Ultra as a group started off from movies media and entertainment and gradually expanded into merchandising and soft toy manufacturing. Witnessing the immense potential in toys as a category, the group has entered into an exclusive licensing and manufacturing arrangement with The Smiley Company for the Indian market. In an exclusive interaction with License India, Madhu Kishore, Business Head, Ultra Toys and Gifts Pvt, spoke about the deal and what makes brand licensing the need of hour for businesses today.
Tell us about your brand Ultra toys. How has been the journey so far?
As Ultra, we started off with movies and entertainment business and gradually extended ourselves into merchandising and toy manufacturing. Back then, the toy industry was very fragmented and flooded with cheap China imports. Now with government promoting make in India campaign, there is a kind of shift that we are seeing in the market. We witnessed substantial growth in past couple of years and gradually in the process of strengthening our brand further, we have inked pact with the Smiley Company for Smiley merchandise.
Talk to us about your retail presence.
We have a strong distribution network and are supplying to all major retailers including Central, big bazaar, hyper etc. The kind of product line we have suits to all formats of retail. As far as online is concerned we have our own commerce portal ultra gift box.com. Also we are retailing through all major E-Commerce portals such as Amazon, Flipkart, Firstcry etc. However, the majority of revenue is driven through offline in India, especially when it is about toys.
What potential do you see in Smiley as an IP in India?
Smiley as an IP does not have any age restrictions and has a wide variety of target audience right from the kids to elderly people. In the digital driven scenario of today, Smileys have become a mode of expression for the millennial generation. That expression quotient is not available with any other IPS, as either it will be about expression utility as a toy the combination of both.
Why brand licensing? Where do you see it fitting into your existing business model?
Brand licensing is the need of the hour! If you go ahead with the generic products, there is a lot of competition and possibilities of comparison, which is reduced If the product is a licensed merchandise. That ways, it is exclusive to the licensee. Also with brand licensing, the acceptance of the merchandise goes up and so does the credibility, thus contributing to and increase in the brand visibility
What’s the strategy planned for retailing Smiley merchandise?
In the first phase the deal is valid for two years, with further renewal. This association with The Smiley Company is going to be a long term one. In the first phase we will launched 10 SKU with 60 different expressions. The price range goes from Rs. 199 to Rs. 999 and collection includes school bags, cushions, plush balls, pencil pouches etc. This is a minimum guarantee based deal. In the second phase, we have planned to launch Smiley Plush Toys animals, unique key chains and many other exciting products. We will be launching new range of smiley products every quarter depending upon the popularity of the earlier expressions, we will decide which one to launch next.
What other IPs are you planning to get on-board in near future?
We are in touch with all the major IP owners, however in the first phase we will go ahead with the smiley for next six months. Then gradually we will launch range for other IPS that are in pipeline. I cannot reveal the names at this point of time, but those IPs are in character genre.
How has been the market for plush toys?
When we talk about soft toys, teddy bears take away almost 60 per cent of the market share. Definitely the market is maturing and the demand for IPs or licensed merchandise is growing. Increasing internet penetration and availability of global content is the major reason behind this change. And the good part is that soft toys market is very diverse and not just limited to kids as the target audience.