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Brand licensing is gradually inching its way to become the next big thing in India. The concept is not new in Hollywood, but for India, the affair got started some 10 years ago. Initially, it started with character licensing, and graduated to adopting Indian cinema as a platform for brand licensing. This was well-resonated by retailers and consumers. And the big success of cinema licensing started with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge – the blockbuster from the satchel of Yash Raj Films (YRF). Realizing its immense potential, YRF went ahead by establishing its in-house licensing division to license its assets with movies such as Ra.One and Dhoom franchise.
However, merchandise was seen as a mere marketing tool by the producers. While licensing was ancillary thing to them, their prime focus was to increase visibility of the movie. With the amount of consumption of Bollywood, where around 1,000 films are produced annually (almost double the Hollywood’s output), merchandise has not been able to make a mark in that huge manner as compared to the Hollywood movies.
The home-grown content
Disney India on-boarded 50 licenses for its much-awaited Star Wars, while 16 deals were done for Finding Dory – the highest number of deals for any animated movie in India. However, when one compares it to the Indian cinema, the scenario seems worst with just a mobile game being launched in the name of licensing.
Now, when the Indian cinema has awakened to the power of licensing, and the latest in the league is the Baahubali franchise, which has smashed the box-office records. The production company for Baahubali, Arka Media Work, is devising entire licensing strategy for the movie, and is hoping to make it the first Indian tent-pole franchise.
Shobu Yarlagadda, CEO of Arka Media Works, said: “Prior to the release of Baahubali: The Beginning, we were clear that we are not going to do anything for the sake of marketing. The idea behind licensing was better engagement with the fan base. We believe that the world of Baahubali is immense with a lot of depth and scope.”
Of late, few other producers are also taking the same route by extending their movies through licensing in the categories such as fan merchandise, gifts and novelties.
Chitra S. Johri, Director, Bradford License India, said: “Bollywood has come of an age when licensing was a mere promotional strategy, but things are changing, which is evident in growing number of licensing deals in entertainment genre. It is clear that any big commercial project licensing is planned alongside. However, we are yet to see major projects to integrate this as an integral strategy for enhanced visibility and additional revenue stream.
“Most producers do look at merchandise as a marketing tool. But Baahubali has earned a robust revenue, and Arka Media Work do not need the support of merchandise to market the brand as it has a huge marketing budget of its own,” said Bhavik Vora, Founder & CEO, Black White Orange.
A win-win situation
The fraternity is witnessing fresh entrants in the arena, who are actually building their brand on the back of licensed merchandise.
“With silver screen churns out good cinema, which has the potential to go beyond, it’s a good time in India for licensed movie merchandise. As a brand, it helps us to please consumers with stuff that has already established a connection and also gets us to be the first few movers in the growing licensed merchandise space that is still at a nascent stage in India,” asserted Anamika Joshi, Co-founder, Utpatang.com.
Such licensing also addresses the issue of visibility and discoverability for the licensees. According to Anila Andrade, AVP – Operations at 99Games, “Creating a game out of a licensed brand, for instance Dhoom in our case, solves the problem of discoverability. The consumers are familiar with the franchise. The brand name gives credibility to the game, which in turn drives the number of downloads.
Liking versus buying
There is no doubt that the Indian cinema is the most prolific cinema factory in the world, but the challenge is to get consumers graduate from liking the merchandise to actually buying it.
“I believe if you give the fans something that is worth as well as the brand is infused into that, it would really help bridging the gap between liking and buying,” said Yarlagadda. “Brand owners should look at brand licensing as a serious business because it not just adds to their revenue but to their legacy as well. Adopting right licensing procedures and devising a programme in its totality is where we have to reach, which also hopefully is approaching in times to come,” he added.