Licensing in India Conference 2009

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on December 07, 2009

I’ve recently returned from India where I chaired the second annual Brand Licensing Conference  in Delhi. As in all sectors of business, licensing looks upon India and its sensational economic growth with ambitious eyes. The large middle class, the high level of graduate education, the improving retail environment, all make for a heady mix to entice the licensing world to India, and India into the licensing world.

The reality is that they are just getting started. The licensing conference has been added to an already-successful franchising venture by Franchise India Holdings, who have been into franchising for almost eight years. Their work in this area is bearing considerable fruit, and LIMA congratulates the organisation on having the vision to have marked out licensing as the next ‘importable’ business model.

Over two days a dozen speakers dealt with a diverse range of licensing topics including sport, brands, animation and character licensing. In this second year it was good to see the majority of speakers were from Indian businesses. Whilst the majority of our audience were along to hear and learn, clearly some of these local companies now really do ‘get’ licensing. They now need support, communications and a bit of good luck to take them to the next level. Highlight of the conference was a ninety-minute session on character licensing, presented by Pankaj Sikka from Bioworld and Ashish Goel of ACK Media, during which conference attendees swelled to over fifty fascinated souls. Both men revealed close understanding of the workings of licensing from both licensee and licensor perspective, and a lively exchange ensued with our delegates who were challenged to speak about their own views on consumer products, brands and buying habits.

Also fascinating was Samir Jain of Green Gold animation. This local animation house has graduated from working on behalf of third-parties to create its own successful series which are playing to great audiences on local TV. In particular, Mr Jain spoke about current hit series Chhota Bheem, which, in a way, encapsulated the licensing challenge in India. Despite record TV audiences for the show on the Pogo kids’ channel, licensees remain elusive. Not to let that stand in the way, Green Gold have created their own comic book, now selling 5,000  copies an issue and have just launched a range of accessories, back packs and stationery for  sale through their website. The plan is to demonstrate that their merchandise sells, and to handover to prospective licensees almost ‘turnkey’ style. By the way, if you are not impressed with that circulation figure, bear in mind that these sales are generated by a mere 2,000 outlets. Ratchet those outlet numbers to European or US numbers, and you’d have a major comic book on your hands.

Green Gold’s issue here is at the heart of the dilemma for India. Almost every speaker spoke of the ‘unorganised’ versus the ‘organised’ retail sectors and everyone is dependent on the latter growing substantially for licensed merchandise to really take off. I personally spotted a number of licensed products in a local shopping centre (known as ‘markets’ locally though all proper retails units, not stalls) but they were very much the minority.

What is clear is that a solid core of enterprising and imaginative Indian business is hungry for licensing to work for them. This vision has been matched by a number of western companies launching local offices, whether its licensors like Viacom or licensees like Bioworld. They deserve our continued support. Together, we may see Indian licensing grow to a level of substance in ten years rather than the rather more leisurely fifty or so that we in the west have taken to get where we are today.