Will Desi Content drive Merchandise Boom in India?
Will Desi Content drive Merchandise Boom in India?
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Whether it's broadcasting and streaming cricket, reality shows, movies, web series, or anime from Japan, dubbed content in Indian regional languages is gaining huge traction, enhancing merchandising opportunities in the country. From Mumbai Indians' localization strategy to multiple OTT platforms streaming anime in regional languages, the Licensing and Merchandising (L&M) industry is simultaneously growing in India.

Crunchyroll and JioCinema are streaming dubbed anime in regional languages such as Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. Similarly, Cartoon Network India is broadcasting anime in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam, while the Indian Premier League (IPL) is being telecasted on Star Sports and streamed on JioCinema in languages such as English, Hindi, Haryanavi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada.

Regional Content is Key for Growth

According to the FICCI-PwC report of 2021, the share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms will surpass 50% of total time spent by 2025, overtaking Hindi at 45%. Media Partners Asia reports that Direct-to-Consumer SVOD subscribers are expected to grow to 193 million by 2026, with Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) revenues reaching over $1.8 billion by 2026, up from $800 million in 2021.

For Crunchyroll, Indian anime fans have enjoyed popular shows such as "Demon Slayer - Kimetsu no Yaiba," "JUJUTSU KAISEN," "Kaiju No.8," "MASHLE: MAGIC AND MUSCLES," "One Piece," "Solo Leveling," "The Daily Life of the Immortal King," and "Wind Breaker."

Elaborating on regional anime consumption, Akshat Sahu, Director of Marketing, APAC, Crunchyroll, said, “Dubbed anime content contributes to over 65% of the total viewership in India for Crunchyroll. We have rapidly started dubbing anime content in Indian languages to make it accessible to fans. Currently, Crunchyroll offers more than 75 shows dubbed in Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil, with many more expected.”

He added, “To make anime accessible to all Indian audiences, we have embarked on an ambitious localization effort, including dubbing content into Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu, along with exploring additional languages in the future. Since the introduction of dubbed content last year, we have observed a significant uptick in engagement, signaling a promising trajectory for growth.”

Localization is Key

Recently, JioCinema launched its first anime slate with the global simulcast of "Demon Slayer" on its platform Anime Hub. This was done in collaboration with the Taiwan-based anime distribution and licensing company, Muse Communication. The company is now planning a major expansion in India by collaborating with multiple agencies, content platforms, and brands to launch various projects.

With popular anime titles like "Demon Slayer," "Spy x Family," "One Punch Man," "That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime," and "Hunter x Hunter," and over 300 classic library titles available for the Indian market, Muse Communication is also focusing on the release and promotion of new simulcast anime series, releasing 5 to 10 shows per season. Titles such as "Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest" in the July simulcast and the highly anticipated "DAN DA DAN" in October 2024.

Julia Cheng, Director, India / Head of Business Development, International Content Distribution, said, “India has a large and growing anime fanbase, but its anime ecosystem is still in its early stages. We are committed to establishing and localizing this ecosystem. By accurately providing legitimate anime content and services, we aim to enhance the visibility of anime in India.”

Julia further said, “Leveraging social media platforms, we aim to expand our engagement with fans, integrating merchandise, events, exhibitions, and media to create a comprehensive anime experience with our collaborative partners, and strive to bring the vision of 'no anime, no life' to Indian fans.”

When asked whether the consumption of anime content in regional languages makes sense, Julia said, “Language localization is one of the most important ways to make anime content more accessible and connect with fans. In addition to English subtitles, which are widely used worldwide, localized languages allow us to reach a broader audience, particularly in India.”

She added, “We have conducted localization assessments for various markets across Asia and have produced dubs in over 10 different languages to meet market demands. Considering the viewing habits and cultural connections of the audience, localized language is a crucial development strategy for us in the Indian market.”

Localizing Merch for Fans

Mumbai Indians collaborated with innovative hemp brands like Ecentric and cutting-edge gaming accessory providers like Cybeart, among others. The full spectrum of licensees now encompasses a wide range of categories, including replica apparel from PlayR, Suditi (Apparel), Fancode (Apparel), Ecentric (Apparel), Celio (Apparel), Skechers (Apparel), EUME (Backpacks and Travel accessories), Cybeart (Gaming chairs), Parksons (Playing Cards), CrunchBox (Popcorn), Chupps (Footwear Sliders), Boldfit (Training Gear), and Dudeme (JIT Apparel), further enhancing the experience of fans.

Talking about the strategy to provide merchandise for connecting with fans, Mumbai Indians spokespersons said, “Central to our success in this arena is our focus on fostering custom-designed partnerships, whether with homegrown or traditional brands. With each brand, we ensure that collaborations are tailored to fit the unique size, scale, nature, and USP of each entity. Even across the same categories, the creativity and concepts are so unique that it helps us covet a diverse set of audiences.”

The spokesperson further said, “This approach not only benefits emerging brands with invaluable exposure and association power but also creates a novelty factor with the fans. We are collaborating with not just homegrown brands but also hyper-local brands, which gives an ode to Mumbai through the Celio collection, which celebrates Aamchi Mumbai. Homegrown brands such as Chupps and Cybeart are spreading wings across multiple IPL teams as well as geographies, boosted by their success with Mumbai Indians.”

Airtel and Sony’s Anime Platform

Recently, Airtel and the Sony YAY! TV channel launched Anime Booth, a 24-hour anime channel on Airtel Digital TV. The digital TV channel is currently broadcasting anime in Hindi. The services are accessible through Airtel's DTH services, including Airtel Digital TV and Airtel Xstream TV. The platforms are exploring options for more dubbed content in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.

Commenting on the collaboration, Siddharth Sharma, CEO of Airtel Digital TV, said, “We are thrilled to unveil the introduction of Anime Booth, marking a groundbreaking collaboration with Sony and reinforcing our commitment to providing innovative and captivating content to our valued customers. Anime Booth signifies a revolutionary advancement in anime viewing within India, offering an exclusive, ad-free platform that underscores our dedication to enhancing the entertainment experience.”

As the popularity of regional language dubs continues to rise, it will be fascinating to watch brands synergize not only the content but also its merchandise to reflect local flavors, enhancing the fan experience.

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