NEW DELHI: India's licensing industry has enormous potential according to a leading industry figure, but is currently held back by a haphazard approach and a poorly developed retail sector.

Jiggy George, founder and CEO of the Dream Theatre licensing agency, explained to Best Media Info that consumers were aware of brands and that even niche properties – such as the Simpsons – still constituted a very large market in a country the size of India.

"But what we don't have is proper organised retail and a good environment to support licensing," he said. "As retail grows, there will be more organised businesses and [the] licensing industry will just grow exponentially."

It is already a significant market, valued at more than $550m, although only a tiny part of a global market worth some £150bn.

"It is very easy to acquire licenses in India," George said, "but to build a licensing programme is tough." He felt that the Indian market could learn some useful lessons from the West, not least the importance of building brands.

"Licensing is all about building brands, but, in India, a majority of them get it wrong because they want to start with licensing without building brands," he said.

He further observed that in the West licensing was a central plank of a strategy and not an afterthought. That included some insight about which products to partner with. "We have this tendency to slap [a character on] products which don't make any sense," he said. And while that might make money in the short-term it was not sustainable over a longer period.

In his own work George had chosen the cartoon characters Tom & Jerry for use on the packaging of a Parle cream biscuit brand. "Both these characters stand for a playful nature and the duality of their nature also gets reflected in their product," he explained.

Hollywood studios have been an enthusiastic exponents of licensing, tying in all sorts of merchandise to the release of their latest blockbuster, so it's a little surprising that Bollywood has not followed suit.

But, as George outlined, this was a consequence of the short film cycle in India. "A movie gets released, enters the Rs 100 crore club, and then vanishes. So, it does fantastic for the film business, but it is not a great business for the licensing industry." There were opportunities in sequels, however, since they are already established brands.

Data sourced from Best Info Media; additional content by Warc staff