Coping with Covid in India

Apocalypse! Twilight zone! Back to the future! Call it by whichever metaphor you want! The COVID-19 pandemic is considered as the most crucial global health calamity of the century and the greatest challenge that the world has faced since the 2nd World War. So far, the virus has affected over 15.7 Mn people globally and killed more than half a million people in more than 200 countries throughout the world. In order to save lives and stem the virus, many countries chose to lock-down movement of its citizens since early/mid-March and the economies of many countries were consequently impacted and continue to be impacted in varying degrees. As the number of cases keeps climbing, governments are faced with the dilemma of deciding between lives and livelihoods. Here in India, while the virus hasn’t spread as wildly as other countries (inspite of our large population), the economy has never the less taken a beating and the retail industry which was projected to grow to $ 1.1 trillion by 2020 was probably the largest casualty of the multiple lockdowns after aviation and travel & tourism. Except for essential goods, all retail outlets including modern trade centres like malls and other single brand stores were ordered to remain shut and corporate offices were asked to encourage employees to work from home. While there was a reasonable amount of panic among employees as the lockdown kept getting extended, companies large and small started exploring other ways to extend a helping hand through this unprecedented crisis. Another unnerving statistic doing the rounds on news channels was that for each month there will be an approximate loss of 2% points in annual GDP growth. We decided to get beyond the doomsday WhatsApp messages and get a feel for what the Indian licensing industry had to say. So, we circulated a brief questionnaire to a few key executives in the licensing business about how they have been coping with the Covid-19 pandemic and are managing to stay afloat during these trying times.

 

We are thankful to Akhil Jain Executive Director – Jain Amar Clothing Private Limited, Samir Jain, Chief Operating Officer, Green Gold Studios, Susmita SinghDeo GM – Dream Theatre India Pvt. Ltd., Shipra Dubey – GM – Brand Licensing, Bradford License India and Bhavik Vora, Founder & CEO, Black White Orange Brands Private Limited, for sharing their perspectives with us. We are still awaiting responses from a few more and will append the same in due course.

Q1: Given the ambivalence over the retail landscape and the lockdown relaxation getting pushed back repeatedly, what does your company’s game-plan look like?

 

Akhil Jain feels there is no confusion, but the situation looks far from predictable. Retail sales across brick and mortar has been hit to the tune of 70%, while e-commerce hasn’t compensated a significantly against depleted offline sales. As a licensor, JACPL are not looking at brand extensions for next 3 quarters. As a licensee, they have negotiated with the licensors to defer the royalties to 2021 along with extensions in the licensing period.

 

Sameer Jain shares this sentiment. with the slowdown in retail sales , Green Gold Studio’s approach will be to support the licensees and stand by them, help them in surviving this tough period.

 

Bhavik Vora believes everything right now is dynamic, fluid and evolving on a daily basis so it’s very difficult to plan especially if major launches are in the pipeline. BWO are currently focusing on e-commerce to reach out to the fans and service those demands. Outside of that, they are currently working with their partners and licensees to ramp up distribution in parts of India which are less affected and probably have similar demand for the merchandise. This is opening up new avenues, customers and distribution points for their brands.

 

Shipra expresses her deep concern for all those companies who’s balance sheets are cracking under the weight of the virus. She also adds while they are all gradually adjusting to the new version of ‘normal,’ Bradford  is beyond grateful to be providing calls, Webinars, Emails, any assistance to the global brand licensing industry, so that their partners are able to continue their business operations from their homes despite the worldwide call to action to flatten the COVID-19 infection rate curve. Hence their focus has been going more and more digital. Their core business is a traditional business of meet and greet which has not completely shifted to being an online version of it. They are now focusing on their ecommerce partners more. They have signed an EMOJI apparel Deal with Myntra during this tenure and few more and they are planning to continue with the same strategy.

 

Sushmita Singh adds for Dream Theatre, the licensing representation business is a big challenge currently, as barring necessities like food, beverage and personal products,  the other licensed categories are dormant with retail being in shut down mode. While they wait for the return of the representation business Dream Theatre to get restarted, their focus was on addressing the needs of the hour and intersecting it with a relevant licensed brand in their stable. They tied up with one of their licensors, Smiley, to launch high quality N95 masks that are available on all major platforms online and offline . (More info at spreadthesmiles.in) They linked it to a cause whereby a percentage of sales went to an NGO  supporting the underprivileged affected by the pandemic and have collected INR 431,320 (USD 6000/- approx.) for the cause. They are focusing on Liverpool Football Club which were crowned EPL Champions 2020 and are the biggest football club in Europe with a massive fan following. They are signing up licensees and working on roll outs. The roll outs may take time but the intent of licensees is big basis the club’s  performance .

 

Our second focus is more direct to consumer models via online platforms, both via our own brands and licensed brands.

 

And finally, their content vertical is stable with content being played across Disney, Amazon Prime and Netflix.

 

 

Q2: Has there been any shift in the business model?

“No” says Akhil Jain, but it is skewing more towards E-commerce and Omni-channel sales. As lesser customers want to physically “flock to the markets”, the retailers are trying to reach the consumer in every way possible.

 

According to Samir Jain their focus is now on Licencing essential and health care products, the traditional kids categories have taken a back seat till situation is back to normal.

 

Bhavik Vora feels the business model has shifted in a way that other verticals at BWO have started contributing more than L&M at this point, which used to be their key driver. Factors like retail and movie releases have had an impact on the product business but they are hopeful things will come back to pre-covid levels. Having said that, they have been able to concentrate on their other business verticals which have been growing since the last couple of years and will have a significant contribution on their business this year. This period has given them time to think of innovations and various strategies to grow their company as well as the L&M business in India.

 

Shipra adds While the modus operandi remains the same its more digital now.  Zoom and Microsoft meetings are a rage these days. Earlier Skype was the only medium used, and honestly, we at Bradford relied more on the face to face meetings. But now the everyday morning huddles are on zoom. From the serious discussions on numbers and revenue to meeting each other pets Video calls have been our savior.

 

 

 

Q3: What is driving that shift?

Akhil Jain clearly puts it down to 3 key factors.

  1. Fear among consumers on the health front
  2. Change in consumer preference (in almost every category)
  3. Change in aspirations (though for a short-term)

 

Samir Jain has a different perspective. He believes as a brand it’s their responsibility to contribute towards educating children and parents towards the dos and don’ts to handle COVID , this is driving the shift. Further he notes that It’s a moral responsibility of any brand to stand up and contribute to the society in times of crisis.

 

Bhavik Vora is of the opinion that the shift is being primarily driven by the consumers. The mindset of all businesses as well as customers has changed over the past few months as a result of the pandemic. There is a large majority that has seen a shift in spending dynamics, compassion in helping the community and the idea of being open to new innovations.

 

Shipra is of the opinion that fear to sustain is the greatest drive. She is sure this is a phase where the deepest concern that all of us have is the sales, the revenue. Since we can’t do much about it, it is better we use the time to prepare a plan instead. While the licensee can plan how to ramp up the 3rd quarter the brand can plan its marketing, social media, branding activities, etc.

 

 

 

Q4: What do you think agencies, & or licensors should be doing?

 

Akhil Jain is emphatic in his response. He would like licensors to extend assistance to licensees for extension of periods in agreements.

 

Samir Jain recommends focussing on using innovative methods of communication through their brands to fight the pandemic.

 

Bhavik Vora is already in action mode. He informs us that most of their licensors and them, have jointly decided to, give their full support to licensees and work with them closely to ensure they have multiple plans in place for different scenarios with regards to liquidity, working capital & inventory impact on the business. He believes this is a time to come together and plan the best possible outcome to benefit the business.

 

Shipra has a more pragmatic view the Licensees should refrain from sending out a request for seeking relief from MGs that are due in the 3rd or 4th quarters. Understand that along with you the brand is also struggling with the business. So instead of thinking about Oct/ Dec  MGs its better we focus now. Likewise, if the payments are due in July / Sept the Licensors should be more flexible to postpone this and regroup for the business discussion by Aug again.

The agencies, should definitely try to bridge the gap to amicably resolve

 

 

Q5: If you have a Point of View who do you think is getting it right, who’s getting it wrong?

 

Samir Jain observes literally everyone is back to the drawing board and each one should device their own strategy to ensure survival of the brand and business.

 

Bhavik Vora is upfront in his assessment. He believes there is no right or wrong that anyone is doing right now, everyone is trying to hustle and get the wheel moving by trying new things/models or pivoting into new businesses.  He explains goes on to explain – some obvious categories have emerged out of this crisis and a lot of action is happening in that space, but this pandemic has changed a lot of things for the long term and it is important that businesses think about that too, along with keeping the business afloat in the short term.

 

Shipra believes everyone in their own way is trying hard to sustain and grow. In these difficult times where even the most distributed companies- are all trying to manage the work situation.

She observes it’s great to see how people with different cultures, spread out around the globe, are joining together to collaborate for a shared business Goal.

She concludes Bradford has pitched and are discussing deals that are way different from Licensing, collaboration, Events, Celeb promotion to name a few. Hence difficult times have given everyone food for thought to plan respective plan B and pivot quickly.

 

As the world waits for a speedy end to this pandemic and a return to normalcy, we wish our entrepreneurs holding forte all the best. They are truly an embodiment of the American witticism – When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Kudos & much respect!

Mumbai City hand Asif Khan long-term deal; Bipin Singh extends stay

Some great news for Mumbai City FC fans of the ISL. The team is planning contract extensions for midfielders Asif Khan and Bipin Singh Thounaojam. Young Asif Khan has extended his stay with the Islanders until May 2024 while Bipin Singh has put pen to paper on a deal that keeps him at the Club until May 2022.

Bipin Singh joined the Islanders in the summer of 2018 and registered 7 appearances in his debut season at Mumbai City. He fortified his place in the side in his second campaign, doubling his appearances tally featuring a total of 15 times, scoring two goals and providing an assist.

Asif Khan, who rose through the ranks at the Club, was brought in to replace Anwar Ali in the 2019/20 Hero ISL squad. The 19-year old was named on the bench on one occasion in the League and continues to be a key figure for the Islanders’ Reserves in the Hero 2nd Division League.

Asif Khan said: “Having grown up in Mumbai, it’s a dream come true to be a part of Mumbai City. It is a wonderful moment for me and my family and I am thankful to the Club for the trust they’ve placed in me. I want to keep working hard, improve my game here and give nothing but my best every time I get to pull on the shirt and represent Mumbai City FC.”

Bipin Singh said: “The past two years I’ve spent in Mumbai have been fantastic for me. The environment here at Mumbai City is perfect for young footballers to come and flourish and I am delighted that I will be here for two more years. I hope to contribute much more in my time here and repay the faith the club and the fans have shown in me in these past two years.”

Indranil das Blah, CEO of Mumbai City FC said: “We are delighted to have secured the services of two fantastic young talents for the years to come. Asif is a hard-working young boy. He has great potential and has shown remarkable progress in the past year. Bipin has come to the fore as a fantastic attacking talent in his two seasons here and we’re confident he has a bright future at Mumbai City FC.”

 

Happy Makarsankrati wishes to all!

We wish ALL our members, readers and patrons a very happy Makarsankranti.

 

Remembering the good old days when we used to fly our kites high in the sky without a care in the world. Here’s hoping we can re-kindle that magic.

Best wishes!

India’s very own David Beckham competes in Khelo India Youth Games

Guwahati, 14 January 2020: Most of us know David Beckham, the star football player, but India too has a sportsperson in David Beckham. A 17-year-old from Andaman, who is named after the great football player, has traveled to Guwahati to compete in cycling at the Khelo India Youth Games.

“My family is a huge fan of David Beckham, so they named me after him. I also became a David Beckham fan. I used to play football. I have played in the Subroto Cup tournament. Then my grandfather asked me to take up cycling,” said Beckham.

The cyclist, who has won a silver in a nationals competition, expressed that he started cycling in Delhi in 2017.

“I started cycling in Delhi in 2017. In the beginning, my feet didn’t touch the ground when I sat on the cycle seat. Eventually, I started doing well in the sport. It’s difficult to find facilities for cycling in Andaman, so I have to go to bigger cities for training,” said the 17-year-old.

Beckham is taking his first few steps in the world of cycling, but he has already faced big challenges in life. The cyclist lost his father due to the tsunami in 2004 and his mother passed away due to an infection in 2014.

“I live with my maternal grandfather now. My mother passed away due to an infection in 2014 and my father passed away due to the Tsunami in 2004. I was quite young when my father passed away,” said Beckham.

The cyclist said that he hasn’t set any specific goals yet. He is just looking to give his best during training.

“I have not set any specific goals for myself yet. I am just focusing on giving my best during training and hope that I taste success in the near future,” said Beckham.

What Happened in Vegas: Taking a Look Back at What Happened and Was Talked About At Licensing Expo 2019

Licensing Expo 2019 is now in everyone’s rearview mirrors, and it’s time to take stock of what happened in Vegas, the effects of which will reverberate well into the future of this ever-changing licensing business.

Here are a few of the developments we noted:

Hemp and Cannabis Step Out — The growing interest in cannabis- and hemp-related products – mostly taking a health and wellness approach — was apparent, not just in the small “marketplace” assembled by PROHBTD, but also in a couple of other booths. Authentic Brands, which has several CBD-related agreements for its celebrity brands, as well as pacts with CBD products developer Green Growth Properties and CBD oil supplier Tilray, distributed CBD-based lip balm to showgoers. Kathy Ireland also showed some health and wellness products.

CBD Inside LicensingEntertainment companies also are in the mix. For example, Lionsgate is known to have been discussing ventures involving the brand of its Weeds series, among others.

Two other related notes: PROHBTD assembled a well-attended Licensing U session on cannabis and licensing (which included Allison Ames, CEO of Beanstalk, which now represents two of the company’s own brands), and more than one showgoer talked of their intention to research the subject by visiting retailer Planet 13. It’s legal there….

The eSports Conundrum – The licensing community is still trying to get its arms around the best way to leverage the exploding eSports community via licensed product. For the time being, it appears from our conversations at Licensing Expo, the category is best left to eCommerce, rather than brick-and-mortar retail, particularly given the target youthful audience and the fact the entire “sport” lives online.

The most visible effort to date (showcased at Licensing Expo) has been Activision Blizzard’s program for overwatch League, which closely mirrors the centralized structure of a traditional U.S. sports league, and signed a big deal late last year with Fanatics.

Potential licensees who are viewing the space are trying to figure out whether it makes more sense to attach themselves to teams or to well-known players. Agency Brand Central showcased its representation of gaming management firm Loaded and its roster of “gaming influencers,” who include Fortnite star Ninja, who has a handful of licensing deals already.

Licensing International Awards - Inside LicensingSpeaking of Fortnite… — Fortnite and Harry Potter were the big winners at Licensing International’s Annual Licensing Awards, with five honors taken home by publisher Epic Games and its licensees, and Warner Bros. Consumer Products and its licensees. For a full list of the winners, go to https://licensinginternational.org/news/2019-international-licensing-awards-winners-unveiled/.

Big congratulations at the Awards celebration also to the eight up-and-comers spotlighted as Rising Stars in the licensing business, as well as to newly inducted Hall of Famers Pam Clifford of Warner Bros. Consumer Products & Experiences and Michael Stone of Beanstalk.

Licensing U Comes to Licensing Expo – For the first time, the entire lineup of 25 Licensing U seminars and presentations was staged on the Expo floor in a specially constructed 300-seat Licensing U

Licensing U - Inside Licensing Licensing International

Theater. More than 50 executives from around the world touched on the ABCs (Amazon, Basics, Brexit, Cannabis, Collaborations) and so much more. The Licensing U Theater also hosted….

A Fascinating STORY – In a packed keynote presentation, Macy’s Brand Experience Officer Rachel Shechtman offered an intriguing look at how she brought the philosophy of her single-store STORY retail location in Manhattan (which was reformulated and remerchandised several times a year) into Macy’s. The challenge for all physical retailers, she said, is to think in terms of “experiences per square foot,” rather than sales per square foot, giving consumers a reason to visit the store rather than rely on their keyboards to shop.

She also touted STORY’s ability to act as a test tube for Macy’s, suppliers and brand owners. “Testing and learning is important, because when you have 600 plus stores it takes a while, and it’s expensive, and if it doesn’t work it can be really expensive,” Shechtman said.  “This gives Macy’s an opportunity to try small businesses and new concepts, and see how they work as a sister to the [Macy’s larger] system and taking those learning and make some decisions in four months, not eighteen months.”

Tariffs in the Air — With the Trump administration threatening or actually imposing tariffs on goods from China, Mexico and elsewhere, the added costs and their impact on brand owners, manufacturers and retailers were a hot topic of conversation.

This has left licensees weighing a range of options from switching to suppliers in non-tariffed countries to seeking concessions from licensors on minimum guarantees and royalty rates in a bid to offset rising costs.

For the time being, licensees we spoke to say they’ll likely absorb the added costs, but if the tariffs extend into the fall retail price increases are close to inevitable. For their part, licensors appeared willing to work with licensees on reducing costs tied to tariffs, but what form that would take was unclear given the constantly moving deadline for imposing the tariffs.

Don’t Just Buy the Brand, Live the Brand – Location-based licensing – activity centers, hotels, theme parks, cafes, etc. — was at the top of many licensors’ priorities as they sought expand their business beyond merchandise sales and attract consumers increasingly accustomed to not only buying brands, but experiencing them as well. Entertainment brands have been the biggest players, but corporate brands are increasing their activity, too.

Hello Kitty - Inside Licensing Licensing International

Meredith Corp., which gained the Southern Living magazine brand in buying Time Inc., plans to expand on the current roster of 21 boutique hotels, while also increasing the number of developments affiliated with the Coastal Living label. The Coca-Cola Co., which has four stores in the U.S., is planning to add more locations in international markets, while Sanrio, is opening a Hello Kitty Café at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and nearing agreements for locations in Orlando, New Jersey and New York.

Meanwhile, Hasbro reached an agreement with Kingsmen which will open a Nerf-themed family entertainment center in Singapore later this year with a U.S. location due in 2020, and Mattel licensee IP2Entertainment plans to open a 25,000-sq.-ft. family entertainment in Toronto next year featuring Barbie, Hot Wheels and Mega Construx.

Old Becomes New Again — Licensors mined their IP vaults for nostalgia brands, some of which are being licensed for the first time.

Hasbro licensed Wicked Cool Toys to make Micro Machines, which peaked in popularity in the 1980s under Galoob Toys and is entering licensing for the first time. Hasbro plans to roll out new programs for Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and Pound Puppies as it delves into its 1,500 brands. Mattel likewise is readying plans for six films based on its IP starting in 2021 with Masters of the Universe, which is making a return to the big screen after a 32-year absence with plan for extensive licensing.

Crayola is refreshing Silly Putty, which it acquired in 1977, with licensed products to follow in 2020 across a range of categories including apparel as the brand marks its 70th anniversary.

This fits in with…

Safety in Evergreens – Several licensees were scouting the show specifically for well-established evergreen properties with proven track records and fan bases, rather than taking a chance on the potential new hot thing.

Of course, the definition of “evergreen” may be in the eye of the beholder. How many generations of fans need a property have to be considered multigenerational? Two? Three? For example, we were struck by the number of Licensing Award winners that involved Harry Potter. Does the number of millennials (now parents) who grew up with the books (first one was published in 1997) and films (2001) make the property an evergreen for the ages?

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/what-happened-in-vegas-taking-a-look-back-at-what-happened-and-was-talked-about-at-licensing-expo-2019/