Ruchika Jha

We want to be synonymous with anime in India: Akshat Sahu, Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll’s director of marketing (APAC) delves into the platform’s growth in India, collaborations, and embracing localised content.

The anime genre is experiencing rapid growth in the entertainment industry, spanning theatrical releases, streaming platforms, and television.

According to research done by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group, the Indian anime industry is projected to grow at a 13.30% compound annual growth rate within 2023-2028.

The anime OTT platform, Crunchyroll, initiated its marketing activities in 2023 to drive awareness and concerted efforts to grow its subscriber base. It is home to genres including Shonen, Shojo, and Seinen. Anime like One Piece, Jujutsu Kaisen, The Kingdoms of Ruin, Rurouni Kenshin, and Goblin Slayer are some of the popular shows on the platform.

One of the prominent IPs of Crunchyroll is Solo Leveling, an anime which released on January 6, 2024. Akshat Sahu, director of marketing, APAC, Crunchyroll, states that the platform has been receiving encouraging responses for over a year and a half.

Akshat Sahu, director of marketing, APAC, Crunchyroll
Akshat Sahu, director of marketing, APAC, Crunchyroll

“We have grown considerably, thanks to all our efforts on content, localisation, marketing, and publicity. There is a huge potential for anime in India as we estimate that the current fandom for anime in the country is pretty large and we are trying to cater to and serve these fans who are looking for options like Crunchyroll to stream anime at their convenience in the language of their choice,” he says.

Sahu says that Crunchyroll has over 13 million subscribers globally and India is a growth engine for the company. He explains that the team reaches out to anime fans with all the touchpoints they have in India and fans love Comic Con.

“We are seeing more and more popularity and engagement with anime within the sphere of Comic Con, so it is a very great platform for us. We are also conducting fan screenings of popular shows, which we dub in local languages to make anime more accessible.”

Crunchyroll adheres to the principle of selecting brand ambassadors based on their genuine passion for anime, prioritising genuine appreciation of anime over mere celebrity status. In 2023, Crunchyroll collaborated with Tiger Shroff and Rashmika Mandanna as brand ambassadors, recognising their shared enthusiasm as anime buffs.

Sahu notes, “We have been associating with talent across the globe and are trying to associate with celebrities who are fans of anime because we need to be authentic. We are not looking at leveraging any celebrity power to reach our fans. Anyone we associate with, whether they are small/micro/nano influencers or big names like Tiger and Rashmika, we make sure that they are already into anime. We want to be synonymous with anime in India.”

We are also making sure that our dubs are not losing the original essence of the storyline.

OTT platforms like Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar offer various anime shows, but mostly in foreign languages. On the other hand, Crunchyroll is focussing on localising a lot of its content in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu languages.

According to Sahu, dubbing anime content in these languages makes it more accessible and palatable for Indian audiences. “We are seeing a significant uplift in our consumption. Hindi and other dubs are doing pretty well on our platform. It clearly shows that localising languages is helping more and more people watch anime. We are also making sure that our dubs are not losing the original essence of the storyline.”

We want to explore all 360-degree mediums to make an impact and try and reach our audience.

Talking about Solo Leveling, the company’s hottest offering and will soon release its third episode, Sahu says that the show is essential because it is available only on Crunchyroll in India as of now. “It has released two episodes and we have got a lot of positive feedback, viewership, and traction. It is important that we continue to build a library with shows such as Solo Leveling to increase the fandom and also to cater to fans who are already waiting for such shows,” he adds.

Crunchyroll seeks to strengthen its position as a leading anime platform in India, among its various key objectives. Sahu is of the view that the platform sees value in doing on-ground events and screenings for effective community-building and marketing. “While digital is our preferred medium of choice, we will not be limited to that. We want to explore all 360-degree mediums to make an impact and try and reach our audience.”

Anime serves as a potent instrument in Japanese advertising, and Akihabara, a neighbourhood in Tokyo, stands as the focal point of the country's anime culture. The out-of-home (OOH) advertising in Akihabara captivates every anime enthusiast globally. Regarding the prospect of introducing similar OOH advertising for anime in India, Sahu mentions the company’s ongoing efforts in cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.

OOH ads in Akihabara, Tokyo
OOH ads in Akihabara, Tokyo

“OOH is an important medium because it visually lends itself to what anime can do. We did an innovative OOH display on bus shelters in Hyderabad and Chennai. It was when we launched the Telugu and Tamil dubs for Jujutsu Kaisen. Using OOH creatively to bring the entire visual element of anime alive is key and we are trying to do some of these innovations to expand in India,” he adds.

OOH advertisement of One Piece anime
OOH advertisement of One Piece anime

India’s increasing consumption of anime content

The consumption of anime content in India is experiencing a notable upswing, signifying a transformative shift in entertainment preferences. This surge underscores the dynamic evolution of India's media landscape, with the genre taking centre stage in the hearts of its growing audience. Sahu foresees the Indian market to be the second largest market for anime behind China in the coming few years.

“There are estimates by Google indicating that over 100 million people are already consuming anime in various forms. We believe that these audiences need to be served and catered in the best possible manner and Crunchyroll is perfectly positioned to serve anime fans and get them to experience it the way it should be.”

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