A visit to India

Posted by Marty Brochstein on July 20, 2010

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I attended and spoke at a two-day Brand Licensing and Merchandising Show, staged earlier this month in New Delhi by License India.  Licensing is still a relatively small business in India, and this event – more workshop and seminar than show — is one of many being assembled by License India in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to help build the business model within the country.

Several multinational entertainment companies such as Disney, Turner and Nickelodeon/Viacom  have their own licensing and merchandising operations in India, and a host of agencies have gotten into the representation business, including companies that presented at the seminar , such as Extend Brands, and Spacetoon (which also creates its own IP) and License India itself.

One notable change from the first such gathering I attended a little less than two years ago: There was decidedly more discussion this time around about the potential for Indian brands to be licensed locally and, eventually, internationally, rather than just talk about how brands from elsewhere are being brought into India. The entrepreneurial spirit was palpable, reflected in the intensity of the questioning and conversations once panels had concluded.

Presentations and attendees encompassed an array of licensing and merchandise categories and business models. Disney Consumer Products VP Roshini Bakshi, after giving a broad overview of the company’s business, joined with Devendra Chawla, head of Private Brands for multi-format retailer Future Group, to give a case study of how Disney characters were used in a licensed co-branding deal to launch private label cereals in the big Bazaar stores. The strategy is also being used by Future Group in other food categories.

Later, Spacetoon CEO Rajiv Sangari, Sunita Kapoor of licensee Sterling Publishers and Samir Bangara of IndiaGames gave a look at the licensing process from both licensee and licensor perspective.
Ashish Kulkarni, CEO of local animation house Big Animation, gave a look at the development of Little Kirshna (currently being shown on Nickelodeon India) as well as of the merchandising program that surrounds it. One factor to keep in mind with products: Krishna (even in a youthful animated form shown fighting demons and in other action/adventure genre) is a religious icon, so consumers might be hesitant to buy a product that might be put on the floor or otherwise treated inappropriately. He also gave a look at early work on a catchy preschool property – Big Bees – for which Big Animation is seeking production partners.

A session on Fashion Licensing – by most accounts the most prominent sector in India – reflected the fact that much of that merchandise sector is tied tightly to licensed retail specialty locations, rather than resale into third party retailers. It brought together Rahul Gambhir , Director of Licensing for  Tommy Hilfiger India; Abhinav Kumar of Brand Concepts, which has a range of nearly 20 licenses encompassing fashion brands (Tommy Hilfiger, Arrow and others) and characters, with distribution in more than 700 retail outlets; and Anurag Rajpal, VP Apparel of Spencer’s Retail, which directly licenses brands such as Marc Ecko, Beverly Hills Polo Club, Ladybird Kids and the locally-generated Spykar.

License India is planning other such events during the autumn, winter, and into 2011.