The Financial Express
The comic book industry was valued at $14.69 billion in 2021 by Fortune Business, and was projected to reach $21.37 billion by 2029. Moreover, the popular Japanese art style, manga, which churns out comics to be consumed worldwide, has an industry that keeps on growing—it reached $24.8 billion globally in 2021, and is projected to grow at a 9.7% CAGR. This market has always sparked interest across children and adults, and with the advent of digital media and mass popularisation, it has also spawned sister industries like streaming services (Crunchyroll), merchandise, tourism, video games, and the like.
India has been no stranger to popular comics and their characters—the Indian comic book industry has been around since as early as the 1930s, and the late 20th century also saw the introduction of popular comics like Tinkle, Chandamama, and the mammoth Amar Chitra Katha. However, as Mandovi Menon of Homegrown points out, due to “mammoth foreign companies and the advent of video games, home video, internet and other major technological leaps”, there was a “major decline in the sales of comic books by the late ‘90s and most Indian comic book companies were forced out of the game.” Now, as the mature comic markets of the US and Japan are growing steadily, Indian players seem ready to catch up.
The lack of a proper culture within the country seems to be the most prominent problem; supplemented by the lack of a proper organised industry, notes Kirti Rambhatla, who, in his words, is “a graphic novelist currently observing the Indian market and studying the possible business cycle trends”. Platforms such as Comic Con strive to resolve this. Comic Con India, which celebrated 10 years of its existence in 2021, organised its Delhi edition from December 9-11. And domestic players have also been emerging who take the advantage of a burgeoning interest in comics.
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One such player is River Comics, which is India’s first motion graphics app with voiceovers and music. Founded in 2017, it follows a subscription model with an annual Rs 299 subscription fee. In conversation with FE, Clarence Lawrence, chief marketing officer, highlighted how they intended to bring a domestic touch to an international concept, while also enhancing it technologically. “We have our own titles and artists from all around the world”, he says, albeit after clarifying that the app aims to bring in more people towards the Indian comic culture. The motion graphics add sound to the comics in English and Hindi for now, but they intend to add multiple languages as they grow. They have also collaborated with Bombay Lokal, a hip hop collective, for artwork as well as their anthem, which further elucidates how the company intends to stand out domestically.The Indian comic industry has a long way to go to parallel its international peers, but the emergence of a domestic scene and players can steer it into the right direction.
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