While the global licensing business is pegged at US$ 251.7 billion and India is one of the 3 emerging markets to watch along with Central America and China, what’s interesting is the route the growth story is taking in India.
Entertainment Licensing continues to lead the trend, globally, but what’s interesting is to see how the forces are shaping up here. Kids and Entertainment licensing is the bigger slice of the pie in India, but there is a sea change in the brands at play from as little as 5 years ago. From kids apparel, dominated by studio brands from the west, there is a proliferation of Indian and Japanese brands, mirroring the trend of viewership on tv. So today, along with Mickey and Ben 10 we have a Chota Bheem, Motu Patlu and Pokémon doing brisk business. The other interesting trajectory is the growth of entertainment/animation brands for adults in apparel and apparel accessories. We are finally seeing the coming of age of an older audience that is sporting character brands on apparel and that’s the maturing of the industry whereby everything animation, is not equal to children. This interest around adults and merchandize is being fuelled by a mix of factors – far cooler designs, nostalgia quotient, easier access via e-commerce and large format stores and social media driven aspiration with celebrities sporting their favorite toon apparel. From a future trend perspective within apparel, both for kids and adults, the next big thing is going to be fashion and lifestyle brands. As kids grow older, and we are seeing this across the world, lifestyle, fashion, music will start taking over from pure play character merchandising. The adult market is also seeing the emergence of lifestyle and fashion brands in yet another sign of a maturing market. The Smiley brand is one such example, which earlier in the year was named the Best Lifestyle brand at the LIMA Hong Kong Awards.
The second big trend is India is the emergence of Sports Licensing and soccer has taken the lead here over cricket. With next Gen India embracing soccer as the game of choice thanks to shorter formats, faster pace and the cool quotient of football stars, European soccer league clubs are seeing India as a growth market for the licensing business. For the fans, licensed merchandise is a way of connecting with the players and games beyond just watching it. FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, FIFA World Cups have had great success in India and there are at least half a dozen European Football clubs evaluating India as the market to be in. With the advent of India Soccer League and the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup that will roll out in October 2017, the domestic circuit events will further spur the football licensing story in India. Another spike will come with the FIFA 2018 Russia World cup which is seeing a 3-5 fold increase in the FIFA licensing business since its last outing in 2014 with 10+ categories and retail footprint spreading to top 20-25 towns, outside of e-commerce availability.
And the third big trend is the emergence of Direct To Retail deals in the licensing business. Private brands are waking up to the massive potential of licensing. All top retailers in India have DTR propositions and single brand retailers are seeking out opportunities to partner with character and lifestyle brands. The current Jack n Jones Pokémon collection is a hot selling proposition and one of the many more that will be hitting shelves soon. Similarly, more and more online platforms are using licensing to create stand out propositions across apparel, accessories, gifts, and novelties in a heavily cluttered market.