'Kidding' is Serious Business

Learn while you play seems to be the growth mantra of the toy licensing industry which is attempting to aggressively expand this category. And, on offer include video-based stories and fables, toys re...
‘Kidding’ is serious business

Learn while you play seems to be the growth mantra of the toy licensing industry which is attempting to aggressively expand this category. And, on offer include video-based stories and fables, toys related to well known icons like Barbie and Mickey Mouse, and the hugely popular Angry Birds and Star Wars game.

The toys and games licensing industry is a crucial component of the $ 125 million (nearly Rs 700 crore) domestic licensing industry, and the entry of popular games and characters at regular intervals, is helping to ensure that not organised retailer can afford to miss out on this opportunity. Striking a similar view, Tim Kilpin, GM, Mattel Global Brands, said, "We recently launched the animated Max Steel storyline to be ‘rich’ and deeply engaging on any multimedia platform relevant for kid’s today.”

Leveraging brand recall Mattel Toys is one of the largest players in the global toys and allied licensing industry, and that’s largely due to its iconic brands like Barbie, Monster High, Hot Wheels, and Fisher Price.

In addition, it has also recently launched Max Steel, an animated superhero series on Disney XD with additional properties that support spanning action figures, vehicles, role- play and more. Kilpin of Mattel Global Brands highlighted that the licensing model globally is no longer simply related to toy making, but it's also related to creating ‘compelling’ content. In India, too, Mattel is a leader in the toys licensing segment and that’s thanks to its wide distribution, coupled with its ability to stay of trends in technology.

The growth opportunities in this segment are also encouraging local licensees like My Baby Excels, a subsidiary of Excel Home Entertainment, to expand their activities. As part of that strategy, My Baby Excels recently acquired licensing rights of Disney, Marvel, WWE and Angry Birds for the scooter segment, as well as Krrish 3 and Kid Krrish for impulse toys. Mustafa Kapasi, COO, MBE, said, “Merchandise related to iconic brands sells easily.” My Baby Excels is also an exclusive licensee for Disney, Warner Bros, DreamWorks, Animal Planet, Angry Birds, and Marvel in the plush category, and enjoys an estimated 85 per cent market share in this segment.

Multimedia-driven content Home grown icons, like their global counterparts, have also recognised the role of television and multimedia in creating a ‘fan’ based amongst children and its resulting ability to drive sales of games, toys and allied merchandise. Funskool, a joint venture between MRF and Hasbro, enjoyed considerable success with regard to Beyblade. R Jeswant, VP- Sales and Marketing, Funskool, said, “Beyblade was shown first on television here during ’04-’05, and subsequently in ’10. Its popularity has made us look for more licensees.” And, that’s not all. Angry Birds, is one of the most popular licensing brands in the country, and its Angry Birds Toons series, which gives a weekly glimpse of the Birds’ and Pigs’ daily lives on Cartoon Network, along with the popularity of the Angry Birds Star Wars game, has resulted in 140 licensed products and retailed across more than 600 outlets across the country. Similarly, the homegrown icon Chhota Bheem first developed a large ‘fan’ base via its popular TV show and then introduced its licensed merchandising strategy, which currently includes more than 3,000 SKUs.

Role in learning No doubt, toys are an essential part of children’s play activities, but their importance in learning just cannot be ignored. And, with the growing popularity of puzzles and educational games, players like Funskool are developing board games with the Indian Institute of Technology, while Swadesh Essfil, a BTS manufacturer, will shortly launch licensed games from University of Oxford’s educational series. Rajvi Makol, Director, Swadeshi Essfil, We have received a very strong feedback from retail chains, given the strong brand recall for University of Oxford’s games.” Similarly, Parragon Publishing, a leading non-fiction publisher, is a licensee for Disney, Mattel, Power Ranger and Discovery Communications, amongst others, and has reported strong demand for a range of activity books, journals and other-kids related stationery. Vineet Sharma, MD, Parragon Publishing, said, “We help to make learning a fun-filled experience for children with a range of products from iconic brands.

Dealing with ‘grey’ market It’s no secret that licensors are worried about the rapid expansion in counterfeit merchandise related to popular icons and have taken several steps including judicial measures to protect their copyright. Apart from that, the fragmented retails tructure in the country complicates enforcement of the legal rights of the licensor. Striking a similar note, Preston Kevin Lewis, Managing Director, Australia, New Zealand and India, Warner Bros Consumer Products, said, “The counterfeit market in India is well organised and enforcement is often difficult and expensive. Licensors need to work jointly with regulatory authorities and curb this illegal practise.” Nevertheless, with the strong growth prospects in the domestic licensing sector, licensors remain “bullish” on the long-term growth prospects.

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