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Licensing: The secret weapon in an Indian marketer’s arsenal

Jiggy George

Licensing: The secret weapon in an Indian marketer’s arsenal

Jiggy George

Source: WARC Exclusive, May 2021

Licensing offers Indian brands many opportunities but Dream Theatre’s Jiggy George says it is ignored by leadership teams and their strategy.

  • Indian marketers can use licensing as a way to test the market and launch in non-core categories.
  • Through licensing, Indian consumers can tap into the brand promise and reputation of the mother brand.
  • Successful licensed brands reflect years of investment and the core brand’s performance.

Why it matters

The global licensing industry is estimated at nearly US$300 billion with an annual growth rate of 12% but most Indian marketers have not explored this option because companies in India prefer to produce and market themselves versus partner via licensing.


  • Licensing is an excellent tool for Indian brand owners to protect their IP and reinforce branding while reaching new consumers.
  • At the same time, licensees save as no resources are needed for brand building with a market-ready brand.
  • The sophisticated online medium in India offers the best solution for licensing with better control of piracy.

Are you an Indian marketer with a strong brand that has brand extension possibilities in categories outside of your core business? Licensing could be your answer to bridge this challenge.

Why create a new team and distribution when you could license the brand to someone who has these capabilities and intent?

For years, I thought it would be great to see the Indian mega-brand Amul license its distinct flavor of butter to a cookie manufacturer and launch Amul cookies. Then, Amul decided to do it in-house, perhaps due to it being an extension of the brand’s food business and because of its distribution network.

It’s not to fault Amul’s management decision but it could have considered partnering in this category with an established player like ITC foods or Parle and keeping their focus on dairy products.

Why license?

Licensing is one of the potent tools in the arsenal of a marketer that checks many boxes, beyond the obvious one of revenue generation. I also believe it’s a closely guarded secret that has not unlocked its potential in India as it’s not in the MBA curriculum or on the menu cards of marketers.

I call it a closely guarded secret as there is more than meets the eye. Consumer durables like a hairdryer, toaster, headphones or perfumes are usually licensed products. Consumers unaware of this are tapping into the brand promise and reputation of the mother brand. It’s also the outcome of years of investments made by brand owners in their core business. So the brand owner invests in building its core business and licenses the possibilities outside the core.

This is also true for entertainment brands. Lines get blurred as properties may start with one medium and move to others. They could have started from comics (like DC and Marvel), movies (Lucas and Star Wars), books (Harry Potter), toys (He-man), games (Pokémon) or design (Hello Kitty). Regardless, the fact is that owners have made investments worth millions of dollars in the content to then make extensions for their brand and leverage consumer products via licensing.

The more successful licensed brands reflect years of investment and performance of their core brand. It’s akin to sport – we are less likely to be bothered by a million endorsements/extensions from a sportsmanlike Virat Kohli as long as he keeps winning on the field. This is also the reason why Air Jordans are timeless and so too Kanye West and his brand Yeezy with Adidas. The design aesthetic is great but it’s unlikely to have worked if their body of work was not inspiring. We are tapping into the trust and performance of the “mother ship”.

Understanding the concept better

Simplistically, licensing is like a simple lease agreement. The owner of a brand (licensor) leases the intellectual property to a third party (licensee) for a designated time and geography and for a fee. This fee is usually like royalty on sales and a minimum guarantee model.

The global licensing industry was estimated at US$292.8 billion in 2019 at retail and is growing at 12% annually. There are many kinds of licensing. From corporate licensing (likes of Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson, Ford) to collegiate licensing (Harvard, Yale, etc).

Entertainment and character are 44% of the market at US$128,392 million. US/Canada accounts for 58% of the market, followed by Western Europe at 19% and North Asia at 10%.

India ranks 18th in the world with US$1,864 million at retail with a 0.6% share. Character entertainment, corporate, and fashion are its top three categories.

(Source: Licensing International)

Besides the obvious benefits of revenue, licensing allows marketers to test market their brand in geographies before they actually spend resources for a full-fledged launch. It allows marketers to protect their IP and reinforce their brand positioning. It also allows a brand owner to extend its offering to new target consumers, for example, many cannot afford an Amani suit or Fendi bag but they can buy the perfume.

Similarly, one may not be able to purchase an MF Hussain or Raza artwork but a mug embellished with the splendour of their designs would be our cup of tea.

Licensing also reinforces brand equity and authenticity. Bourbon brand Jack Daniels extending into chocolates or barbecue sauces is an example.

Beyond all of this, licensing is the transference of emotions of trust, pride, and humour of the mother brand to the licensed offering. This explains why sporting teams license their brand into merchandise and why fans sport them with pride.

For a licensee, it saves them the resources of brand building by leaning on a market-ready brand.

Why has India not fully realised the value of licensing?

I believe most marketers have not explored licensing as a possibility in their marketing plan. With corporate brands, there are many opportunities and it’s largely a function of the leadership teams and their strategy. Indian companies prefer to produce and market themselves versus partner via licensing. It’s rarely in their consideration set.

So an iconic brand like Royal Enfield in India produces all their non-biking gear, apparel and helmets with an in- house team while Harley Davidson uses licensing to globally extend its brand.

Unless it’s a tactical promotional tool – why not stick to your core business and license non-core to strong licensees who will create great products and distribute to the target audience? Then use marketing effectively to build on marketing events and legitimise the merchandise?

My belief is that very few brands have the luxury of self-activating in all their relevant categories.

I would further clarify by saying that one should build brand extensions via self-activation if it’s in the same business of food, personal products or fashion.

Again, this is a decision based on how big the categories are and how much resourcing should be thrown into this extension. Some fashion brands have acknowledged licensing in categories like fashion accessories, recognising the value of focusing their in-house teams, COGs, marketing and operations on their core apparel. Brands like Levis and Pepe license innerwear and accessories to licensees who produce and distribute under license.

Dream Theatre’s consulting project for Bennett & Coleman looked at extending their publishing assets into other categories. With valuable inputs from their editorial teams and business head, we built the architecture for the brands, licensed Femina to Shoppers Stop that now carries apparel and fashion accessories in over 60 stores. The team has now ventured into salons.

On FMCG, we have seen some food licensing of Cadbury’s Oreo with ice cream.

Opportunities for effective licensing in corporate and fashion

If one looks at the opportunity for India’s entertainment-licensed brands, the good news is that India ticks two of the three boxes for a successful licensing business. First, Indian consumers know about entertainment, corporate, fashion and even collegiate brands.

We have a vibrant entertainment economy and it’s fairly inexpensive to consume entertainment brands. It’s fairly affordable for consumers to access a gamut of channels, with smartphones now providing even more access to brands.

Another factor influencing our knowledge of brands is travel, with more Indians travelling for leisure than ever before pre-COVID-19.

Second, our consuming class in India is significant.

However, the third component of this three-legged stool is still half-baked – retail.

There is a direct correlation between the growth of organised retail and the growth of licensing as a business. Most retail in India is disorganised, with scattered mom-and-pop stores that make licensing challenging and limit it.

  • Firstly, most of this scattered trade has restrictions of size and don’t present the best environment for licensed products, ie display and range.
  • It’s challenging due to a lack of addressability and lots of royalties are underreported; the business is much larger than is reported by licensees.
  • The third challenge is piracy, which is linked to the lack of addressability.

In India, it’s also unlikely that you will find pirated products in any organised retail outlets but only because the footprint is still very limited.

Online in India is very sophisticated and better than many countries in the world. It offers a “last mile” reach to fans and is the best solution for licensing.

However, online majors are more incentivised to increasing resellers versus protecting IPs. Most brands face huge piracy online and the takedown of pirated products by the platforms leaves much to be desired. In fact, it’s more challenging to prove that you are a legitimate brand on a platform like Amazon and Flipkart than listing a pirated product as a reseller/distributor.

The genesis of online retail and the growth of this business in India has been fuelled by private equity money. The goal was to build a habit with Indian consumers through discounting versus convenience. Being value seekers, Indians have been enjoying these discounts and services and this has placed a big burden on the producers of merchandise (prospective licensees). The pricing makes it challenging to load royalties. If price is most important and if piracy is rampant even on the online platforms, then pirates win.

The market has also not grown due to a lack of investment of brand owners. Most of the licensors believe that just because their brands resonate in major markets like the US and Europe, they should work in India without effort. This is true for some brands with global investments in India but for the rest, it’s a lazy strategy.

Most of these owners make no effort to protect their IP or marketing. For them, it’s the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma: if the market is still not giving huge returns, why focus resources?

There is little effort to bring down piracy (especially online which seems more in their control) or legitimise strong licensees via any support.


In all of this, there is always hope. The brand owners who invest early and deep will capitalize, akin to the Japanese and Korean companies that have stayed invested in many Indian businesses. It’s too big a market to ignore and organised retail will continue to grow and so will addressability. The prominent licensors will invest and push platforms to legitimise their offering. More important, they will be forced to have a flexible and differentiated strategy in this market.

More corporate marketers will see licensing as a better tool to test the market and launch in non-core categories. Focus will be a key consideration where brands stick to categories in which they have the expertise and optimal resources. Less will be more, where they capitalise on their brand value by using licensing as an effective tool to reach their target audience.

It’s only a matter of time.

About the author

Jiggy George

Founder & CEO, Dream Theatre

Jiggy – who is also the head of the India chapter of Licensing International, the global trade organisation for the licensing business – previously held senior management positions in Turner Broadcasting and Viacom, where he set up the licensing business for both companies.

He started his career as a fashion designer and entertainment journalist. He has a master’s degree in management studies and significant experience in sales (Times of India), marketing (MTV and Pogo), licensing (MTV, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros), and project management (Turner and Sesame Street).

Jiggy George opens the Indian licensing Expo in Mumbai

The 3rd edition of India Licensing Expo (ILE) 2019 – India’s largest brand licensing exhibition began on a rainy note at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre, NESCO. However, this didn’t dampen the mood indoors, as the conference kicked off with Marty Brochstein from Licensing International lighting the traditional lamp.

The opening address was delivered by Ms. Ritu Marya, editor of Franchise India. Martin “Marty” Brochstein along with Jiggy George, Founder & CEO, Dream Theatre and Head, Licensing International, India delivered the opening keynote on The Future Trends In Brand Licensing & Building new Labels.

Marty took the stage first and spoke about some of the key global statistics and India’s place among its peers (#18 in 2018 – up 2 spots from #20 in 2017) with $1.59 billion sales in retail. He spoke about how these days many brands are digitally native, given the changing landscape fuelled by the technology disruption and all-pervasive nature of e-commerce. However, 76% of business is still done in brick & mortar stores. He then briefly touched upon the growing importance of “experiential licensing” riffing off Ms. Ritu Marya’s comment that “people have enough stuff they crave experiences” He also shared some examples of successful collaborations done by brands like Nike & Netflix (Stranger Things) and Vans and Warner Bros. (Harry Potter). He concluded his presentation by highlighting the importance of being more socially conscious especially if one wants to be relevant to the younger audience.

Marty was followed by Jiggy George Founder & CEO, Dream Theatre India Pvt Ltd., who shared his thoughts on licensing trends from an Indian & Asian context.

He echoed Marty’s sentiment that the future of licensing lay in ‘experiences’ and that brand owners should pay heed if they are to survive in this new-brand-a-day market.

These days when everyone is “looking down” instead of “looking up” Jiggy shone the spotlight on a few key trends/opportunities for the licensing fraternity to take note off.

The rise of digital brands like Youtubers – Ryan from Ryan’s Toy Review who has 19.8 million subscribers, ChuChu TV which has over 10 channels and 39 million subscribers, and influencers like Lilly Singh & Bhuvan Bham who are raking in the moolah by being topical and completely in sync with their followers. So is digital content the new brand opportunity? Are digital influencers the new celebrity? Jiggy then delved deeper into the discussion around building franchises that last like a Superman, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and even homegrown IP like Singham which has managed to transform and re-invent itself its latest avatar being Little Singham!

With the ICC Cricket World Cup on, how could one not speak about the HUGE opportunity in sports. Not just cricket but even E-sports, which has spawned such franchises as Fortnite and PUBG. There are 250 million Fortnite users around the globe! The Marshmellow performance on Fortnite saw 10 million viewers, 300 million dollars were spent every month on Fortnite merchandise.

To round it off after sharing his thoughts on curated brand experiences like the Cartoon Network tie-up with Marriott and Cher’s collab with Sofitel, Jiggy flew around Asia to highlight some interesting examples of how some of their exports are influencing the youth in India like Pokémon (Japan), K-Pop & Hello Kitty (Korea) and more. He concluded by posing a challenge to Indian designers to create our own design aesthetic which will resonate with the world.

To cap off the day Jiggy won the Brand Licensing Leader Award (Agent) You can watch him get Jiggy with it


The Dream Theatre team ended the night on a high winning 2 metals at the glitzy (& hilarious) awards show hosted by Siddharth Kanan.

The first one was for the Most Popular Animation Series on an OTT platform for CHUCHU TV.

The second was bagged by Jiggy George for Brand Licensing Leader – Agent

India Gets its Own Licensing Show for Retail Fraternity

India Licensing Expo (ILE) Indias first and most influential business-to-business brand licensing show is all set to kick start onAugust 20-21in Sahara Star Mumbai with participation from over 100+ global and domestic brands for retail industry. Viacom 18 Fashion TV Marie Claire Universal Music Mondo TV JCB Polaroid NBA Sesame Street Authentic Brands Group Green Gold Animation are a few amongst list of top brands participating at the first ever licensing show to be held in the country.The show is organized by exclusive licensing media companyLicense Indiaand is supported by global licensing bodyLicensing Industry Merchandisers Association (LIMA)Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI)andSports Goods Foundation of India.The show sponsors areViacom 18 Orian Installations Dream TheatreandBradford License India. Ernst Youngareprocess tabulation partners for India LicensingAwardsconcurrent event of ILE 2017.

India Licensing Expo 2017shall bring together numerous brand opportunities direct pool of brand owners decision makers elaborate knowledge forums exclusive licensing recognitions fun character parade preview rooms for brands for exclusive showcase for retailers to grasp the property better and much more.

Indian retail is quite fragmented at the moment and adding brand power can bring this industry together on a common platform of modern retail. In scenario when India is a brand-hungry market we see a natural inclination towards licensing as an effective retail strategy. We intend to position India Licensing Expo as a dedicated hub where the industry unifies to shop brands for business across all industries. We bring together brands of every kind ndash; sports character corporate music art entertainment for retailers to embed in their business / products. Brand licensing has been well accepted as a retail strategy in India and throughILE 2017 we plan to bring the global understanding to Indian landscape saidMr.Gaurav Marya Chairman License India.

A combination of2 day Master Class1 day Conference ExhibitionandAwardsILEprofiles a unique opportunity to know it all in just two days covering every aspect of licensing model and its usage in your business at strategic and retail level. Not only you as business owners will know about licensing across industries but also meet the brands first hand ready to license their brand in multiple product categories for further brand extensions logically. Therefore ILE offers an exhaustive licensing ecosystem inviting over 10000 business visitors over the show. The show would witness visits from retailers / manufacturers from all sectors ndash; apparel footwear jewelry bags small leather goods eyewear accessories travel gear luggage electronics back to school range mobile phones accessories Bluetooth devises audio IT products accessories personal care skin care cosmetics fragrances hair grooming publishing new media apps games toys home linen furnishings and much more.

The Exposition displays all kind of licensing opportunities for manufacturers retailers across products such as in charactersChhota Bheem Peppa Pig PJ Masks Dora Popeye Motu Patlu Toki Doki Jungle Book Ben 10 Power Puff Girls Mighty Raju Sponge Bob Jumanji movie Emoji Movie Sesame Street and much more.In corporate brands the galore offers brands likeJuicy Couture Aeropostale Spyder Misook Airwalk Lamborghini Compaq JCB Fashion TV University of Oxford Marie Claire Absorba Shell Pepsi Mountain Dew Route 66 Polaroid Femina Flaunt Kuber Mechanixand much more. Music Art brands would beUniversal Music with wide pool of top artists MTV Billboard Michael Jackson Marilyn Monroe Elvis Presley Romero Britto and much more; and sports properties would beNBA Delhi Daredevils Extreme Sports VOIT Mancity FC FC Barcelona Roland Garros Cycle Polo Federation of India Maui Sons Muhammad Ali Shaqand much more.

In words of Ms. Chitra S. Johri Director Bradford license IndiaThough at a nascent stage the Indian licensing industry holds massive growth potential. I believeILE 2017will offer a platform for the Indian licensing fraternity to come together for the first time brainstorm and address the challenges in a cumulative manner. I am delighted to see the real change coming already in the country where all of industry colleagues have confirmed to come together to stir licensing into Indian retail. This would be a bigger movement in our domain of licensing benefitting each product category in actual sense. Bradford is a proud partner of this show and we shall be there with all our brands for licensing.

In order to specifically tap the top French enterprises doing business in India ILE has also tied up with Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI). This opens gates for the French companies to evaluate and roll into India through licensing. IFCCI is pleased to partner with the ILE for creating this unique platform to identify and capitalize brand licensing. This is an important move for streamlining and structuring the licensing industry that impacts retailing directly. I am sure that the expo will open up new avenues for industry players and we look forward to enabling multiple French licensors eyeing Indian market to capitalize and leverage this show saidPayal. S. Kanwar Secretary General IFCCI.

The show proffers two forums a Master Class and a Conference. The 2 days certification master class begins a day prior of the show on 19thAugust and ends on 20thAugust. The master class is a comprehensive circle of the licensing model and is conducted byMr. Chris Evans Managing Director University of Oxford and Mr. Pete Canalichio Managing Partner Licensing Brands Inc. Further an exhaustive conference shall be conducted on 21stAugust with the pool of top industry experts to discuss licensing transition in retail in India with first hand domain experience. The conference puts forth a strong panel with industry stalwart likeDan Frugtniet (VP-Licensing Business Development Nickelodeon Viacom Consumer Products) Saugato Bhowmick (Head of Viacom18- Consumer Products) Yannick Colaco (MD-NBA) Siddharth Chury (Senior Director – NBA India) Manan Mehta (VP-Marketing Merchandise Yashraj Films) Sandeep Dahiya (Director ndash; Brand Extensions Bennett Coleman Co. Ltd) Samir Jain (ED COO Green Gold Animation) Shivram Saran (AVP Head Consumer Products JCB) Roberto Bre (Director Private Collection Marie Claire) Rajan Madhu (President FTV India) Maura Regan (Sr. Vice President LIMA) Manish Mandhana (CEO Mandhana Retail ndash; Being Human) Jason Sutton (Director Polaroid) Jiggy George (Head LIMA India CEO Dream Theatre) Ishmeet Singh (Country Manager Mattle Toys India) Anurag Sachdeva (Director Rovio Angry Birds) Afsar Zaidi (MD Exceed Entertainment HRX)and many more.Witness the veterans of licensing industry coming together to discuss the challenges explore the kind of engagements and further work towards uplifting of the LM industry as a whole in India.

In words ofMr.Jiggy George Head of LIMA India and Founder of Dream Theatre The timing is just right for a Licensing Expo in India to bring the fraternity together but what more to educate and sensitize potential partners on the benefits of this wonderful business. The show has the ingredients to be beneficial to attendees and I am sure will grow in size and stature over the years.

ILE 2017exclusively; also hosts India foremost licensing recognition platformIndia Licensing Awards 2017partnered withMarie Claire. Celebrating the best in Indian Licensing Industry these awards would remain to be one of its kind recognition where the whole fraternity will come together to celebrate excellence right from the brand owners brand custodians to entrepreneurial retailers latest licensees on the block to raise a toast to outstanding achievements in the industry so far. Judged curated and tabulated by panel of experts the awards are supported byErnst Youngas process partners. With 21 focused categories for licensing fraternity the awards would acknowledge top brasses of the industry. To name a few categories ndash;Licensor Of The Year (Entertainment Celebrity Sports Corporate Bollywood Art Character Music)Licensee Of The Year (Apparel Fashion Accessories Toys Games Gifts Novelties Back To School Electronics Retail Innovation Business Concept Home Dcor FMCG New Media Publishing) along withSpecial Categorieslike IP Firm Of The Year and Licensing Agent Of The Year.

ILE being the only scaled licensing show means serious business to unlock India as the most potential business destination across industries. While the Indian licensing sector is pegged at $1 billion is still at a nascent stage but growing at a rapid pace as success stories of home-grown brands have propelled its growth. Fashion retailers stay ahead of the pack with close to 25 percent of the organized retailers using licensing as an effective retail strategy.

India Licensing Expo will host multiple opportunities from several countries for Indian business ecosystem. It is a great destination to decode the market by meeting retailers manufacturers suppliers from all industries under one roof and network with the decision makers for effective conversions. With this first edition ILE would become a destination to convene global brands for Indian retailers resulting in business growth through licensing.

About The Organizers – License India

License India an exclusive brand licensing vertical of Franchise India Group is India first licensing media services company formed with the objective to increase awareness and support the growth of licensing in the country. Being the knowledge centre the vertical comprises of licensing editorial initiatives in the publications like The Retailer and The Entrepreneur along with the portalwww.licenseindia.com and business-to business licensing shows encapsulating conferences workshops expositions and awards under Brand Licensing India and India Licensing Expo. License India excels in the licensing space with its strategic and knowledge based verticals.

For more information log on towww.licenseindia.com.

​​About Lima

Founded in 1985 LIMA (Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association) is a conglomerate of over 1000 companies and individuals engaged in the worldwide marketing of licensed properties both as agents and as property owners with an aim to foster the growth and expansion of licensing at the global scale.

For more information log on towww.licensing.org.