Spacetoon India, the kid's entertainment company, has tied up with Hello Kitty, the brand that has, for decades, been part of life for most pre-teen girls. Spacetoon has formed an alliance with Sanrio Inc, the designer and distributor of Hello Kitty products across the world.
With this tie-up, Spacetoon India has become the official licensing representative of the white cat in India; and all publishing, TV content and merchandising deals would be through Spacetoon.
The company plans to take the brand on-ground, including activities such as meet-and-greet events, licensing and retailing programmes and direct to retail stores.
Rajiv Sangari, managing director and chief executive officer, Spacetoon - South Asia, says, "Hello Kitty has been quite popular amongst girls in India for years now. Since it was not officially represented in the country till now, there have been a lot of counterfeit and pirated products."
He adds that the company is in talks with many brands, including an apparel brand and Sanrio Inc, the international direct-to-retail chain, for exclusive Hello Kitty stores. "We want to build the brand as big and as strong as any of the world's biggest properties on-ground," he states.
With $5 billion in annual retail sales worldwide, Hello Kitty is among the top five license brands in the world. Spacetoon is hopeful that in a year or so, it will be able to generate a sizeable amount in India, "possibly around Rs 15-20 crore retail turnover for the brand," says Sangari.
However, Hello Kitty has been present in India for years now and is available widely. So, the brand will need to address how to make the 'official' goods more accessible and differentiate them from the rest of the Hello Kitty crowd.
"We plan to come out with stringent action against counterfeit and piracy and issue notices to those who illegally come out with the Hello Kitty range of products. The counterfeits mushroom when there is short supply of the product; and since we have come in with the official launch, we would be correcting this measure. It's an ongoing process and would take some time," explains Sangari.
Spacetoon is following a 360-degree model for launching the official version. To achieve this, it has recently sourced international TV content and has launched the Hello Kitty series on its kids' channel, Spacetoon TV.
Kunihiko Tsuji, chief operating officer, Sanrio Company says, "Hello Kitty has already made a remarkable position worldwide and is loved by all age groups. Licensing continues to play a huge part in Hello Kitty's global popularity and we see immense potential in the Indian market for the same. Though it is a challenging endeavour for us, but with the help of our partner, Spacetoon India, who has a reasonable understanding about the Indian licensing industry, we are confident that we will be able to attract Indian marketers and retailers."
Hello Kitty is the most popular character created by Sanrio in 1974 in Japan. It was declared as the Child Ambassador of UNICEF in 1983, and in 2004, it was named UNICEF's Global Special Friend of Children. In 2008, Hello Kitty was appointed Japan's Tourism Ambassador.