Netflix India licensing agent backs original IPs

The brand licensing agency plans to tap into uncommon product categories such as ice-creams, pizza and make-up in collaboration with platforms and creators, as well as apparel and stationery.

Lata Jha
Updated26 Feb 2023
The biggest challenge for the brand licensing business in India is the proliferation of a black market and unwillingness of consumers to pay for originals which often tend to be exorbitantly priced
The biggest challenge for the brand licensing business in India is the proliferation of a black market and unwillingness of consumers to pay for originals which often tend to be exorbitantly priced(Photo: Reuters)

After being appointed as the exclusive licensing agent for American streaming platform Netflix in India and South Asia, Black White Orange seeks to cash in on the huge fan base of original Indian intellectual properties (IPs) in view of the increasing popularity of web originals in India.

The brand licensing agency plans to tap into uncommon product categories such as ice-creams, pizza and make-up in collaboration with platforms and creators, as well as apparel and stationery. The biggest challenge for the brand licensing business in India is the proliferation of a black market and unwillingness of consumers to pay for originals which often tend to be exorbitantly priced.

“Not much work has happened so far in merchandising and licensing, except with certain IPs in the kids category. We’re trying to look at products that tie in with the context of individual shows and movies, and may also belong to categories that other shows have not brought out previously,” said Mitali Desai, chief operating officer and co-founder, Black White Orange.

While the company has had to start from scratch after two years of covid-induced disruptions, the surge in e-commerce during the pandemic is an opportunity it can leverage, Desai said. It will work on Netflix’s international titles like Squid Game, Stranger Things, Rebel Moon, Bridgerton, One Piece, and Money Heist as well as Indian originals like Zoya Akhtar’s Archies adaptation starring Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda and Khushi Kapoor.

Desai said the way the model works is it is appointed by a licensee like Netflix that owns the IP to expand into consumer products and Black White Orange then ties up with individual entities to facilitate manufacturing and distribution. Revenue from sales is shared between the licensee and other agencies in a 60:40 ratio.

The company has worked with Hollywood studio Universal in the past on film titles such as Minions, Fast & Furious and Jurassic World and with director SS Rajamouli on the Baahubali franchise besides Animal Planet, Discovery and with HBO on Game of Thrones merchandise.

To be sure, the licensing and merchandise market in India remains niche with the likes of Walt Disney leading the space thanks to IPs such as Marvels (Iron Man, Captain America and Avengers), Lucas Films (Star Wars), Pixar (Cars) and Disney (The Jungle Book). Further, there is a huge illegal market running parallel to licensed brands.“Films and cricket have both tried to attempt the merchandise model in India but have faced challenges, with the category bringing in less than 2% of overall revenues despite the fan following for entertainment properties. Pricing is key here and customer willingness to pay high rates is low which is why most go for unoriginal replicas,” said Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital Ltd. Making these products more affordable, on the other hand, would dilute brand equity, Taurani pointed out.

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