Payal : How do you view the broader licensing market in India, and the challenges faced by international brands here? Rukn Kizilbash : The licensing market is still small here vis-à-vis the UK and USA. No doubt, the retail sector is growing here and retail chains are also expanding, but traditional brick-and-mortar stores still dominate this industry. However, to ensure steady footfall at malls, licensed products are playing an important role and it has helped global icons to expand their operations. In addition, we are also focused on protecting our intellectual property in India, and also ensure that our local partners work with us, in realising this objective. Payal : Which is a more effective strategy, promotional licensing or merchandising? Rukn Kizilbash : We partnered with Parle for a promotion which involved consumers receiving Topps Slam Attax trading cards on purchase of Parle Full Toss chips, and this FMCG player has benefited from a rapid jump in sales. Promotions are usually a short-term strategy while merchandising is long-term, and a brand’s objectives play a key role in deciding, which strategy to adopt. Payal : Which are your key product categories globally? Rukn Kizilbash : Our key focus is across categories - apparel, toys, video games and trading cards. In addition, later this year we plan to launch our new construction toy, The Bridge along with our partners in India. Payal : How many licensees do you have in India and overseas? Rukn Kizilbash : We have more than 150 licensees world-wide, which generate over $1 billion in retail sales. In India, we currently have over a dozen licensees and are aiming to double our partners by the end of this year. Payal : Do you plan to set up exclusive stores in India? Rukn Kizilbash : We believe in ‘experimental’ marketing and are also keenly evaluating setting up exclusive WWE stores in India Payal : What is your retail strategy in India? Rukn Kizilbash : We partner with both retail chains and e-retailers including Landmark and Flipkart, respectively, along with hypermarkets, Hypercity for various promotions. And, to build greater awareness amongst the target audience, we organise tours of Superstars at leading retail chains from time-to-time. For instance, WWE Superstar Ryback visited India to promote the ‘WWE 2K14’ pre-order campaign at a mall in Mumbai, and we benefited from a strong growth in sales. Payal : How do you ‘engage’ with your target audience in India? Rukn Kizilbash : Globally, we perform over 300 live events every year, and also deliver content on TV each week. In India, we offer content related to WWE throughout the year along with our Superstar tours. In addition, our fan base on Facebook in India, is the second largest globally, and expanding rapidly, too. Our marketing efforts have helped to ensure strong sales growth for our merchandise, which is priced from Rs 29 onwards. Payal : Kindly throw more light on your licensing activities in India? Rukn Kizilbash : Our ‘fan’ base in India for WWE and its Superstars is expanding quickly, and we partner with several licensees including Mattel, Proline, Simba Toys and Kokuyo Camlin across categories ranging from back-to-school, toys and apparel. The merchandise we offer is relevant for children and adults, and as part of that strategy, we recently launched an animated series for kids, WWE Slam City. The first season of Slam City consists of two minute capsules and 26 episodes. I would also like to highlight that WWE ‘live action’ remains a very strong focus for us, and the related merchandise we offer.
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