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Comic Con India founder wants to build a pop culture industry in India

Comic Con India founder wants to build a pop culture industry in India

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By Nishtha Pandey  Nov 29, 2022 10:50:17 AM IST (Updated)

In 1970, a small group of comic, movie, and science fiction fans from San Diego organised Comic-Con. The convention has grown into a global phenomenon and is widely recognized as the premier pop culture convention. Comic Con India's Founder Jatin Varma tells us about the potential of the convention in India.

A small convention that started in February 2011 at the Delhi Hyatt in New Delhi and had 10,000 visitors has in the 11 years since grown into a veritable juggernaut spanning Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, with the latest edition in Bangalore attracting more than 45,000 attendees.

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We are, of cours,e talking about the pop-culture phenomenon Comic Con India, which recently wrapped its Bengaluru convention after a two-years pandemic-induced hiatus. The two-day event was held at KTPO Trade Center in Whitefield's Industrial Area on November 19 and 20.
“I was eagerly waiting for Comic Con to come back as it's an event of the community where you meet like-minded people, get to interact with inspiring comic artists, buy cool merchandise and most importantly, a place for the ‘geeks’ to express themselves,” said 20-year-old Ashutosh Khatri, who attended the Bangalore editionthis year.
The Comic Con India chapter started out as a creative outlet by pop culture collector Jatin Varma. It has now become an avenue for thousands of people to earn money by setting up stalls and also a way of expression for artists and pop-culture lovers. This year the event is powered by Facebook’s parent company Meta.
Making the comic book community an industry
“Our goal is growing the current comic book community into an actual industry — this means trying to provide as many legitimate players and creators as possible a platform, leveraging our unique role in this space for them. Initially, many of them used to contribute to our exhibitor revenue and book booths. As we grew in scale, we decided to create a dedicated area for all the individual creators and indie publishers, where they are invited as guests and do not have to spend on their spaces,” Varma told CNBC-TV18.com
The Comic Con is a US import — over in the states, the many chapters of Comic Con — with the one in San Diego being the crown jewel — have not just become a place for "geeks" to assemble and talk about shared interests, but also a powerful platform for creators, filmmakers and actors to promote their upcoming, albeit comic-influenced, work.  It started in San Diego In 1970 when a small group of comic, movie, and science-fiction fans organised a convention, one that is now a phenomenon of global proportions.
The San Diego Comic Con entered its 53rd edition in 2022. according to the CEO of San Diego Convention Centre, where the Comic Con is held, 1.35 lakh people attended the 2019 edition and, when the 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID-19, it caused losses to the tune of $166 million for the local economy.
While it hasn't grown to that scale in India, the potential is immense.
Talking about this year's numbers, Varma said that they were hoping to match 2019 numbers.
“This year's Mumbai edition can be our game-changer, with a brand-new venue the Jio World Centre in Bandra Kurla Complex,” said Varma.
The convention has also expanded this year with more partnership. This year the Comic Con India chapter has partnered with global anime streaming platform CrunchyRoll and also has exclusively partnered with Warner Bros, Walt Disney India and Universal Pictures as experience partners.
Betting big on the merchandise industry
The comic book industry globally as per data by Fortune Business Insights was valued at $14.69 billion in 2021. The market is expected to grow from $15.35 billion in 2022 to $21.37 billion in 2029. Merchandise forms a huge part of the industry.
Comic Con globally and even in India also acts as a huge venue for the growth of the merchandise sector as small businesses get to set up stalls for selling their wares.
“In 2011, the first ever show, we had 2-3 booths selling merchandise (apparel, accessories, toys etc). A decade later, there was an extensive range of small, medium and large businesses creating licensed apparel and accessories here in India. Both Disney & Warner have dedicated teams and verticals focused on the Indian licensing business and now the Japanese IP holders also taking this market seriously,” said Varma
According to avid visitors of Comic Con India the average price of merchandise at Comic Con India ranges from Rs 99 to Rs 12,000.
"Initially, our role was crucial to these businesses in terms of generating sales, Over the years, as e-commerce became a regular part of life, the presence at CCI shifted from purely sales to marketing and branding as well," he said.
Comic Con India serves as a key platform and point of contact to dedicated fan that then spends on these brands all through the year, added Varma. Data by CNBC suggests that Marvel Cinematic Universe merchandise has earned Disney around $41 billion by 2020. Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009.
According to revenue breakdown data of famous film franchises, the Star Wars franchise, which began with A New Hope in 1977, is worth around $47 billion so far.
The global merchandise sales so far for the DC Extended Universe (the film version of globally famous DC comics) which started with Superman’s Man of Steel in 2013, has touched over $500 million so far.
Comic Con will feature in other cities through December 2022 and February 2023.
(Image credit- Comic Con India)
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