In the hope of reviving the 37 year-old brand, ACK Media has launched a special line of Tinkle merchandise in association with Planet Superheroes and Eco Corner. TV programming is also on the anvil
Tinkle magazine’s Shikari Shambu and Suppandi were household names in India in the 1980s and ‘90s, unlike today when cartoon characters like Peppa Pig and Minions rule the roost. However, children across age groups and economic backgrounds continue to love the animation and comic characters they grew up reading or watching. Companies, seeing an opportunity in this patronage, have for years invested in merchandise luring kids and parents alike. Celebrating its 37 years, Tinkle, one of the major titles from Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), too jumped into the merchandising bandwagon recently.
Isn’t the move too late for the brand, given the fact that the market is already flooded with international and Indian characters? Anuraag Agarwal, CEO of Amar Chitra Katha, responds, “Tinkle characters are still popular and even today, children relate to and like them. We still enjoy a large fan base.”
However, it is not the first time that the brand, founded in 1980 and run by Future Group, has entered the merchandising market. In 2014 too, it had launched figurines (bobbleheads) of the renowned comic characters, but that failed to pick up. Agarwal reasons that the brand wasn’t too focussed on distribution back then and had thus discontinued the range. However, for the new batch, the team is much more focussed and aware of the right push needed to reach consumers.
With multimedia exposure today, children are more aware of characters from across the globe. Acknowledging this fact, the brand is banking on its nostalgic appeal to compete with the already established players in the market. “Of course, our TG is kids but a child would enter a bookstore/shop only with his/her mother or father. Appealing to both, we feel there is room for every player today to grow,” says Agarwal.
Launched in association with Planet Superheroes and Eco Corner, the merchandise features some of Tinkle’s iconic comic characters such as Suppandi, Shikari Shambu, Tantri the Mantri, etc on tote bags, colourful t-shirts, mobile cases, sippers and more. The merchandise is available on the publisher’s own website apart from Amazon, Scootsy and other e-commerce portals. Offline, it is available in stores across India including Planet Superheroes, Crossword and specialty airport stores, among others. The merchandise is priced between Rs 199 and Rs 699.
At the time of investment in ACK almost seven years ago, Kishore Biyani, group CEO at Future Group had reportedly said, “Mythology and storytelling has always been part of the Future Group’s DNA. We are looking at newer ways to impart values to the new generation and a modern way of storytelling through digital, entertainment, animation or theme parks. Amar Chitra Katha was the biggest storyteller of our times and this is an opportunity for us to be the Disneyland of this country.”
Always in constant touch with its audience through schools, reading workshops/societies, etc, the brand feels merchandising is a natural extension.
Banking on the merchandise
“We are aiming to achieve nearly 20% of our annual revenue through licensing and merchandising deals over the next three years,” says Agarwal while adding that the company is currently investing in promoting the merchandise while working with the manufacturing partners.
However, he feels that investments will increase as and when the business develops because there will be procurement cost involved too.
According to retail consultancy Technopak, the merchandise market in India (including sports, media, cartoons and celebrities) was valued at Rs 4,500 crore in 2016, up from Rs 3,000 crore in 2014 and is growing at the rate of 15% per annum. Also, it is noteworthy that though the branded kidswear segment has recorded high growth in recent years, it still remains a largely unbranded segment with products sold mostly through unorganised retail channels.
Tinkle, in the last couple of years, has been taking steps to revive itself among its audiences. A year ago, Tinkle had brought in augmented reality for its comics and then launched a cartoon channel on YouTube with stories from Suppandi to Shambu. The channel, Suppandi and Friends, has so far garnered over 16,000 subscribers. The next in line is television. “We are in talks with a television channel and soon the episodes will start airing,” Agarwal informs.
The brand wants to extend its focus from its popular markets — South and West — to other parts of the country too. However, it is not available easily in tier II and III cities unlike the urban markets.
Coincidentally, Amar Chitra Katha too completed 50 years this year. And being involved in the business, the brand hopes to inculcate among children the love for reading, especially Indian mythology and stories.