Licensing and merchandising for kids’ apparel is catching trend, with character adorning the apparel range. While many put the character on piece of cloth, Saugato Bhowmick, Senior Vice President – Consumer Products, Viacom 18 shares the trick to character licensing during a candid conversation with License India. What is the scenario in licensing and merchandising for kids? Licensing per say revolves around apparel as a core category. Given that the economic sentiment is reviving, combined with the market place being more sophisticated with entry of all eCommerce players, and certain sites which are exclusively dedicated to kid’s merchandise, the process of discovery of kids licensed apparel segment is being more easy. That has been one of the traditional reasons that the licensing industry has been a support rather than being a hindrance to the economy. Though the industry is very disaggregated at the moment, which is one of the reasons why we have not seen any exclusive growth. However, economic sentiments leading to more aspiration for brands combined with the fact that market places are evolving; a revival is being seen in the kids’ apparel market. So, what exactly is the trick to character licensing? Kids’ apparel market is dominated by the leading characters, and it all depends upon the beauty of art how is it trend based, as apparel needs to make a child look good, especially in the urban market. The trick in licensing is not to take a character and put it on the apparel. How you translate the character’s DNA and combine it with the latest trend and make it both cool and fashionable even at a very young age. Design is art, and material and quality all are important and to maintain all at the same time is the challenge in the bulls eye. That’s what we keep aiming for. What all popular IPs of Viacom 18 are being licensed out for apparels? We have different characters for different genres. Dora the explorer is the industry’s leading brand in the pre-school segment for girls. Dora apparels is one of our key licensing programs and we are very consistent with it. Every season, we come out with new designs. Then we are looking to expand our apparel program with apparel for our other IPs. For instance, one of our most popular IPs now on Nickelodeon's platform is Motu-patlu which has surged in popularity in last one year and is driving the ratings on the channel and as a result we are now launching the Motu-patlu apparel range this season. Moving ahead, we are also going to see the launch of wings club apparel which is a very fashion heavy girl’s property for young girls and not exactly kids. We see it as a destination fashion brand. Given that we have now actively merchandised FC Barcelona, we are launching kids and youth apparel range for FC Barcelona. What is more in trend – the cartoon characters or human character like Mr. Bean? When it is for kids, it is mostly cartoons and not human characters because kids relate to the most popular cartoons and see it as they are living lives of their favourite characters. Pretty much, cartoons are in, if you talk about kids’ apparel range. What is more popular - Indian characters or the global ones? There is no answer to that. There will always be the global iconic characters which people have grown up with or are growing up with. They will always remain iconic. So whether it’s a Dora in Viacom portfolio or Mickey in Disney portfolio, they will always remain global iconic characters. But in India, we have a very strong trend of local animation characters which are culturally far more relevant as far as India is concerned. Again, Motu-patlu becomes classic example of such phenomenon, where a local IP becomes popular because of relatibility and fun that is more Indian, style and humour that ius easily understood. Therefore, Indian characters are becoming really strong. It could go as a trend and all industry players are recognizing this and everybody is investing on Indian IPs. It is ready to become very large segment of Indian licensing industry. What are the challenges while designing for kids? There are no major challenges, it’s all about creativity, how you take the poses of the IP and make them fashionable. The important part is not to make them look tacky, but to align them with current trends. We also do research on the current fashion trends and we design accordingly. It’s about combining different poses, different looks and themes. So a Dora will have a summer theme, winter theme, outdoor theme, etc. take different thematic and combine them with ongoing trends. The trick is that how creative we can get. What is the contribution of eCommerce in licensing industry? It is currently a small contribution to the overall buy, over the next few years, I expect eCommerce to become a major chunk of the entire business because it creates overnight route to market to over 400 towns in India, where there is demand, money, but the brands are unable to reach. So, eCommerce is largely to be the game changer for the licensing industry. What are the parameters to choose licensees for Viacom 18? There are 3 set of guidelines. One is their product manufacturing capability, which should match our standards. Second is their distribution relation in market, how closely they work with distributors in mass retail, their large format relationships and eCommerce relationships. Third set of guidelines is their transparency and governance. How professional they are with the licensors in terms of compliance, payments and time. Keeping all that in mind, we take judicious decisions to choose licensees.
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