Mumbai: They’ve bought and sold Pall Mall and Park Lane. Now, Indian players of Monopoly, the famous Parker Brothers board game that debuted in 1935 with a version featuring streets of Atlantic City of the US, can trade in real estate they are more familiar with—Indian cities.
Funskool India Ltd, the toy company that sells popular board game brands such as Scrabble and Monopoly in the country, is readying to launch the Indian edition of Monopoly by June. And according to an executive at the company, the Indian version could well feature Indian cities, as opposed to neighbourhoods in one particular city. The initial thinking is veering towards (Indian) cities and play pieces that are easily identifiable with India, said R. Jeswant, Funskool’s general manager for sales and marketing.
If that happens, the Indian version could be among the few of the 200 editions Hasbro Inc. (the company that now owns Monopoly; Funskool is a joint venture between Hasbro and MRF Ltd) has that have cities instead of neighbourhoods. In late 2007, Hasbro launched in UK an all-UK version of Monopoly where cities and towns took the place of street names.
The cities and towns were selected on the basis of a poll of more than a million people.
The toy manufacturer’s decision comes at a time when there is increasing global interest in all things Indian. “Think global and act local, that is the strategy,” said Aniyan Nair, head of marketing and operations at Crossword, a bookstore chain. Consumers would “connect” better with a local version of the game, Nair added, although he wasn’t sure it would “boost sales”. Two Monopoly editions have India connections, a Monopoly Desi featuring places such as Southall and targeted at people of Indian origin in the UK and the Wonders of the World version that features the Taj Mahal.
Funskool expects the local edition to boost Monopoly sales in India. Currently, the sales of the popular board game are growing at 40% year-on-year, said Jeswant, who declined to provide the number of units sold. The launch of the Indian edition of the game will be followed by the launch of another edition, Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition Board Game.
Monopoly Here & Now will feature 22 cities from around the world that will be determined by an online poll that is already on. Hasbro has nominated 68 cities across the world of which Mumbai is one. “It was really a toss up between New Delhi and Mumbai. But Monopoly is all about buying and selling, so the financial capital seemed like the natural fit for this game,” said Jeswant. The poll, which is currently under way, also allows voters to nominate a city that hasn’t been picked as a wild card entry. Voters can cast their vote online at www.monopoly.com or fill out forms that are available at select retail outlets in Mumbai. The results of the poll are expected in August. It is yet to be determined if the price for each of these cities in the game will be determined by the actual cost of real estate in those cities, or by the number of votes cast in their favour.
While Funskool has already launched an advertising and marketing campaign to create awareness about the poll, it is likely to step up its efforts after 15 February. The company is currently reviewing sponsorship offers from some Indian brands looking to ride on the popularity of Monopoly.
In a similar poll last year, Taj Mahal was voted into the new seven wonders of the world list. The monument won the poll conducted by Swiss firm New7Wonders Foundation, following aggressive marketing by Bhaskar Group company, I Media Corp. Ltd. Consumer products company Hindustan Unilever Ltd, which sponsored airtime across major media channels, carried the vote appeal campaign forward in the last leg of the poll. The company used the campaign to promote their skincare brand Fair & Lovely.
The situation, however, does not look very good for Mumbai. The financial capital has secured just 0.6% votes as of now and is currently sandwiched at number 56, right between Vilnius, Lithuania, and Santiago, Chile. Only the top 22 cities will actually make it to the board game.