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Guest Column: 2016: A leap year for brand & character licensing in India: Bhavik Vora

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Guest Column: 2016: A leap year for brand & character licensing in India: Bhavik Vora

Bhavik Vora, Founder and CEO of Black White Orange Brands, writes about the new opportunities available for India Inc. in the domain of branding and licensing in 2016. Read on.

Brand and character licensing business is built on one very strong foundation---the community of fans.

With the dynamic nature of technology and the massive influence of the internet in our lives, communities are being created around different interests everyday and these communities, whether big or small want to wear just that on their sleeve (almost literally!)

Since fan loyalty is based on the core DNA of the brand itself and what it stands for, the trends, in my opinion, are almost always determined by the macro trends of that particular brand/industry.

It’s literally going to be a leap year for brand and character licensing business in India and I predict giant strides in this sector with some major innovations in store. And the best part is that it will not come just from industry leaders.

Sports is the second biggest category in brand licensing globally but has hardly been explored in India. Cricket is a religion here, but merchandise programs of popular league teams have not seen much success (except for team jerseys on match days, also hugely pirated) compared to top teams of international football leagues. If authorities and team owners focus on this aspect of the brand, this is an area waiting to explode.  Also, with so many big media houses supporting alternate sports to cricket, an exciting fan base is already being created and if these sports start creating sizeable grass root level programs, then a big shift in the sports merchandise scene can be expected.

Probably the fastest growing fan community, gaming merchandise is waiting to grow disproportionately. From mobile based games like Angry Birds & Candy Crush to popular AAA titles like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto and Assassins Creed (to name a few), every brand is going to have a following (big or small), which wants to explore and experience the brand beyond the realm of the game.

For years now in India, we have admired and consumed some cult and iconic international brands across genres. It’s time we see some of our own ‘Made in India’ brands take a step forward in this direction. We have some really big Indian brands with substantial following and with strong creative assets, high quality merchandise, and an aspirational communication, a wide fan base of these brands can be addressed through a consumer product program. 2016 will see some brands taking a step in this direction.

India is a country where we almost worship our idols but it’s surprising that except for Being Human, none of the other celebrity led merchandise programs have seen huge success. In the west, celebrities like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe have left behind a huge legacy with their merchandise programs and are worth millions of dollars at retail today. With the kind of following our celebs enjoy, we have the potential to create a huge market with them.  The biggest roadblock to this category in India has always been a need for short term gains compared to the long-term legacy. Today’s new age celebrities are understanding the potential of this market and are more forthcoming and open to create a long term strategy, which will not only make a big impact on their value but also give their fans another reason to celebrate them.

The brand and character licensing industry has been at a threshold of growth for a long time now, and I really see 2016 as a year where it will see major innovation and growth. When start-ups like ours (Black White Orange) get funded by Yuvraj Singh backed Youwecan Ventures and some more investors seriously start looking at this business, it is a testimony and validation that this industry is at the threshold of some major breakthroughs.

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