true optimist seeking to make a difference, she is a comic junkie who'd rather watch a typical Bollywood masala than a Hollywood blockbuster. 

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