Homegrown vs Global: Why Indian Pop Culture Is Losing Ground?
Homegrown vs Global: Why Indian Pop Culture Is Losing Ground?
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With Prime Minister Narendra Modi introducing Make In India initiative, the AVGC sector is struggling with its Create in India theme, the Indian homegrown characters continue to see a decline in demand despite multiple states pushing AVGC policies to build an ecosystem around the industry.

Comic Con Mumbai 2024 kicked off with a tremendous response as devoted anime, superheroes, villain fans, and cosplayers gathered in large numbers to celebrate pop culture. However, Indian homegrown characters received a lukewarm response.

The question is, will there be a resurgence of Indian characters? If Make In India can become a reality, will Create In India also gain prominence in a country where K-Pop, Japanese, and the already existing dominance of Western characters like DC, Marvel, and Disney are gaining significant market share?

IndianRetailer.com was at Comic Con Mumbai to understand the reasons behind Indian animation studios failing to address the need of Indian audiences for homegrown characters with better storylines, unique collaborations, and merchandise.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the 'Make In India' initiative to the world; however, the licensing, merchandising, and animation universe continue to struggle with its 'Create In India' theme. When asked why the animation industry continues to lag behind in creating well-known homegrown characters, Veerendra Patil, Founder and Director of Zebu Animation, said, "There are many amazing characters that do exist in India; the question is how are we adapting them and making them contemporary and telling stories that are relevant for today’s children. It is a very long race and it won’t happen overnight. The Indian characters that are well known and popular today have been built over the years. It is a very long game that focuses more on storytelling that is relevant for today’s audience."

Patil further stated, "I think Create in India is an idea that has just started, and we have to show some patience to the creators and support them. The government has created multiple initiatives, artists and studios have started coming together, and I feel in the next 3-4 years, one will see a lot of content from India slowly traveling across the world."

With 132 stalls spread across the Jio Convention Centre in BKC of Mumbai, anime, manga, and bobblehead stalls dominated the event with large footfalls. While katana-wielding (Japanese sword) warriors, Batmans, Jokers, and Marvel characters formed a chunk of the cosplayers, one could also see characters from One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Goku from Dragon Ball Z.

Blaming it on the growing influence of Western and Japanese culture on the Indian audience, Sumit Kumar, Founder of Bakarmax, criticized the government for failing to implement the ideology of Make In India for its homegrown artists and the entire animation industry. When asked why there is suddenly a decline in demand for homegrown characters, Kumar said, "One can sum it up with one word, which is colonization. Indians like foreign brands and they shun away homegrown characters. Now be it comics, shoes, shirts, etc."

Kumar continued, "The government introduced this term AVGC, and the entire industry went crazy after that. It was the first time that the government acknowledged the animation and comics industry. This was the time when the animation industry was happy, and it was just like when a foreigner speaks Hindi and everybody gets amazed; it was that kind of situation. But none of them know what exactly the policies include. We are an AVGC startup, but we haven’t received any benefits from the government. I can’t see any benefits that the AVGC policies or current policies for startups are helping me or my studio to grow in the country."

First published in 1980, Tinkle Comics has remained a stalwart in the world of comics, solidifying its status as a beloved legacy brand. With cherished characters like Suppandi, Shambhu, and Tantri the Mantri, Tinkle Comics, under the umbrella of Amar Chitra Katha.

Citing digital exposure as a reason behind the influence of anime and manga characters, Savio Mascarenhas, Group Art Director at Amar Chitra Katha, said, "Today, children are exposed more to digital mediums, and it is tough to stop the influence of global characters on them. It is important that one must promote its own brand, and that goes for everyone. We do see a surge in Indian readers who are diehard Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha fans, and they always will be. Being a family brand, we have created a legacy, and today we see parents who were our readers and are now passing their legacy of Amar Chitra Katha comics to their children.

He further stated, "Children will consume anime and manga content as well, but India is a very diverse country, and everyone has an ecosystem to grow. The point is to continue being stronger and relevant for our readers."

One must note that India’s Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming & Comics and Extended Reality (AVGC-XR) sector, which currently employs 2.6 lakh people across the country, is expected to create 23 lakh direct jobs by 2032. The revenues are expected to cross $26 billion by 2030, up from $3 billion currently.

Recently, Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan said India has a "huge opportunity" to become a global leader in the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, and Comics (AVGC) industry. While various state governments are pushing policies to build an ecosystem for the AVGC industry. It will be an interesting and at the same time, a rollercoaster ride for the AVGC sector in times to come.

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