Indian comic industry: Big-bucks mantra

Rahul Vaishnavi   |  New Delhi


The Indian comic industry is laughing all the way to the bank. Modern storytelling, broadening readership to include young adults besides children, diversification into areas like graphic books, mobile apps and merchandise, has enabled the Rs.100 crore ($22 million) comic industry to reach out and captivate newer audiences with an eclectic assortment of products.

According to industry experts, it was the need of the hour to change and modernise content of their publications to cater to the children of the new millennium.

"The content has changed over the years and keeping with the times the characters have changed and so has the storytelling," Manas Mohan, chief operating officer of one of India's oldest publications, Amar Chitra Katha, told IANS.

"The contemporary content has helped us to retain our young readers in the metros and mini metros while we have successfully percolated into tier-II and tier-III cities as well," he added.

The transformation was evident, going by the success of the just-concluded Comic Con India (CCI) at Dilli Haat and a huge turnout of children and young adults alike. Be it Batman, Fred Flintstone or Chacha Chowdhary, the three-day annual event saw over 80 participants and several interactive sessions and talks by renowned artists.

According to CCI founder Jatin Varma, the focus has shifted to young adults as comics today are not just limited to kids.

"I believe that lovers of comics and cartoons can be found in any age group, but most of the comic books, graphic novels and games at the CCI were for young adults," Varma told IANS.

Ashok Namdeo of Campfire Graphic Novels agreed, saying graphic novels have played a major role in luring young adults to start reading.

"The dark and mature themes, combined with colourful graphical displays, lures the young adults who have started to take a liking to such books," he said.

According to Varma, there has been a 100 percent rise in the number of publications at CCI over the years and a majority of such books are for young adults. The interest of children and young adults for comics also meant booming business for the event.

According to Varma, they did business of over Rs.1 crore, including sales of all types of reading material and merchandise.

"An estimated 50,000 people visited the convention this time. The revenue last year was Rs. 25 lakh while 15,000 visitors came to the event. It is heartening to see that the interest of people, including young adults, has increased," Varma added.

"The comic and related industry today is worth around Rs.150 crore and the annual turnover is around two crores," said Varma.

Introduction of exclusive merchandise in the Indian market has played a major role in keeping the interest alive.

A table lamp shaped as the sabre of Darth Vader, the central character from "Star Wars", or glasses to cut eye strain from LCD screen glare - the merchandise promises to fulfil fantasies of comic book lovers, gamers and movie buffs alike.

Priced between Rs. 20 and Rs. 800, the usual and cheap products like pouches, wallets, coffee mugs, key chains, mobile and tablet covers based on cartoon characters are an all-time favourite.

However, despite being expensive, equally popular are niche items such as a motorcycle helmet emulating the one worn by Captain America or a replica of Hermoine Granger's gown she wears in the "Harry Potter" series of films.

Special spectacles by Gunnar Technology Eyewear for gamers who are addicted to "Counter Strike" or "Call of Duty" can be bought for around Rs. 5,000. The price though is not a deterrent.

"If I am buying a state of the art video game for Rs. 25,000, I won't mind paying another few thousands to have the appropriate eye gear to protect my eyes," said Anirudh Singh, a hardcore gamer.

But that is not all.

A lot of content creators also showcased their comics as apps for popular smartphones and tablets at the event. Amar Chitra Katha led the pack with all their titles available as apps for iPad.

"It has never been so good before. Not only do we get to buy our favourite comics but also the merchandise too... It was not so a few years back. It gives us more choice," Sidharath Singh, a 12-year-old, who apart from comics buys merchandise of his favourite character Darth Vader.

"The apps help us to cater to our tech-savvy readers in metros," said Amar Chitra Katha's Mohan. - IANS