Film merchandise might be picking up in India with changing cinema viewing habits, and there is an upswing in terms of strategic alliances between filmmakers and merchandising partners, but when seen in the context of the merchandise industry globally, India pales in comparison.
Some recent instances of film merchandise have been the Salman Khan Films partnership with Silvostyle to create the famous Bajrangi Bhaijaan locket; Reliance Entertainment’s tie-up with Vishal Fashions for Holiday: a Soldier is Never off Duty to design an exclusive range of ethnic wear inspired by the movie; cinema chain PVR’s association with Singham Returns to launch popcorn bags, sippers and lunch boxes inspired by the movie. Yash Raj Films went a step further and became the first Indian film studio to launch its own e-commerce store to sell merchandise.
India’s licensing and merchandising (L&M) industry accounts for only 0.4% of the global industry. Within this, film merchandising comprises a very small portion of the Rs 40-billion India L&M industry, states a FICCI-KPMG 2015 report.
“Licensing in the Indian market is a new concept and roughly worth about $30-35 million,” says Manan Mehta, VP, marketing and merchandising, at Yash Raj Films. In India, merchandising continues to be used as a marketing tool rather than an active revenue contributor.
Popular opinion is that the merchandise of franchise movies performs better than the usual character-driven films due to the awareness factor with the audience. Star Wars, for instance, earned over $12 billion in merchandise and about $5 billion in box-office revenues last year.
Closer home, the Dhoom movie franchise had multiple partners, including global ones like Mattel for Barbie and Hot Wheels, which launched collectible dolls and bikes, along with biking accessory partners like Ceat and Gulf.
However, even some character-driven films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge have seen successful merchandising.
“With Salman Khan having a huge fan base, there has always been something that gets picked up. We identified the opportunity of creating merchandise for the locket that he wore in the film and tied up with Silvostyle to create these. We sold it exclusively on Amazon in India and overseas, and it is selling well even now,” states Amar Butala, COO, Salman Khan Films.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge also had merchandise lined up for the completion of a thousand weeks in India. Amazon created an exclusive web store and sold products right from the iconic bell to books and other lifestyle products associated with the film.
Aditya Chopra penned down the experience of making the film in a book that was sold across all retail channels.
The shelf life of film-inspired merchandise is about eight to 10 weeks, between the pre-release, release and post release period. Hence, partnerships with brands generally range between a 12- and 16-week period. The minimum targeted revenues a brand can derive from such an association would be in the range of Rs 2 crore and above.
But unlike Hollywood, where it contributes almost equally to the box office collections, L&M is currently an auxiliary mode of revenue for Bollywood. Also, the ingenuity of merchandise makes it far more alluring to customers, something that Bollywood merchandise is slowly catching up with.
Saugato Bhowmik, head of Viacom18 consumer products, says, “The main cost for studios is marketing, talent acquisition and the cost of production. Licensing isn’t bringing anything back and is thus being used more as a promotional/marketing tool to build a buzz around movies.”
The problem is that usually the lead-in period for Bollywood films is very tight, but that is also because the films have a shorter shelf life. It is difficult to start sales of merchandise prior to the movie release as there is no visibility and a consumer will only relate to the product once they have seen it in the trailer or the film. The opportunity is more post the release, but the challenge lies in keeping the connect alive long after the movie has gone.Industry experts believe that L&M in India will not succeed until a product is relevant. In the script stage itself, a film needs to have opportunities for toys or accessories for merchandising.
The Bollywood store
* Online shopping portal Limeroad has associated with Ki & Ka to re-create Kareena Kapoor’s look in the movie. A similar tie-up was seen for Deepika Padukone in Tamasha
* Vistaprint is official merchandise partner for Shahrukh Khan starrer Fan. The range includes t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, posters and calendars. Fans can also customise words, expressions or photographs with Fan-themed designs
* Dance film ABCD tied up with Voxpop Clothing for exclusive range of apparel and accessories around the movie
* Even regional cinema is getting into the L&M game. Shoppers Stop was exclusive style partner for recent Marathi film Rajwade and Sons, where stores in Maharashtra housed the special collection