Driven by the values of trust, quality and excellence, Bodycare International in the past two decades has become a force to reckon within the innerwear market. Founded in the year 1992 by Mr. Satish Gupta, the company today enjoys the distinction of being the country’s leading manufacturer and supplier of Kids Undergarments, Thermals & Loungewear for the complete family.
IndiaLicensingPost spoke with Mr. Sachin Gupta, Director at Body Care International to get more insights on the company and more importantly his views on the licensing business.
ILP: Body Care was founded back in 1992 and has since grown by leaps and bounds not just in India but on the International stage. Can you shed some light on your growth in terms of growth of business or market share since inception? What do you attribute this to? Who are your key competitors?
Sachin Gupta (SG): In 1992 we started with just an installation of 2 sewing machines in our home and now have state of the art infrastructure with below facts and figures
The best manufacturing facilities comparable with those found across the globe.
About 300,000 sq ft area with units located at Noida, Delhi, Dehradun and Tirpur.
We produce north of 25 million pieces per annum and are further expanding.
We employ over 2500+ people.
We have a pan India presence with 300+ Distributors
ILP: You are currently tasked with HR, finance, admin and purchases of the company? That’s quite a diverse profile. How did that come to be?
SG: Being a family run business we are involved and aware of all the functions but the specific responsibilities are divided among family members based on their interest and capabilities and especially where one has the best skill sets.
ILP: According to the LIMA Global study 2017, licensed apparel at retail accounted for almost 15% of the overall $252 Bn retail market. How big do you think that share is in the Indian market?
SG: In India, the licensed apparel market is still not that big but growing at a faster pace. As per my understanding, it’s more related to retail formats as well. As more & more organized retail grows, the share for Licensed merchandise will increase.
ILP: Bodycare has been a pioneer on many fronts including:
Being the first to introduce Lycra stretch fiber in Inner Wear in India.
First to introduce Procian Printed Girls Panties in India
Latest Seamless innerwear technology
Would you also credit some of your success to the strategy of licensing global brands for your product portfolio? How has licensing helped you?
SG: Yes, the acquiring license at early stage has helped us lot not just in term of branding but has helped us increase our global exposure as well, which really helped in developing world class products.
Our tie ups with International licensors has also helped us to know the best international practices followed in branding and marketing.
ILP: Can you recount any one licensing program which worked well for BodyCare?
SG: Hannah Montana with Walt Disney, I feel is the most successful licensing program till date.
What are your expectations from a licensor?
SG: Our key asks from any licensor are as follows:
They should create and maintain demand for the character.
Provide us licensees with style guides & design support by sharing best products across the globe.
Marketing and promotional support
ILP: Since you are in the organized retail space, how do you view piracy? What steps do you think the authorities can/should be taking to tackle the menace of piracy?
SG: Piracy is certainly a big challenge for our company as we trade in original IP. The current laws in India are not that strong which is actually helping the culprits. Many a time, licensors are not able to safeguard their own brands and take strong action, hence violators can operate without fear.
When you think of WWE, images of gigantic men and women, body slamming each other come to mind. But there’s much more at play beyond the ring. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., aka WWE, is an American integrated media and entertainment company that primarily is known for its brand of sports entertainment. It has branched out into other fields, including movies, real estate, and various other business ventures. As of 2018, it is the largest wrestling promotion in the world, holding over 500 events a year, with the roster divided up into various globally traveling brands. Over the years WWE has managed to build a very strong licensing & merchandising business which riffs off its on-air programming.
Archana Keskar, Senior Director Consumer Products Licensing & Retail, South East Asia & South Asia, WWE helps to demystify this massive goliath for us.
ILP: You have dabbled in the licensing business for quite some time and with multiple brands including the STAR Network, Disney, Cartoon Network and now WWE. What’s it about the licensing business that you find most exciting and spurs you to dream bigger and jump higher?
AK: The brands I represent. If you believe in a brand, it’s personality & attributes, you are better placed to plan brand extensions. This is the same reason a consumer buys into WWE and licensing is a great tool that allows a win-win partnership between licensors & licensees. You are only limited by your imagination: which other business model allows brand extensions across multiple product or service categories to deliver 360 degrees consumer value?
ILP: Do you believe the business of sports licensing is coming/has come of age in India?
AK : I think, in general, licensing as a business model still has some distance to travel in India irrespective of the genre. However, more sports and sports leagues are getting support and exposure, and are now more mainstream than before. With increased support to the segment, the overall relevance and brand association opportunities will continue to grow.
ILP: WWE is a $1 billion brand at retail. Most of us in India was first exposed to WWE thanks to the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Undertaker. Now you have a whole new generation to serve. How has WWE evolved to meet the change in the demographic?
AK : There are more consumer touchpoints for WWE than ever before. As well as more than 550 live events around the world every year, WWE programming is available in more than 800 million households worldwide, and is broadcast in more than 180 countries and 24 languages. WWE Network, our subscription-based TV service, had a record 2.1m subscribers as of WrestleMania 34. In social media, WWE is the number one sports channel on YouTube ahead of the likes of the NBA and FIFA, and is the second-most viewed channel on YouTube overall with more than 22 billion lifetime video views. WWE has more than 900million total followers across all 18 platforms. WWE has a diverse roster of more than 250 Superstars and Legends
representing nearly 30 different countries speaking 17 languages and counting, and featuring household names like 16-time World Champion John Cena to new talent like our very own Jinder Mahal who was the first World Champion of Indian descent, last year. We also enlist new talents from different countries every year. Collectively, they are global personalities, icons, heroes with huge star power that is relevant to consumers of all ages.
ILP: Globally WWE works with over 200+ licensees. What are the checkboxes from a WWE standpoint before appointing a new licensee?
AK: Passion for WWE, expertise in a specific product range or service and distribution strength. There is very high demand for WWE products in India and to meet this, we are looking for experts in varied category segments.
ILP: Talk us through the licensed product portfolio in India and other categories in the offing?
AK: We work with some of the best in different product categories like Mattel for Toys, 2K, Scopely for Console & Mobile Games, Topps for Trading Cards, DK Penguin Random house for Books,
Funko for Collectible figurines, Parle & Perfetti Van Melle for Promotions and WWE Superstar Authentic merchandise is available on our e-commerce platform, wweshop.in, launched in partnership with The Souled Store. Our core target consumer segment being the 15-25-year-old young adults followed closely by kids (4-14years) and to meet their demand, we are now in discussions with local companies across multiple categories including but not limited to Apparel, Footwear, Bags, Stationery, F&B, Home products, even promotional tie-ups.
ILP: Give us an example of a great licensed brand fit with WWE?
AK: WWE is a lifestyle brand with a portfolio of globally popular Superstars. Other than Action Figures and Games, Apparel & Superstar Fashion Accessories has the highest demand. With hundreds of Superstars to design for, the range possibilities are immense.
ILP: Which is the one license program you’ve run at WWE which qualifies to be in your personal hall of fame?
AK: The best is yet to come.
ILP: India is still a very conservative country when it comes to entertainment opportunity. How do you get past the gate-keepers (parents) to sell licensed merchandise to kids?
AK: Let me share a few examples; WWE video games have always been in the top 5, 2018 is the 11th year for our Trading cards, Mattel launched the WWE Action Figures & Playsets in April this year and few SKUs are already out of stock, Superstar authentic gear sales from our ecommerce platform – WWEShop.in
has consistently grown since launch last year. To break this down, WWE is an aspirational brand with mass connect across Young Adults & Kids segment alike. In terms of popularity, India is our number 1 market for TV viewership or social media following and people of all ages attended our India Events in the last two years. With demand this high, the only way we will be relevant to all gate-keepers (retail & parents) is to have good quality products & promotions with reputed companies and aim is to add to the existing product range in the country.
ILP: Any key learnings you would like to share regarding your journey as a licensor of one of the biggest sports brands in the market?
AK: WWE is unique. We are a sports-entertainment brand and the global consumer base connects with the larger than life Superstars; their personalities and stories. Our brand is not dependent on a single championships or sports series but is relevant every day of the year without a break. Therefore, innovation is key, be it Content or Consumer Products.
ILP: What does the roadmap for WWE look like over the next 5-10 years? Will consumer products or content syndication drive the agenda?
AK: Both go hand in hand. India is a very important market for us and we are carefully evaluating opportunities for localization across all lines of business.
ILP: What does Archana Keskar watch on thetele when she’s not watching WWE?
AK: We have interesting content every day of the week but when am not tuned into WWE, I catch up on Hindi movies. But it’s interesting as sometimes even that brings me back to WWE like Dangal, Sultan or even Brothers.
To listen to the interview, scroll to the bottom and hit play.
He’s been a serial entrepreneur and the founder of the company which was established 19 years ago back in 1999 – has successfully managed to grow the company’s revenue from 1.2 Cr to over 80 Cr as of FY 16. The company was initially set up as a Home Entertainment line, Excel Productions Audio Visuals Pvt. Ltd. (aka THE EXCEL GROUP) but has since ventured into many product verticals in the licensing and consumer products space such as Excel Home Videos, Excel Interactive, Movies & More, My Baby Excels, StarWalk, Excel Innovators and Nitroid. My guest today is Muslim Kapasi – CEO of the Excel Group. Hi Muslim, thanks for your time.
Muslim (MK): Thanks very much for the kind introduction. I’m very happy to be speaking with IndiaLicensingPost. You know how it is with social media these days. Always saying a lot more about you.
ILP: You’re a fairly media shy guy. We couldn’t find too many interviews of you, which is why we are so grateful you allowed us to speak with you.
Today Excel is one of the largest licensees in India, please take us through your journey. What were some of the pivotal moments?
MK: We started as a manufacturing set-up. I don’t think many people know how we actually started with our home video business first, and what led us into licensing. That’s where the whole seed was placed. We had a whole manufacturing unit. We were the sole manufacturers for 20th Century Fox and CIC which was a JV between Universal and Paramount pictures who use to manufacture their own videos in India, they had their own offices in India (this is somewhere in the mid-90’s), and we had done an OEM deal with these manufacturing companies. While we went about building a state of the art manufacturing plant which would meet with Hollywood standards, we hoped Bollywood would follow as well, but that didn’t happen. So we had a manufacturing set up but we were struggling with very low capacity, and this went on till 1997 till Cable and Satellite television took off and more and more consumers were exposed to LIVE news etc prior to which we only had the standard Doordarshan fare or you would have to rent a VHS and watch it at home on your video cassette player. So that’s where we were at that time. Piracy was booming. Very little manufacturing being done at our factory, we had debts and we had no customers. Fox was struggling at that time, CIC had shut down, they decided that India was a lost cause. That’s when we realized, we could pitch for licensing the products of the brands we were working with and build a business out of that. In hindsight I think it was a great decision, but if it were today, I would tell anybody NOT to do it. Having said that we signed up the Fox license to run the factory. Coincidentally, 6-8 months later we realized, that we were much better as distributors than manufacturers and a year and a half later we shut down the manufacturing completely and we started outsourcing manufacturing as we didn’t have the bandwidth, we didn’t have the time and we needed more folks in the marketplace at the front end rather than the backend. That’s how we got into the licensing business. That was a foot in the door. Factory ko chalana hai, factories bandh ho rahi hai. Fox was shutting down and we had set up the manufacturing unit especially for them. It was very empathetic of them to give us a license at not very difficult terms at all. They must have realized that they owed it to us. In fact one of the Fox officials whom I will not name said “You will burn out in a year or year and a half”, but that was not to be. Soon Disney came our way and then Paramount. Then we realized, we should diversify and the closest thing we understood was gaming, because gaming was still very much a physical product, so we signed on Electronic Arts (EA games) for PC games. The pivotal moment is that we diversified in the right product at the right time. As you realize with technology businesses, change is inevitable and what was peaking now was about to sharply decline and we could sustain as we had moved on and we had something else supporting us in that fray.
ILP: Your company has exclusive licenses of various global brands like Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Marvel, Mattel, DreamWorks Animation, Warner Bros., Viacom, Turner, etc. for various product categories for the territory of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – what made you opt to license 3rd party brands?
MK: where are the 3rd party brands? I see all frontline brands. And a brand is a brand, isn’t it? In many ways, we went to some brands, some brands came to us. That’s how it evolved. To quote someone it was “path-breaking” It was like a friend from the industry who was a licensor at one of the licensing conferences said to me, “we had 9 companies pitching to us for the business, but we went with the 10th company who was not pitching to us”. I think the passion also shows, isn’t it? When you’re out in the market and putting a product on the shelves and how your placing the product in the stores, and then that itself becomes the center of gravity and attracts the right partners, the right brands etc.
ILP: According to the LIMA Global Study 2017 report, Entertainment/Character licensing accounts for 45% of the $262 billion sales at retail. How big do you reckon the market is in India?
MK: Market size is something I haven’t been able to nail down and everybody has their own take on it and the methodology of coming to that number is very different and very unique, but there is very little connecting those numbers either. When we talk to retailers, they have a different number compared to the wholesalers who have a different math, for the various categories and there is a lack of transparency, there are unaccounted ways of conducting businesses and all those numbers are superficially extrapolated by a particular study or entity. Very rarely have I seen these numbers become meaningful when you get onto the ground and start working. The $262 billion number does seem heartening, but in India, the 45% figure for character licensing does seem inflated. I wouldn’t put it at more than 15-20% of the overall business. Much of this has to do with how we manage characters and also we have a different consumer. Our consumer is price loyal and not brand loyal. Very often he’s happy to settle for a counterfeit which is at half or 20% cheaper than a branded product, so the quality, the utility and the price is met. That probably keeps us restricted in that space.
ILP: What are the key tick marks you must have in place before investing in a licensing programme?
MK: I wouldn’t want to put it down to any specific tick marks as we are largely driven by instincts or guts.
ILP: At the CBME 2018 panel discussion on the future of licensing, you mentioned that the growth of the licensing business would depend on the coming together of many different parts to make the overall business stronger and hit a 1-3% of retail. What are the impediments the industry currently face which need to be overcome?
MK: Yes, I think there are many impediments we need to overcome. Largely I think is the cultural impediment. We are not in a very conducive ecosystem. We have become very short-sighted “Whats on the table kind of approach” instead of thinking long term. Everything is so dynamic as well. You don’t know which retailer or brand is going to get purchased. When youre working with a licensor – 10-year relationship and you’ve nurtured a brand or character like your own, and you’ve made products standout and then suddenly…. Very often its easier to SELL than become SOLD. There are also other issues like infrastructure etc which we’ve known for years which haven’t rapidly changed either.
ILP: You are one of the largest licensees in the country, what are your expectations from a licensor?
MK: Loyalty. Its one of the most important ingredients. Loyalty and Trust. Very often a licensee goes to a licensor for a new product or category and takes It up, nurtures it over 3-4 years and builds it into something that everyone notices and suddenly everyone wants to pitch for that product category and you don’t want to be put in a place against those pitches.Its very disheartening and disorienting. If this continues, I feel the whole licensee, licensor relationship is going to stay very fractured. This change needs to come from the larger brands, the market leaders. When a small brand comes and offers you a license, you know that licensee is also going to squeeze that small company and he is going to tie in that company for 10 years or 15 years or even for perpetuity. When that becomes big the licensor has very little left to exit.
ILP: Do you have aspirations to have your own home-grown brand?
MK: Not really. We have a lot of aspirations, but we don’t have space and the time, being such a force in the licensing space. Our DNA is a licensee. Whenever there is a new character we are always trying to figure which are the categories or IPs that are best suited to take that particular character to market? We are very licensing driven, but ever so often the thought does cross our minds since we work with so many brands. But I don’t think we’ve done enough in the licensing space yet. There’s still a lot to do and a lot of growth to be achieved.
ILP: How do you gauge customer appetite for a particular brand, since you need to be ahead of the curve?
MK: The simple answer is to BE the CONSUMER and satisfy those needs. And of course, while we are handling so many brands and categories, we do have customer insights coming through our feedback channels.
ILP: Which category of your range has proved best suited for licensing? Any key learnings you would like to share?
MK: I think I’ve already answered this. All have equal potential. There’s a lot yet to be done. If there’s a less important category I would say soft toys because that is so well covered. But there is so many new IPs being launched every day. SO many new movies coming out every week.
ILP: So you feel that’s a problem now? Too many new IPs launching?
MK: I think that’s the order of the 21st century. The problem of plenty. To digress we have more people suffering from obesity issue than the starvation issue. Likewise, we have a lot of content coming in with a lot of aspirational value but not enough takers. Or the consumer seems to be overloaded with choice – too many characters and within characters too many colors, shapes, sizes, concepts and that is going to remain for a while.
ILP: You seem to have a great desire to help upcoming entrepreneurs nurture their dreams and bring their vision to fruition. How does a budding entrepreneur build a license-ready brand?
MK: I think to follow your heart. Many times we got into categories when people told us not to get into them, and we realized the more somebody was telling us NO, the more we wanted to go ahead. That’s the advice I would give. Don’t let fear or somebody else deter you from your dreams. And many times that’s where the big pot of gold is sitting and nobody is uncovering it.
Following your heart in a world of conformities is inarguably an audacious act. That is exactly what Mrinalini Chandra is doing and making it large! Her debut collection called PLEASE HAVE A SEAT showcased in Lakme Fashion Week 2014 took the fashion fraternity by storm. It was a hit and marks a humongous breakthrough in her journey.
With an urge to take handcrafted finesse to a new high, inspired by the the rich culture & poetic verses of India, trained in Fashion Luxury at the Creative Academy, Milan & NIFT, New Delhi, Mrinalini Chandra worked at Tanishq (New Delhi) and Montblanc (Germany) before launching her own label in India. She was also listed as one of Asia’s top jewelry designers by WGSN – the global trendspotting agency.
In 2017, Mrinalini collaborated with global iconic brand Candy Crush to launch an exclusive range of jewelry for women and men.
We are going to talk about all of this and more with her, a warm welcome to Mrinalini Chandra!
If you would like to listen to the interview instead of reading, scroll to the bottom and hit play!
ILP: You’ve been very busy with the Shaadi of the year – how did it feel like designing jewelry for your favorite muse Sonam Kapoor?
MC: It’s always an incredible experience to make anything for Sonam. She is the warmest person to work with and everything you make for her, she brings it to life. It is nice to see someone do justice to creativity. It was really nice to make the Kaleeras for her. She was the most resplendent bride ever; so real and traditional. In a world, where everyone is trying to be too modern and different, she stuck to the most traditional way of dressing as an Indian bride and she did all her ceremonies as they were meant to be in her Punjabi culture which was the part that I loved most about the wedding. It wasn’t about breaking any norms but doing something that she really believed in and doing it with utmost honesty. Kudos to her.
ILP: Bollywood plays by a different set of rules. How does a girl from Lucknow with no “godfather” get a foothold in the industry?
MC: That’s a very tough question to answer. I feel that I am still figuring things out in my journey and when I look back, I feel I have come a long way. I have never aimed to be in this part of the industry. I have always thought of creating a better product every time I work on a project. From the very first product that I designed to the Candy Crush project, it was always about creating something better than the last time. So, for me, this has been a very exciting journey and I am lucky to have people in the industry, who see the beauty in it and have supported me as well. Of course, the journey has its ups and downs, but it sure has been a rollercoaster ride. I am blessed with a great support system: my family, my team and my incredibly gifted karigars. The high is that if you can create the visions you have in your mind with people who have not seen it but are willing to give the chance, I think that is the most satisfying feeling of being in this field. There is no substitute to hardwork.
ILP: What does the brand Mrinalini Chandra stand for?
MC: I would like the brand to evolve into something stronger but I also want it to retain the qualities it has always had. The brand is all about evoking a sense of wonder. Every time I create something, I want people to be a little surprised by it. I want the brand to evolve into something classic – like a Dior or Chanel which becomes a part of your trousseau. If you buy earrings from me, even though they are not precious jewelry, but it is precious enough for you to relate to it, tell your story, keep your secret and pass it on to your next generation.
ILP: Since ILP is primarily about licensing, tell us about how artists, like yourself, view collaborations with global brands to reach different segments of the market or reach a completely new audience?
MC: I think it is a great way of giving an opportunity to new and upcoming talent. It helps you generate a visibility which is otherwise beyond your reach. I feel that is what luxury is all about. Someone sitting in Antwerp can place an order of something made with filigree. The best thing about collaborations is that brands from different horizons feel that there is compatibility and the result is always exciting. It brings together two cultures and people are up for newness.
ILP: Tell us about your experience partnering with global sensation Candy Crush. Jiggy George, Head, LIMA India & Founder & CEO – Dream Theatre called you one of the “most talented yet down to earth designers to work with”. What was your experience like?
MC: It was most exciting and fun experience working with on a collaboration with Candy Crush. It was not just about the collaboration but about the whole team and how it came together with everyone contributing to it in terms of not just putting in ideas but also putting their heart and spirit in it. That made it really very special to me. Since this collaboration has happened at an initial phase of my career, it has definitely been a milestone for me. I am very thankful for the faith that Mr. Jiggy George had put in me when I first met him and for him to think that this is worth investing in a young label like ours. My work is very craft oriented so for someone to see this possibility was truly visionary. I also think that the product that we made and the kind of responses that we have had, made a huge difference in the way that our label is now seen.
ILP: Any particular collaboration on the global stage that piqued your curiosity?
MC: There have been a lot of collaborations that have caught my eye in the past. I like that major international sensations of brands collaborate with artists. I find this very fascinating. Of course, a lot of brands collaborate with models and singers but not much with artists as they have very strong opinions of certain things and brands have very strong ideologies which results in a bit of a clash. However, I like that because eventually both compromise and that, for me, is a collaboration in its true sense. I really like Louis Vuitton, which is a brand known to have very commercial products, collaborating with Jeff Koons which is a very different brand altogether.
Among Indian brands, the Manish Arora collaboration with MAC was really exciting. MAC is a brand known for its classic colors and not known for its fun and spunky nature whereas Manish is known for his out-of-box thinking. I loved the packaging in this collaboration.
ILP: We interviewed art aficionado Jasmine Shah Verma sometime back and she talked about her passion for taking art out of the galleries and to the masses via everyday objects like cutlery, lampshades etc. Do you think branded jewelry also holds the same potential?
MC: I think it definitely does. Also, because branded jewelery is wearable, and the potential of wearing it, the usage is much more. In fact the Hindu called my jewelry a “wearable installation” – which I really relate to. I like it more than being called a haute couture designer because of the high utility factor. I have clients who are known for their quirkiness. Its like they say it takes one to know one.
ILP: Tell us a little bit more about your product mix and distribution platforms.
MC: I started with basically every-day jewellery category moving towards the customized wedding range with not just the massive Kaleeras and but also wedding gift products. Customization is really becoming a hallmark for me because people want something different and I am more than happy to create it for them.
ILP: Do you face the problem of piracy of your designs?
MC: Yes, I do. India has very poor laws with copyright infringement. Labels, both established and younger ones, go this route and it breaks your heart. You do not know if you should take this as a compliment because you have put your heart and soul in creating something new. I feel with some new social media pages coming up, it is easier to shout out and point out piracy and it has noticed that people are in support of anti-piracy. That is very helpful and encouraging to us. I believe the consumer is not so unaware anymore, is more educated and smarter and because of social media exposure their knowledge is better. You cannot fool anyone so easily anymore.
ILP: Although the overall consumption of gold dipped last year vs the average over the past decade, India is still the 2nd highest consumer of gold behind China according to the World Gold Council. Are you looking at other precious or semi-precious metals to de-risk?
MC: Since I have started working, we have most commonly dealt with 24-karat, 22-karat and diamonds in 18-karat. Now what we see is, something very typical to Dubai, an offering from a 9-karat to a 14-karat which is becoming very prominent in India. In fact, I am myself working on a line like that. Silver jewelry has always been there. Precious stones are not so popular in India unless they are combined with white or yellow gold. Because platinum jewelry has a higher price point, I don’t see it working so much for women as much as wedding bands for men which would work. I do not see gold disappearing from an Indian market point of view. The younger women now still prefer gold but with a modern outlook. In a pret way, I see gold in 9 – 14 karat continuing to grow.
ILP: How do you balance art & commerce?
MC: That is the hardest thing I have ever had to do because when I am creating something I don’t want to think about how to monetize it. But sadly, I have to. Aditya, my husband, has taught me the importance of commerce and how to balance it with art.
ILP: Which designers do you draw inspiration from?
MC: In India, it would be Anamika Khanna. I have been a big fan of her since I was in college. I happened to interact with her just after my first show. She just stopped by to buy the products in the stall area. She said my products really caught her eye and commended me on it. That moment meant a lot to me. All her clothes are like an artwork which does not follow a regular pattern making process. I think she does draping on a mannequin and it comes off as an original. I don’t think she is a person who would compromise on the amount of work she wants to put in her designs which I really like and follow in my line of work as well. I would not like to compromise on my products. Sometimes the product gives minimal profit, but at the end of the day it is the client satisfaction that really matters.
On the international scene, I love many jewelry designers and follow their work. One of them if Jacqueline Ryan who takes her inspiration from Greens – its 3D jewelry. I’m not very clued into their personal lives, but I love their work and continue to follow them.
Its not easy to get time with Mr. Anuj Batra. so when you receive a message that he’s free to have a quick chat, you take it. A veteran in the retail space, Mr Batra shares his experiences with IndiaLicensingPost.com.
If you prefer to listen instead of reading, scroll down to the end of the page and hit play.
You have worn many different hats throughout your career,with a strong background in retail & infrastructure. What made you join Alcis sports?
I have been in the retail and distribution profession for nearly 30 years. I have had the privilege of launching some iconic brands in various different sectors like footwear, apparel, garments, accessories, wellness, education and so on. The Indian sports apparel market is still in the nascent stage and I have seen a great amount of opportunity where many international brands were doing very well,however, 90% of brands were not focusing on the target audience that exists in India. By that I mean, there are so many players in India who are only concentrating on the top end of the pyramid whereas the mid and the bottom end has any brands and that is where the entire customer base in India lies. So we wanted to give the best international quality product at Indian prices to the consumers. With that in my mind, I saw a great opportunity of joining Alcis, which was actually being promoted by one of the largest sports apparel manufacturers out of India. I have had the expertise for making it for some iconic international brands as well as many Indian brands into the sports and leisure segment. So, the expertise was there in terms of manufacturing and curating something very different in terms of quality and I have got the expertise in go-to-market strategies and channel development.
Do you believe the business of sports licensing is coming/has come of age in India?
Definitely! The overall Indian consumer, while growing up, always had a fancy for icons that they could relate to. We have grown up hearing stories, watching movies and serials and that is how we have connected to these superheroes. We dream and fantasize to be like them in our day to day life. In India as well, we have been growing among these characters that are more than life-like and these superheroes are being projecting in such a way that we see ourselves in them and vice versa. It becomes an easier platform for people to relate to and this is the reason why most of the organizations relate themselves to a brand, icon, license or character as it becomes easy for them to establish their product within the domestic market.
What are the key tick marks you must have in place before investing in a licensing program?
The first and foremost tick mark we should have is on the overall positioning of the brand. It has to synergize with the kind of license or character we are trying associate with for our product range. Another important factor is that the license program has to be along term factor. When a brand is investing huge amount of money to obtain a license, they need to ensure that the top and bottom line of the pyramid are covered. Create a range and build up a brand around the character. The ultimate goal would be to see whether we are able to make money out of it and do justice to the brand we are trying to associate ourselves with. There has to be a two-way synergy where the brand is able to grow along with the character.
What are your expectations from the licensor/brand owner?
I would say that the brand ethos should not be compromised with, whether the licensee they have signed up with is able to work out a long term strategy or build the brand around their product. It is very important to report true sales figures. Being forthright and ethical is very crucial for a license and a brand to go hand in hand for a long term vision. Getting royalty payments on time is very important as well for a licensor.
How do you gauge customer appetite for a brand?
India is blessed to have so many consumers. The sheer size of the population itself is enough for us to get sizable numbers for any licensed program or a brand to successfully launch a property in India and become successful.
Give us an example of a great licensed brand fit with your product?
Essentially, Alcis is all about sports apparels and we make a very diverse and unique range of sports products. We have a separate range for running, training, yoga, work-out, cricket and football. There is a huge amount of possibility for us to relate with any of the icons within this entire spectrum of categories that we are manufacturing for and to be able to bring around a brand which can fit into our brand activities. And this is why we had signed up with the iconic Shikhar Dhawan as our brand ambassador who was truly echoing the brand promise that we were trying to portray and position ourselves with. In the women’s category, we have Lauren Gottlieb who is considered to be one of the iconic figures for a lot of young women who aspire to be like her.
You are the official licensee partner for FIFA World Cup 2018. What are some of the initiatives you are undertaking to excite fans in the run up to the event?
We were licensees for the Under-17 FIFA World Cup that happened in India and we took some beautiful initiatives of promoting the 10 million program. We also took the initiative of setting up stalls at various stadiums, discussed with other sponsors of FIFA World Cup in India like Bank of Baroda, Coca Cola, Hyundai, Hero, etc to get a sense of getting consumer feedback in terms of people trying our various products, appreciating the quality and technological advances that we are offering in our product range. For the FIFA World Cup 2018, our products will be available at Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Central, and Sports Station along with some multi-brand outlets across the country. We have also opened up 7 exclusive stores for Alcis where the FIFA range will be merchandised. Before the World Cup begins, we will start additional 3 stores mainly in Goa which predominantly has a strong football fan base along with Hyderabad and Bangalore. We are also going to take initiatives at Lulu Mall in Kochi which again is a city of football fans. We are trying to tie up with sponsors across other countries to promote our products and range and get ourselves associated with football academies. We are offering 555 different SKU’s in the entire FIFA range which includes both men and women. For the first time, we are launching merchandise for women/girls and kids. We have also tied up exclusively with Flipkart to launch this entire range nationwide for the online channel.
Any key learnings you would like to share regarding your journey as a licensee of some of the biggest and well known brands in the market?
I would say we need to be reciprocal whether it is a brand or a licensee. There should not be different licenses given in a particular market for different categories but within the same range. At the same time, it is very important for the licensee to be able to honor the commitment and to be able to give justice to the brand. Before signing up the license program, it is very important to work on a business plan and share it.
You have launched on your campaign “Be The Game” featuring Shikhar Dhawan – pls tell us a little more about the background and its objective.
Each one of us, irrespective of age, still love sports like football and cricket. We also try and discover our younger years where we participated in school or college sports teams. Some of us still continue this hobby in spite of our office schedules in order to stay fit. So it is all about being the game where we are trying to help people to talk about how we can live in our present age and still be active like a sportsman. The entire Alcis range are technologically advanced products which help people to perform better in what they are trying to do. We are shortly building up that story and you should hear about our big plans very soon.
What advice would you give to young professionals starting out in the licensing business?
Being a jury member for WSE (World Startup Expo, Bangalore) and Narsee Monjee, I can surely advise that licensing and sports management is a great opportunity in India. Licensing is going to become more prominent in India with its spectrum not restricting to only FMCG or apparels and it will be a great career to be in. It definitely has a great amount of scope and one should encourage their kids to be able to take up this program and also take this as a full-time career.
Tell us more about why you did you see it fit to push into the retail sales. Is it primarily for the touch-and-feel experience vis-à-vis shopping on an online portal?
Our entire positioning goes around the factor that the product needs to be seen and how will the consumer be aware without the touch and feel about gauging the quality and seeing the technology in front of them. So it is very important for us to create a great amount of physical presence. So far, the entire range of our sports apparel is available through more than 264 large format retail outlets and across 700 retail points which are the multi-brand retail outlets being serviced through our chain of distributors. We are also having presence in 7 of our exclusive stores and in the process of opening another 15 stores this year. The one-to-one interaction with our products is very important for us to promote our products. For example, they need to know how it feels to wear our lightweight product of 76gms or the Wonder Tee product which is made out of recycled polyester. Our market strategy is going to be a crucial factor as we plan to have our presence in more than 2000 retail outlets across India this year. We have also tied up with Walmart to sell across various retail points which would have been difficult for us to reach through our present distribution network.
What is your take on piracy? In more mature markets in the West, they do have laws to tackle such issues but in India we lack such stringent laws. How do you view piracy and what steps do you think the licensors and licensees should take to secure their future in the market?:
With the IPL tournament happening, one might have seen the players wearing a very discerning product range. Our parent brand, Paragon Sports Apparels, is very fortunate to manufacture it for various different brands for the last 11 years of IPL mainly Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bengaluru. During the matches, you may have noticed thousands of fans wearing similar looking products most of them which are not manufactured under licensed programs of the IPL franchises. The government has to take some steps in order to strengthen the trademark and reinvent laws to take a quick action on piracy. The licensor and licensee need to join hands in order to curb this issue and try to raise the issue at various forums and with the government. The online channel players or retailers should not be allowed to sell dubious products which are not licensed. Once we have stringent laws across this spectrum, this problem can be taken care of. Also, as a customer, one should pledge not to buy a dubious product.
We caught up with Mr. Permendra Singh aka Param – Head, Consumer products, Mattel India at his very swanky (and funky) office in the hip-side of Bandra East! If you love your Hotwheels (who doesn’t?), scrabble or Barbie – then this place is nothing short of “heaven” – but duty calls and we get down to discussing the business of licensing.
For a radio like experience you can listen to the conversation at the bottom of the page or have a read!
ILP:You have worn many different hats throughout your career,with a strong background in retail &sales. Was joining Mattel a natural progression, how has the journey been thus far?
Param:My experience has primarily been in Sales Management & Marketing before I got introduced to Disney – the licensing world is beautiful & you generate business by collaborating & influencing the right partners. The business model gives one a lot of flexibility & allows to explore multiple categories. You can only be limited by your ambition to grow. Mattel boasts of the iconic brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher Price – in today’s age every brand is looking at ways to engage with their consumers & here the brands are built purely on engagement. Hence, working at Mattel becomes a perfect fit for me.
ILP:You have possibly 2 of the most iconic brands in the kid’s space – Barbie and Hot Wheels. How does this play out in the licensing space where you’re up against the biggies?
Param:As mentioned the challenge for most of the brands today is the engagement & here are the Mattel Brands – Barbie, Hot Wheels & Fisher Price that are built primarily on the engagement apart from the content. The way the consumer engages or plays with Hot Wheels Car or the Barbie Doll makes the brand an integral part of the play & learn journey for the child & hence these brands are iconic. In fact, given the neutral retail environment these brands literally tower over the rest Licensing brands & hence we see an untapped market with a strong growth forecast in key categories.
ILP:What are the key tick marks you must have in place before bringing in a new licensee on board?
Param: OK, so this is something like what is the perfect recipie to a butter chicken. Slightly tough one to answer but there are some basic principles to making the Licensing partnership successful & the key aspects to the Licensee includes:
Passion & belief in the Franchises that the Licensee wants to work upon.
Make Licensing a part of their long-term strategy.
Transparency & open to feedback.
Nimble & Proactive Approach to scenarios.
ILP:How has the proliferation of digital devices and high-speed broadband impacted Mattel in India and overseas?Has it helped acquire new consumers on the content front?
Param: The country is presently seeing a rapid growth in terms of digital content consumption and users are today able to seamlessly experience the content they love to watch. All of this has been made possible due to affordability of smartphones and cheap data rates being available.
As a company, we believe that storytelling becomes a cornerstone in our approach to connect with kids and parents. We have achieved this by providing a rich selection of content to connect with kids via leading OTT platforms such Youtube Kids, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Voot. Outside of OTT platforms, we also have an established social media presence by which we engage with parents and fans daily. We are presently undergoing a revolutionary change in the way kids/parents consume digital content where it becomes imperative for us to build our business around them by delivering a narrative that resonates with them.
ILP:How has the growth of E-commerce impacted the licensing business for Mattel in India?
Param: If we look at the last 5 years, ecommerce has seen an incredible growth rate of internet penetration in the country which in turn has also led to a fast-growing online shopper’s community. In 2016, the e-commerce market comprised of only 2% of the overall retail market which is expected to grow to 12% by 2026, as stated in the Morgan Stanley report titled – India’s Digital Leap.
At Mattel, we see this growth as an opportunity to scale up our business by offering a seamless omnichannel experience to our customers to shop what they want and when they want. More importantly, the channel helps us to overcome distribution challenges that existed earlier and today we can connect with our customers across the country.
Over the past year, we have invested heavily in strengthening our e-commerce partnerships. We launched exclusive stores for our brands – Barbie, Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels on platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and Firstcry. We recently also initiated an occasion led shopping event with Flipkart on Barbie’s birthday in March. Moving forward, we will continue to invest in this channel to reach out to our consumers more efficiently.
ILP:With the growth in private labels, do you see Direct to Retail also growing as a business proposition and in helping retail drive value?
Param:Yes the private label will grow primarily in organized retail including E-commerce. With low net margins for retailers worldwide the focus on private label to improve the realisations is natural. We have seen certain private label brands growing tremendously in last 10 years & the same will continue provided they are focused in their offering & in line with what consumer is seeking.
Licensing has gained & grown a lot as part of the private label by key retailers.
ILP:Any key learnings you would like to share as a licensor of some of the biggest and well-known brands in the market?
Param:Licensing is all about believing in the partnership & being completely committed to it – the key cornerstone for the business is the trust between the Licensee & Licensor. The relationship needs to involve positive push to each-other to build the business. The framework & success matrix needs to be clearly defined & worked upon. If there is passion & commitment the journey is fun & results are always there for others to notice as a case-study of what went well.Its all about making it successful on these.
ILP:What do you feel is lacking in the Indian licensing eco-system which could bring about a watershed of change and progress?
Param:The way we build the partnership – Licensee & Licensor needs to be a lot more engaging & needs a stronger collaborative approach. They need to move & build business like a Tribe.
The key area is the engagement or consumption of content is far leading the consumption of consumer products & need to be tapped at the right pace. The eight-year old inTiripur orTezpur have quite a similar urge to owning the Barbie T-Shirt as the eight-year old in Mumbai & hence distribution is the key driver going forward.
ILP:Mattel does a lot of CSR work in the US especially around the ‘Power of Play’. Are we likely to see such initiatives in India as well?
Param: Mattel is a creations company that inspires the wonder of childhood and one of our core beliefs lies in the value of play. According to American Academy of Pediatrics, Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage with their children and we have been making concerted efforts to educate parents about the underlying benefits of play with toys. It is our mission to be the recognized leader in play, learning and development not just in India but across the world as well. We are extremely committed to investing in product development and, thus, focus heavily on R&D to solve fundamental problems that parents face with baby products and child development. It is our constant endeavor to not only keep the child engaged but also make life easier for the parents by providing best-in-class, safe and quality toys that aid in the be overall growth and development of the child. We are committed to bringing this thought alive through all our initiatives – be it engagement with parents or through our product development. Through the Mattel Children’s Foundation, we have awarded a grant of INR 15 Lakhs to launch Project Udaan under the aegis of Barbie, in association with Masoom, an NGO that offers quality education in night schools for girls from marginalized sections of society. This was in line with Barbie’s philosophy of ‘You Can Be Anything’ and the program was 3-fold that focused on leadership skills, feminine hygiene program and vocational training.
ILP:What advise would you give to young professionals starting out in the licensing business?
Param:It is a model that offers great flexibility & you can marry the basic principles of Sales & Marketing to build large businesses. This is a fast-growing business & primarily driven by Franchisees that connect emotionally to the consumers. The business also feeds continuously upon the Consumer Products to build the brand with so-many touch-points. The key principles are passion in the brand & collaborative approach to building large partnerships.
It brings immense possibilities & sky can be the limit in terms of the revenue that one can target. Companies are now making Licensing as part of their long-term strategy & you can have a fascinating career with good career progression. The cross-category mix adds a lot to the learning as an individual.
Shree Narayan Sabharwal – Business Head, Simba Toys India Pvt Ltd speaks about the Indian toy industry and it’s dynamics to the India Licensing Post’s editorial team.
You can either listen to the conversation at the bottom of the page or have a read!
ILP: You joined Simba Toys in 2012. Prior to that, you headed the toys and sports category for the Future Group, across all formats such as Big Bazaar, Pantaloon, Central and Home Town.Tell us a little bit about your journey around that time and why you decided to join Simba Toys.
Shree: I joined Big Bazaar around 2005. I was taken on-board for furniture business but my boss thought that toys were a category that needed some handholding so he put me into toys.Future Group was in a very high growth stage and they used to sell through different verticals – Pantaloons, Central, Big Bazaar, Hometown etc. It was challenging& exciting because the assortment that you sell across these formats was very different, Big Bazaar was very very price sensitive, even today it is very price sensitive, compared to a Central which is a little more lifestyle and upmarket. In those days there was no Hamleys so the departmental stores like Central and Shoppers Stop which were more aspirational used to stock and sell all the expensive toys. It was a great learning because it taught me about what would sell at different price points, what would sell at scale vs what would sell in vogue and at a higher price.You were looking at volume vs value. So it gave me great exposure to a wide spectrum. In one vertical we were buying in huge quantities and the other we were buying lesser quantities in the other.
Joining Simba was a decision I took because I had always been on the buying side of the negotiation, so Simba gave me an opportunity to be on the other side of the table. In Future Group, I was trading through different verticals, and I had a team of around 7-8 people working under me and around 15 across the zones. Big Bazaar used to do a business of around INR 100 Crore (1 Bn) business, Central used to be around INR 20 Cr (0.2 Bn) business and Pantaloons used to do around 12 crores (0.12 Bn) business. So I was effectively running a business of around INR 150 odd Crores (1.5 Bn), so that gave me the confidence to run a business at scale and we were the largest toy sellers in the country. I knew of Simba because we used to meet them at the Toy fairs, they had a very big range and what I liked most was they were completely hands-on with the manufacturing process. Simba doesn’t sell anything which they don’t manufacture. It was not a trading company but mostly a manufacturing company, and I could see a huge potential for their portfolio but they were not very well represented here. Also, there weren’t too many brands, India was still opening up, and there was this German brand (with superlative production quality) and all it required was to present the portfolio across the various channels effectively and become the 3rd largest toy company in India. So that is what made me shift here.
ILP: What about the toys and sports category excites you the most?
Shree: Initially it was about scale. I was handling furniture and other hard categories before I joined Future Group. When I came to Future Group I was handed the toys category and what I loved about it, as my son as well as growing up around that time, So I could see what other things a parent looks at when buying an infant toy. We also used to bring a lot of smiles to the faces of kids. Even my experience at Big Bazaar was that when a family used to come and shop, there wasn’t much for the kids to do – s/he was not interested when the parents wanted to buy a garment. So they would run towards the toy section and play there.It was very fulfilling to bring joy to the kid’s faces, we would have a lot of fun there! Even at Simba, we have a fuse-ball table, so when people don’t feel like working they go there and have fun. It’s a great way to always stay young at heart!
ILP: According to the LIMA 2017 Global study report, the Toys market comprises 13% or $35Bn of the overall licensed goods market. How big do you reckon it would be in India?
Shree: I think around the same number, I would not put it more than 15-17% of the overall market. The Indian market is slightly dynamic, its changing now after the regulations on the safety standards. Earlier the licensed market would be 30%, but half of those would be fakes. India was a very open market, you could get anything from anywhere. So very tough to put a number on it. We sell more fakes than the original product. But now it’s changing, it’s getting tough to import fake products. In the last 6 months, starting 1st Sept.we see this when we visit the wholesale markets, the amount of fakes has come down quite drastically.
ILP: Simba Toys had plans to open over 25 retail stores throughout India. How have these fared? Any key learnings you would like to share?
Shree: Currently we have around 11 stores and in this financial year we’ve opened 2 stores. We’ve taken a pause as far as opening of stores is concerned primarily because of sales, the overall market sentiment was sluggish because of de-monetisation, then panic because of GST and in September there was a regulation change as far as the safety standards of toys and now from 1st Feb the custom duty on toys has increased from 10% to 20%. All these are great initiatives for the long term especially for a niche industry like toys in trying to get recognized as an industry by the government, it will help all the brands. Imports of fakes have gone down. There have been short-term losses. The only thing not going down is rentals. There is a dearth of a good real estate. Simba doesn’t want to open stores for the sake of it. We want franchisees to make money and there are a few proposals in the pipeline. Sales have been a lot more steady over the last few months and we see an uptick from here on without too many more changes.
ILP: Simba Toys is a licensor as well as a licensee for a few brands. That puts you in a unique position. How do you see the market for licensed products shaping up in India vs other global markets in which you operate?
Shree: We are in a very early stage of being a licensor, but one thing which I’ve started to notice over the last few years is that the licensed business has started to pick up the pace. One of the reasons is that people have begun pricing products well. Its largely been led by apparel. Earlier a licensed garment of Star Wars or any other action hero etc would cost you Rs. 1499/- upwards today its available at Rs. 499/- It’s more to do with getting the pricing right and placing it across the right channels and making it available in Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities, I’m certain the licensing business will continue to grow. And with the number of fakes coming down, the licensed business is sure to grow at least by 20-25% YOY.
ILP: You e-tail across many of the popular online stores. Any plans to have your own e-commerce platform?
Shree: Not at the moment. Since we are a 100% subsidiary of a foreign company, government FDI norms prohibit us from selling directly to the customer. As and when those are relaxed, we would certainly like to have our own e-commerce site. Till then we will continue to retail online through the various online marketplaces.
ILP: When do you think a brand is a license ready?
Shree: It’s a combination of a few things, but most importantly the brand has to fit into a particular segment. You cannot push a brand down the customer’s throat. There has to be some pull for it. You can put it on the shop floor, but unless the fit is right and there is a pull for it, the brand won’t succeed. We’ve seen that with our dolls line – the world over everyone knows of Barbie but when we launched, so when we launched our own doll Steffi everyone was surprised. But our proposition was that there is an option to Barbie and Steffi was also cheaper. If your product is right and the style guides are designed well with the end consumer in mind then it will work. We started getting inquiries for other products – backpacks, notebooks etc. It was not something we went to the market and sell. We were very clear that the product was not for 0-3 years but more for 4-8 – so the segmentation was very clear, the style guides were very clear, so people started to approach us.
ILP: How do you evaluate homegrown Indian IPs versus international IPs for the Indian market? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Shree: I think Indian IP’s have come a long way and brands like ChotaBHeem have superseded all expectations and it’s very heartening to see. But what we lack in India is the life of a license. In India, the life-span is very low compared to the world. In many of the other western markets, you will see that the shelf life is much much longer. For e.g. a Spiderman movie may have released in 2015 but you will still have a buyer for it in 2018. Honestly, I don’t think the licensors do justice to the property. All of us are looking for a short-term gain.The challenge is how to launch and sustain a property in the long term. And the makers of ChottaBheem got it right, if it has been able to sustain for over 10 years, then they’ve certainly done something right. Indians think very short term. We need to correct this thinking & learn to invest for the long term.
ILP: What are your must-haves while selecting a brand to license?
Shree: Most of our licenses are group licenses which we buy into on a global level. The strategy is well informed by various research, social media, and trend spotting. So its easier to identify the segment you want to play in and which characters are the best fit for the same. For us, the consumer is the kid and through various platforms, you come to know what is trending. In India, besides the toys we get from our mother company, we do school bags. We are very clear we don’t want to add to the clutter, but differentiate. We are very clear about age segmentation. We address a wide age group from 0 to a college-going teen. We have a very clear idea how many properties we are going to take and for which age group and then based on the minimum guarantees we take a decision and go ahead. We are very clear we don’t want to clutter any particular gender/age segment with too many properties.
ILP: Which has been one great success story for Simba overseas you would like to replicate in India?
Shree: I think there are many as far as Simba is concerned. India sees a lot of the launches come here a little late. One standout success for us for which Simba has the master toy license is Masha & the bear. Its one of the most watched characters on YouTube. We are launching Masha next month and the potential is huge. Another great success has been Fireman Sam, which has also been a global smash hit across the Americas, Europe etc. I’m sure if we can launch both of these wells in India 2018-19 will not only be a great year but a super year for Simba in India.
ILP: What would be your advice to a young professional looking to start a licensing business?
Shree: You need to be patient in the licensing business. Don’t look at a property for short term. Both licensors and licensees need the money quickly. But both need to first invest in the business. When we did Barcelona and Dora, we did them for 3 years, not short-term 1-year deals. The business is going to grow 20-25% YOY. Stay invested in the property and reap the rewards over a longer period of time, else there is no attachment to the property. If you focus on only making back your minimum guarantee and get out of it, that doesn’t work. In year 1 the priority should be to build the awareness, Year 2 should be about how to get it to more customers and in year 3 the sales will be so good, you will want to renew the agreement for the next 3 years. Simba is primarily a manufacturing company, so the licenses we take whether it is from Disney or Universal. Simba doesn’t like to do short-term deals. So whether it’s the Lightning McQueen car which we have been manufacturing for the last 5-7 years or Transformers for the last 3 years. So as a company we look at staying invested for at least 3-5 years. Patience is the key!
Even on a day off, Masaba Gupta Manthena doesn’t like to take a day off. She was under the weather on the day we were to speak with her and initially canceled the meeting. But later agreed to chat over the phone with indialicensingpost.com as she had time to spare. She certainly represents the rare breed of designers/entrepreneurs who cannot sit around while there’s work to be done!
For those who came in late – here’s a little primer from her website – houseofmasaba.com:
Masaba is a diffusion line label under Masaba Gupta. Masaba graduated from SNDT women’s university in 2009 with a diploma in Apparel Manufacture and Design.
The label made its fashion week debut at Lakme Fashion week, titled Gen next 2009. The strength of the label lies in the ability to marry traditional, Indian sensibilities and aesthetics while keeping the modern context alive.
ILP: You have a very flamboyant style. Lots of color, vibrancy and you are known for your quirky prints. Who is your ideal customer?
Masaba: i don’t really design for a particular type of customer. But over the years we’ve seen customers who typically buy from Zara, H&M & the like, buy our products. Even women who wear traditional kanjivaram sarees, buy from us – so I don’t like to put it in a box. I would say our customers enjoy standing out a bit, but not too much – the outfit shouldn’t be gaudy or sticking out. She should be an ‘opinionated’ dresser. The label has become synonymous with color. Customers tell us, people actually come up to them and ask if we are wearing Masaba. We enjoy that.
ILP: One of your last collections with Satya Paul in 2014 was a collaboration with Disney. How did that come about and how did it fair?
Masaba: It was my last collection for Satya Paul, and the marketing team was in discussion with Disney. Satya Paul is associated with elder women. My job was to get in younger customers. Disney was also keen to come on board. The idea of putting Mickey and Minnie on a saree seemed like a lot of fun. We did a whole range of products – we did shirts, sarees, tunics, ties for men. So it did extremely well. Some were anchor products to drive people to the store and see what’s going on. They were more Instagram friendly. But considering we were selling to 30-35 Satya Paul stores with an 80% sell through – the collection got a great response. The sarees were done interestingly, for example just Minnie’s ears across the saree with polka dots. We didn’t want it to look too gimmicky or kiddie. But our younger customers were happy they could shop with their mums and get them some fun Disney fan wear.
ILP: Besides licensing third-party brands to add spice to the “House of Masaba” label – you have licensed your brand to many collaborations like Titan raga, a lipstick line with Lakme, capsule athleisure line with Koovs even a branded line of flavored water with Himalayan. What are the checkboxes for you before licensing your brand and signing on the dotted line?
Masaba: Himalayan was a sponsor at Fashion Week, so I did a line of fashion wear themed around the fruit. It was not a licensing deal. I enjoyed doing Titan Raga very much. Brands come and say we are losing out on younger clientele. They have budgets but are not able to connect
with the youth. Another example was Fiama DI Wills shower gel, the printed packaging was signed off by me. In retrospect, I feel we licensed the brand to way too many people. I was young and flattered to have brands approach us. My advice to youngsters is to watch their step and know your DNA. I’m actually a fashion designer for clothes. I Took on Titan Raga and didn’t do anything else for some time because I wanted the products to have their moment. Collaborations can only be successful if the brand and the designer are on the same page. Also, they can’t be packaged and promoted the old way. Now we (House of Masaba) have put a stop on all collaborations for the entire year, want to be more focused on clothing. I want to stick to my strengths. Koovs was great. It’s great when the brand has distribution, reach and marketing muscle to offer you. Looking back though I would not have done some of them. E.g. I designed a car once but it didn’t really do anything for anybody. Brands don’t understand that temporary bursts of PR don’t make sense. There has to be a larger vision and symbiosis for all concerned parties.
ILP: What’s your take on Indian companies leveraging the power of brand licensing to jumpstart their business or enter new markets?
Masaba: You have to be really selfish about who you lend your name to. Example Manish Arora has done some great brand associations with Adidas, Mac etc. Even his stuff is so colorful.
ILP: Are you planning any collaborations with international brands in the near future?
Yes & No. We have a very big deal in the works with one of the biggest shows on Netflix. I will probably do something completely different – e.g. shoes etc. I am open to collaborating with other designers & artists, not just brands. Don’t want to do anything short term. I want to do things that have some LIFE!
ILP: You seem to have a strong presence online with your own e-commerce store (www.houseofmasaba.com). How is that fairing? Is it targeted at the Indian audience or International NRI?
Masaba: A lot of our online sales come from tier 2 tier 3 cities, also NRI’s when they visit India. But otherwise its mostly people who don’t have access to our stores which are only in bigger cities. And also through WhatsApp. We have a dedicated WhatsApp channel manned 24/7. People take a picture of the outfit and send it and place an order. People want to engage in conversations. I would say in terms of orders coming in first – Offline, then WhatsApp and then online. Maybe its because we haven’t advertised our online store. We have a scattered presence across online destinations like Pernia’s pop-up shop etc and have not done any specific advertising for our online yet…
ILP: Where do you draw your inspiration from for your various collections?
Masaba: It always been so different and varied. A place I’ve traveled to, a person I meet, a movie I’ve seen, something gifted to me. Now, it’s all about data. Some colors that customers like, which particular style is doing well? We’ve become more data-centric. A while back I started painting and that became another source of inspiration. Inspiration comes from very varied places.
ILP: Your favorite Muse?
Masaba: My mother. She’s so critical of me, and you need honesty.
ILP: What is your aspiration for brand ‘House of Masaba’?
Masaba: We are in a very tricky space right now – we’ve opened 3 stores in last month. Some in malls as a shop in shops, some in cafes. We are focussing on diffusion wear – the bridge to luxury, it’s not pret and not luxury – so it’s not burning a hole in your pocket. It’s Impactful wear. You can wear it throughout the day. People can also wear it again and again. Repeatability has gone down in fashion and we wanted to address that gap. Another focus for us is weddings, people want to look good but the clothes should not be too expensive. Also, they shouldn’t be too heavy and embroidered and wear you down. We hope to be a festive brand by end of the year.
ILP: What advice would you give to younger fashion designers who are just entering the industry?
Masaba: That, it’s not as fun as it looks unless you are working from your home and supplying to 1-2 stores. The business of fashion is very hard just like any other business. Do you want to be in fashion as a hobby or the business or just want to attend page 3 parties and see your pictures splashed all over? If you’re in it for the business aspect then put your head down and work. You need to know whom you are catering to. Be individualistic. I see a lot of new designers tending to ape current trends. When I started I thought I want to do it as a hobby – but now my whole viewpoint on fashion has changed.
ILP: Given your lineage, the daughter of 2 huge celebrities, has that helped or hindered you?
Masaba: It helped me in the beginning for sure, I always thought – why was there more attention given to me vs the other 6 designers. Everyone wanted to know – what is she going to do? Some people come to try and put you down, to see how bad you can do and goof up. I made my debut about 7 years ago when everyone wanted to be a fashion designer. People want to know my story, again and again, they find it an intriguing journey. People are interested in the story and success of my label. The only drawback is when people think you’re over-rated. It’s a double-edged sword. But I feel privileged.
ILP: Now that you’ve set up and run your own label, what’s a day like in Masaba’s life?
Masaba: I’m usually up at 7 am, I workout with my trainer or run, eat breakfast, do phone calls, check email etc and then off to work by 10-10:30 till 6:30-7. I come back and have dinner 7:30 pm, spend some time on social media – review our brand and creative work (lighter stuff), follow up on events if I’m involved in any etc.I am off to bed by 11-11:30. I don’t really catch up with people during the week as I don’t like to upset my schedule. I am a complete workaholic! Even now I’ve been down with the flu for the past 3 days and I can’t wait to get back!
IndiaLicensingPost.com caught up with Siddharth Chury – NBA: (Senior Director, Global Merchandising & Licensing – NBA India) to get his insights on the NBA’s plan for India & more specifically his take on sports licensing in India.
You can either listen to the conversation at the bottom of the page or have a read!
1. Do you believe the sports licensing business has come of age in India?
I would say completely. In fact, there is a huge potential lying unlocked. But even as we sit today, think about it, licensing in India used to be typically entertainment licensing and that’s it.Over the last few years, sports licensing has emerged as another strong pillar and has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 8-10 years. The way we look at it, it’s been spurred by exposure to a lot of international properties in India. Football leagues, basketball leagues, properties from the US, properties from Europe because they’ve been exposing India to their content, building their fanbase and eventually have started establishing their licensing programs. So that what’s led to the growth. Interestingly while at a content level we’ve seen a lot of local properties become big from a broadcast standpoint, on the merchandising side we’ve seen, the global properties still rule the roost. From an aspiration perspective and from a consumption perspective, brands – soccer, basketball or any other sport you look at have a much more robust licensing programme in the country.
2. Tell us a little about the NBA journey in India over the last 5-7 years that you guys have been here? What does your target audience look like?
Basketball is the 2nd fastest growing sport in India. Similarly, in the last 5-7 years have delivered tremendous growth for NBA as well. As an example, our fanbase has grown to over 13 million fans. Even on social media, we’ve grown to more than 7 Mn fans. We are talking highly engaged fans! The NBA is one of the most engaging sports pages on social media, especially on Facebook. We’ve got the maximum number of fans liking, sharing, talking to us – which is a great learning for us that we are doing a lot of things right and we know which direction we want to take this in. In broadcast, we are up to 14 live games that we are showing every week, so that’s 2 LIVE games every day. We used to show a few games a week earlier which has now grown to this level.Even if you look at our grass root level program which was started in 250 odd schools, now goes to close to 5000 schools across 35 cities across the country. On every aspect, the NBA has seen growth. If you take merchandising, we started by just activating global licensees in India then started signing on local licensees. Now we have 20-25 partners across categories – gaming, fashion, toys, back to school etc. Even nbastore.in which is our official merchandise store in partnership with Jabong has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year sales were 6 times that of when we started. It’s still a very young business. It is not just consumption, but also reach that has grown manifold – to give you an example in 2016 we delivered to approx 450 cities & towns in the country. We ended 2017 delivering to 730 cities & towns – which gives you a sense of how in a very short span of time, NBA is reaching to the nooks and corners of the country.
Our core consumer is the youth & the young adult. The ones that are adopting basketball at an early age and are trendsetters in their community. They are the ones we are targeting, whether it’s our content or the on-ground activations, whether it’s our product lines – we keep this target consumer in mind. Even for our licensed merchandise – the fan wear is extremely attractive, vibrant colors, big bold graphics this is what the young consumer is looking for. Even a polo from the NBA range will not be a basic old guy’s polo. It will have some appliqué, some print, an athletic fit – something that makes it the product for the youth. We are constantly ensuring that we are addressing that young fan.And for that reason, we also want to ensure our fan wear remains affordable and reasonably priced.
3. How do you sell/license a brand like NBA in a cricket-crazy country like India?
Over the last 8-10 years, we’ve been noticing that the youth are looking for sports other than cricket. Not just for playing, but for following and becoming a fan of. This isn’t only true for urban areas but semi-urban as well. Leisure time, recreational spaces, attention spans are all shrinking in the country. The youth are looking for sports which can be played in a smaller place in a shorter amount of time. And literally, you play basketball for 1-1.5 hours a day and you are done. That’s the kind of high energy, high impact sports that they are gravitating to. Which is why football and basketball are the fastest growing sports these days. Given this change in the youth itself, it’s no longer difficult to sell other sports to them. The country has made a conscious shift towards becoming a multi-sport country, which is why if you see Khelo India initiative by the government of India & the national games, that’s also promoting the concept of playing multiple sports. So it’s no longer a single sports country and no longer a challenge to sell the NBA to cricket fans because there are enough of them looking for sports other than cricket.
Is piracy a huge problem for you?
Not really. We have seen stray cases in India and we have a very strong legal mechanism to nip it in its bud. They find out where it’s happening, seize goods and manage to keep it in check.
4. Given that all the games happen very early in the morning India time, how impactful is TV coverage in the entire mix?
Content & TV are key pillars of our business. That’s what our fans are consuming the most. In fact, in the morning, we’ve seen there is minimal clutter, except for the stray India Australia series. So in the morning timeslot, there’s really not much else happening. So, we see that as an advantage. In fact, we value that fan a lot more as he has taken the effort to switch to the game while getting ready to go to college or work even if it’s for a few minutes. Basketball has so many celebratory moments almost every second. You watch 5 mins of basketball you’ve seen 5 dunks, 3 great steals, one great block – so even if you’ve watched it for just 5 minutes, you walk away wowed by it. Over a period of time, we’ve actually built this appointment viewing, the fans know if they turn on Sony in the mornings, they get to watch some great NBA games, and that’s worked really well for us. And apart from the morning games we have a lot of content which plays out during the week, like the NBA weekly recap show, or the daily highlights package which airs in the evenings; so there’s enough content which encourages people to get a taste of the NBA, and then tune in the morning to get the big grand LIVE experience.
5. Tell us about some of the innovative ways you’ve used to reach the NBA fan-base in India?
The Fanbase in India is quite varied, and we need different approaches for different fans. Every season we decide on key focus areas. This year we are making a concerted effort widen the fanbase by moving into the hinterland of India, now that we have a secure footing in urban areas. We’ve already started with LIVE Hindi commentary games. Every weekend we have local celebrities coming in and doing Hindi commentary. There will be a Hindi campaign which will be launching after NBA All-Star targeted specifically to these regions. The plan is to rope in local influencers and also create immersive content which mixes basketball and local culture for new fans to adopt the game. Another key initiative is Fantasy gaming – while we go out acquiring new fans we want to engage with existing fans in a stronger way. Fantasy games give them a chance to play along, choose their players, choose their team and win based on their performance. We’ve tied up with a company called Dream 11 which is the largest fantasy gaming company in India. Fans playing fantasy games tend to consume 40% more content so it’s a great win-win scenario. The 3rd is our NBA App which has been revamped for India – much lighter on bandwidth usage – keeping in mind a large part of our fans might have very basic to mid-level smartphones – to ensure easy access. That’s what led to the great adoption in last 3 months. It’s also a great way to get immediate consumer feedback. There’s no commerce happening on it yet – currently it links out to the NBAStore.in to purchase. Currently purely focussed on content and give fans a chance to talk back to us.
6. MNC’s historically have learned to customize their offering for India from McDonald’s to the Pepsi’s of the world. DO you have that liberty? Would you want to?
Localisation or customization is very important to become more relevant in different markets in the world and we too are looking into it. The core of our business is our game. It’s the pinnacle of basketball. The best athletes play in the NBA, and the way the game is packaged and presented to the audience stays the same. We leave that untouched. That’s core to us. Everything around it we are open to customizing. As I earlier mentioned, Hindi commentary is something we did a pilot last season and this year are going full steam, with over 80 games being delivered with Hindi commentary. Apart from that we have locally produced content – e.g. wrap-around show called Around the Hoop airs on the weekend and covers a detailed analysis of the games played to educate Indian viewers on the finer nuances of the game and demystify the jargon.We also have a lifestyle show called NBA Hangout which is in Hinglish and features a host of celebrities and influencers. Even Junior NBA has been tweaked for India. globally it’s more of a youth engagement and competition program. But in India, the focus is more on coaching. It’s all about grassroots level training being undertaken. The objective is to train the maximum number of coaches as possible. NBA League pass is another initiative to allow fans to watch all the games at a very affordable price point.Within 3 months we’ve got 6 times the subscribers that we had last year. So we are seeing our localization efforts bear fruit.
7. Your biggest learning – I come from traditional sports merchandising background so getting into licensing – biggest learning selling the brand at the B2B and B2C level. Gauging the value of your brand is important. What are you going to the market with? And this too varies with the category. For example, an apparel licensing deal would probably find the NBA IP a lot more lucrative than say a personal care products deal. It’s a constant learning – to keep figuring what your brand value is.
and pet peeve – we have data to show huge NBA affinity and fandom in the country – but often the middlemen (licensees, distributors, retailers) don’t have visibility of the end consumer and don’t always share in the overall vision of the company. Correcting these perceptions is one of my biggest challenges in India.
8. You launched the NBA Basketball school program in association with India On Track last year as well as the NBA Academy to build on India’s existing infrastructure to nurture the next Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant could you tell us a little about these initiatives? Any key learnings to highlight?
According to the BFI, basketball is the second fastest growing sport in India and we are committed to growing the game of basketball. Over the years, we’ve built our very own pyramid for the Basketball ecosystem. Starting with the Junior NBA program at basic level across 5000 schools, the NBA schools for talented students who get more advanced training, ACG NBA Jump program nationwide for talent spotting with open try-outs at 6-8 centers; and the top of the pyramid is NBA Academy. It’s India’s 1st world class residential sports academy program. The carefully selected top young players in the country get a full scholarship on-campus –basketball training, strength, and conditioning, nutrition, life skills as well as academics etc. are all taken care of by the NBA. Our hope is that some of these kids make it to the global stage and eventually get recruited into the NBA. And we’ve seen our efforts starting to pay off with the youngsters who started in Junior NBA program going on to make it to the NBA Academy – so the model is working. On the other hand, we also have players like Satnam Singh – first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, and Amjot Singh who is currently playing with the Oklahoma City G league team. Now, these are again home-grown athletes who act as an inspiration to the youth of the country and help take basketball in India to the next level.
9. When do you think an athlete is “license ready?” Any Indian players on the radar?
There are a couple of factors: has the athlete transcended the sport to become a cross-cultural icon to be able to change perceptions? Are you popular enough that people will pay to buy their merchandise? Today athletes have entire teams to carefully curate their public persona and target a specific set of fans. Indian basketball players will need a little more time to get to that big stage.
10. Lastly your piece of advice to international brands looking to tap the Indian market?
1. A brand needs to time the market correctly. Do your research, study social and cultural indicators to gauge demand for the brand.
2. Be very clear about your expectations – short term or long term.
11. Have you watched an NBA game LIVE? Tell us more about your experience.
I have been blessed to see quite a few NBA games LIVE across various arenas – regular season games, playoffs, NBA All-Star, NBA Playoffs, NBA Finals. It is by far the best entertainment in the world. Not just the game, where there’s something great happening every 30 secs. Add to it all the in-arena elements with mascots, dance teams, kiss cam, halftime shows, etc., it’s total paisa vasool. Wish more Indians could experience the same.
12. What does Siddharth Chury do after a hard day at work?
Well, I’ve always been a big sports fan. I play basketball 3 times a week, go swimming 3-4 times a week, and often take off on weekend hikes with my family. We actually do around 25-30 hikes a year. Rejuvenating in natures lap is the best form of relaxation for me.
Mr. SuhasSundar CEO of NIHODO Media shares his thoughts on the hit new franchise FatakPatak which premiered on Hungama TV and Disney XD mid-Sept. and simultaneously hit stores offline for fans to play and watch!
1- Was the concept of FatakPatak – movie feature series and toy line launched keeping in mind Indian kids?
-Yes, the main character Sher Singh is Indian and trained by his grandfather Gama Singh. Rounding out the trio of protagonists is Jeff Green and Fifi from USA and France respectively. Though the premise is more science fiction based, the setting is India, though Sher Singh and his friends along with their Alienoids travel the globe rescuing Alienoids and taking part in tournaments.
2- What does the movie convey to the Indian kids – key message/takeaway from the movies?
-The key takeaway would be to always do the right thing and be resourceful. Sher Singh and his AlienoidGabru who are the main characters of the series, may not be the most skilled or even the best at Alienoid Wrestling and tournaments, but they never give up, always stand for what’s right and most importantly, think on their feet and adapt to situations by using their brains more than their brawn.
3- What is the investment incurred in launching the IP FatakPatak?
-A significant amount of time, effort and love has gone into making FatakPatak. Its an IP that has been built from scratch.
4- Is this the first IP that has a mix of the collectible figure and a game concept?
-This is the first IP from India that has an inbuilt collectible figure/battle toy
5- Why Disney as a medium to launch the movies?
– Disney is the undisputed leaders of kids entertainment worldwide. Furthermore, they have been working with us on this IP from day one and have contributed immensely towards the development of the show, building of the world, the look and feel etc. We could not have made this product without their involvement
6- What is the viewership we are expecting?
– Like any other creator/producer, we are hoping for the best! Hope to see the movies rank among the top shows on the network and the toys find favor with kids. We believe this could be the next Beyblade or even Pokémon!
7- What is the marketing/promotion strategy done to launch FatakPatak
– All the promotions are spearheaded by Dream Theatre Pvt. Ltd. strongly on the network as well as on digital platforms.
8- Is it a worldwide premier? Countries where the movies of FatakPatak will be aired
– This is only an Indian Subcontinent premiere. We will be taking FatakPatak to other countries subsequently
9- What are the recent innovations seen in the Indian animation industry?
– The Indian animation industry has truly come of age. There are stellar Indian IP’s like ChhotaBheem, MotuPatlu and the like who have managed to win a very strong fan following. The whole space is very exciting.
10- When will the toy range be launched and where will it be available?
– The toys are available across 50+ cities and at 800+ outlets from the second week of September’17 coinciding with the premiere of the movies on Disney Hungama.
About Suhas Sundar
Suhas Sundar (CEO Nihodo Media) – Is an engineer+MBA and an award-winning writer, and producer who has worked with broadcasters, producers and creative talent across Japan, China and India on several comics, animation and toy projects.
Along with frequent collaborators Deepak Sharma and ShoHiramatsu, Suhas is also the co-creator of FatakPatak and one of the inventors of the FatakPataktoyline and gameplay