We managed to catch up with Mr. Dhimant Bakshi, Jt CEO, Adlabs Imagica on the sidelines of the India Licensing Expo. To listen to the interview you can scroll to the bottom.
ILP: Give us a little background on Adlabs Imagica. We know its a 130 acre property in Khopoli, which is on the outskirts of Maharashtra and is India’s answer to DisneyLand, but tell us more about what you have to offer?
Dhimant: This is a dream our promoter Mr. Manmohan Shetty saw years ago when he visited DisneyLand in California and his dream was why can’t we create something with Indian content that is a themed destination with Indian pricing in approach but international in terms of ride quality and guest experience that is world class. It is a dream that we all live by. We firmly believe that the Indian demographic is perfectly poised for such an offering and we really want to give Indian-nes in our entire experience apart from various other international flavours that we can blend in, and get some of the best in class rides made. Some of our rides are as good as Universal or Disneyland both from a safety stand point and ride quality. So we also said we have to create Indian IP which is related to the park and convey the Indian-nes in what we really do.
ILP: Talk us through the buffet you have on offer at Adlabs Imagica. You have a waterpark, a theme park, a snowpark etc.
Dhimant: Our approach was to build an entertainment district really. So we started off with the theme park which is a 74 acre property with 25 rides and attractions. Apart from that we have a 20 acre water park with 14 rides and the wave pool, apart from that we have India’s largest snowpark with real edible snow and we have a 4 star hotel called Novotel Imagica , managed very well by Novotel. So apart from these 4 anchor properties we recently launched “House of Stars” which is India’s first official Bollywood hall of fame which has sets as well as characters. Apart from that we have “Eyelusion” which is trick-eye museum, which is a first time one would see this concept in a theme park. We also have integrated with “Chhota Bheem: The Ride” which is the first character based roller coaster ride in a theme park. And since you used the word buffet, I must use the word “sumptuous” to describe our offering at Adlabs Imagica. One can really pick and choose what they would like to consume. There’s something for everyone. And what really tops this up is after a day of fun and entertaining experience, there is a wide range of themed-cuisines options which is designed and operated by our own team. This is coupled with merchandise and fantastic guest experience that, of course, has to go without saying.
ILP: So now lets talk about the business of licensing – how do you think licensing can help Adlabs Imagica?
Dhimant – Apart from being very obvious that it adds to the revenue stream, more importantly what we feel is that there is a need of Phy-gital experience that one has to get. We as a theme park can give a physical-outdoor recreational experience that one would really look for. With the onslaught of media and so many characters coming and going, they need a place to live in really, when most other characters start from a animation, TV show or game etc.
Ours are all original characters – designed, created and owned by our in-house team, its a long journey. While we will look up to Disney for inspiration, our efforts is to slowly and steadily make products and services that are appropriate for Indian market. Make them affordable, yet aspirational without trying to charge an undue premium. And we really want to fight piracy and find a more collaborative solution of licensing wherein it’s a more revenue share approach as well. It is not just me charging you a licensing fee and not caring what happens to you later. We want a win-win and collaborative approach for both parties.
ILP: How is this merchandise being distributed? Is it primarily at the theme park?
Dhimant – Yes, primarily at the theme and water park, but very interestingly we have made forays into Hamleys. it’s more a retail arrangement not a licensing arrangement like a DTR. Apart from that we also have Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong, Limeroad, First Cry – many such online channels through which we sell our merchandise. And people recognise and love our characters, whether it’s a Gautam Budhnagar or Trivandrum, the love travels far and wide and thats what really gives us the high / impetus to create more such characters. (So the strategy seems to be make them fall in love with the characters at the theme park and get them to buy when they travel back?) Catch them young and watch them grow.
ILP: Any other plans in the L&M space that you can talk us through right now?
Dhimant – This is really our first effort in the licensing market. The way we planned was to spend the first 4 years building our own characters, we really were not open to getting in external characters, primarily for the reason, that once you get into the trading mindset you will never build your own brands. Apart from the investment, it’s the time and effort that our team has spent on creating the characters from scratch and getting them right, and then, opening doors for other characters. We see Imagica as a place for all characters, very secular. Infact, we are open to other alliances. We definitely want that India progresses and content is consumed well, and merchandising options is going to be a logical output. If you see right now with the number of channels, it is complete media over-load so 1 is to build affinity and 2 to retain. Building affinity may happen but is retention really happening? We believe in having a 360 degree view. And the term which was used yesterday was ‘Sustainability’. There are conventional channels like TV and digital media for animation, but there is going to be a humongous overload and people will NEED to take a break and look towards physical form of recreation(then all roads will lead to places like Adlabs Imagica) and I hope and pray the industry opens up to more such collaborative licensing models. It shouldn’t be You vs Me, it should be YOU & ME.
ILP: Whats your advice for a budding entrepreneur wanting to start a business especially given the tectonic changes we are seeing in the retail space?
Dhimant – Before I go to entrepreneurs, I think what you have articulated as a question is a great business need. There are many angel networks and organisations like LIMA who can offer direction and guidance to young geeks and entrepreneurs and get sounded off on what they can do and receive feedback. We are happy to be a part of such organisations. There are many buzzwords and many people get floored into them without really taking a stock of their situation. Coming to your question, at an industry level we should probably build an incubation centre if I may use the word. And second, seeing what your idea can do for people, solve a problem, not just because there’s a whole lot of moolah sitting there and let me make money out of it. It is about going to the basics and have it all well thought out. It has to be a more long term approach. Essentially, it should be long term.
Thanks for the chat and the insights and thanks for talking to us at IndiaLicensingpost.