Do You Know About The Anime Merchandise Industry? It’S Here In India And It’S Here To Stay

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Retail brand Celio India ( the Indian chain of French menswear brand Celio) recently launched clothing in collaboration with the popular anime Naruto. After the success of that, the company also launched collections in collaboration with Pokemon and Attack on Titan. So with the anime merchandise sector market taking its steps towards expansion in India. Let’s understand what the buzz is all about.

“One day I was just walking on the street wearing my Levi (a character from popular Japanese Anime Attack on Titan) t-shirt and a group of kids passed by and shouted — ‘Levi! Love the colour!’ and then we all just bonded over the show,” said 24-year-old Akshat Jain, who has been an anime fan since he was 18 years old, and has a varied collection of anime merchandise.

Anime, the Japanese form of animation, is no longer an unfamiliar word, although it still holds a very underrated niche in the Indian entertainment industry. Shows like Naruto Shippuden, My Hero Academia, Haikyuu!! and movies like, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Your Name, have for long championed the genre, which is beginning to gain largescale traction in the country.

Globally the anime market size was valued at $24.8 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 14 percent over till 2030, as per a report by Grand View Research.

The West, meanwhile, is no stranger to the popularity of anime — global brands like Gucci, Nike and Dolce Gabbana have their own anime merchandise range.

In India, however, while the sector is still restricted to new-age startups, the trend is beginning to catch on. This was seen with retail brand Celio India (the Indian chain of French menswear brand Celio) successfully launching clothing in collaboration with the popular anime Naruto. Following that success, the company also launched collections in collaboration with Pokémon and Attack on Titan.

So, with the anime merchandise sector market taking baby steps towards expansion in India, let’s understand what the buzz is all about.

So, what is the buzz about? 

The genre is particularly enjoyed by the likes of Gen-Z and millennials.

Gen-Z were primarily introduced to the genre with Netflix and PVR Pictures bringing anime shows and movies to India, while millennials grew up watching anime, particularly from 2004 to 2017 when Animax India used to broadcast shows 24×7.

Also, fun fact — shows like Pokémon, Doraemon and Beyblade, which an entire generation enjoyed while growing up, are also anime.

A study published in April by JetSynthesys, a digital entertainment and technology company, found that 83 percent of Indians prefered anime to all other animated content options.

The anime movie Jujutsu Kaisen 0, which was released on July 30 by PVR Pictures, ran to full houses in metro and non-metro cities, much to the delight of longtime fans.

The Japanese film sold over 50,000 tickets in pre-sales on its opening day, earning Rs 1.8 crore on the first day and Rs 5.4 crore in the first week.

Kamal Gianchandani, chief strategy officer at PVR and CEO of PVR Pictures, in a tweet said that he was amazed that despite a delayed release, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is “leading the box office by a big margin” at PVR Cinemas.

The growth in exposure to anime and the increase in fan base has also benefited the merchandise sector. “We see Netflix putting out more and more shows, then PVR is bringing out anime movies. The genre is definitely growing, and owning the merchandise gives me as a fan a sense of identity and uniqueness,” said 22-year-old Aman Singh.

Big brands are stepping up their game

As noted earlier, Celio India had in May launched the Celio x Naruto collection in India. The limited edition collection is currently sold out across stores as well as the official website.

“We got 130 units (shirts, t-shirts and joggers) in our store at the start of May and within 10-15 days, the entire collection was sold out,” said Dinesh Shama, Senior Fashion Consultant for the Celio India store in DLF Mall Noida.

The joggers were priced at Rs 3,000 while the shirts and t-shirts ranged from Rs 1,500-1,700, he added.

This month, the store got the Celio x Attack on Titan clothing line and looking at the response, Sharma expects it to be sold out this week.

“The collection is the duality of Sasuke and Naruto, two very important characters in anime. We play iconic patterns, the Akatsuki (red cloud) and the Naruto pattern with ramen. Naruto is a huge fan of ramen. The iconic stuff of this collection is the Naruto silhouettes from the Celio collection. We’re very proud of this collaboration,” Satyen Momaya, CEO, of Celio India, told IANS.

The growing demand

While Celio’s merchandise ranged in the clothing area, many startups and makers of licensed products have been seeing a growth in the anime merchandise sector.

Wizplex, which holds all India distribution rights for Bandai Namco, Japan (one of the world’s largest video game pubishers and anime brands), has been witnessing an immense growth in its business.

Jujustu Kaisen, Banpresto line of collectibles by Wizplex

“Our main product is the Banpresto line of Anime figurines produced by Bandai Namco, Japan. For the product 2020, the total business was Rs 2.74 crore. In 2021, we clocked Rs 4.75 crore. For 2022, we have a forecast of Rs 9.02 crore and are on track to achieve that. So, we are witnessing almost a 100 percent growth in the market so far,” said Akshat Singhal, Founder and CEO, Wizplex.

NautankiShala, a brand started in 2019, has seen a 4x growth in sales since it started, in the anime merchandise sector.

“People are in love with our anime merchandise collection compared to our TV-series and music-inspired collections,” said Anjali Verma, Founder, NautankiShala.

Naruto collection by KiayaAccesories

Echoing the sentiment, Meghna Mehta, CEO at Kiaya Accessories, said that in just a year, because of rapid demand, the Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)— a number that retailers use to differentiate products and track inventory levels — of the brand has increased to 300.

“There are not many stores that sell anime merchandise but there are people who want to buy it and hence it’s a market where you don’t need to target buyers. In fact, the market will come to you,” added Mehta.

The scope of the anime merchandise sector in India

The growth of any merchandise depends on the zeitgeist — the prevalence of the pop culture element it represents. Hence the growth of anime in India directly influences the growth of the merchandise sector.

Anime merchandise also comes with emotional value. “It gives me joy and happiness, makes me feel unique and more connected to my favourite character from an anime that the merch represents,’ said Mohamad Hajou, a proud Otaku (a Japanese word that describes people with consuming interests, particularly in anime and manga). Hajou says has spent more than Rs 10,000 on anime merchandise so far.

This attachment to the merchandise found a mention in the JetSynthesys survey, according to which, 84 of the respondents are willing to invest in merchandise and were ready to pay a substantial amount.

According to Mehta, people that buy anime merchandise are emotional customers who have been looking for the products for so long but as there are not many brands that sell anime merchandise, the genre is niche, but the market has great potential.

“Even anime offerings from big brands get sold out very fast despite it being niche — it’s the emotion that people pay for, so I believe with growing exposure, it’s just growing more and more,” she said.

Indeed. while the anime merchandise sector cannot compete with juggernauts like DC or Marvel, one thing is for sure — there are people who sell it, and there are fans who invest in it. The sector has started to make its presence felt in India and it is here to stay.

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