"Comic Con India Was Supposed To Be An Experiment, Which Then Became A Life Of Its Own"- Jatin Varma

Business Events | July 26, 2016 | Interview

Comic Con India

The year 2011 was iconic for comic book fans in India as the year saw the birth of one of the most popular event IP’s of the country-Comic Con India (CCI).  With its first edition organized at the Aircraft Bazaar, Dilli Haat; Comic Con India over the years has expanded to 5 cities and attracts over 1,50,000 visitors cumulatively with over 1000 exhibitors at its shows.

In an exclusive conversation with EVENTFAQS, Jatin Varma, Founder, Comic Con India talks about his struggles of creating the pop-culture property, the path that led him there and what can we expect from its upcoming editions.

How did you stumble upon the idea of creating a pop culture event property like Comic Con India?

It was in the middle of a phase where I was a bit frustrated with creating properties that I didn't own. At the same time, I was publishing a humor magazine called Random, which did put me in touch with a lot of writers & artists across the country. So, the idea spawned from a desire to have my own property and to create a platform where products such as my magazine could be sold and marketed. But there wasn't any long-term planning in building a business, it was supposed to be an experiment, which then became a life of its own. 

You were a television producer for Channel V with no background in events before you created Comic Con, so how was a shift to events industry like and what were the challenges you faced?

Yes, I ran my own production house in Delhi, which produced reality television shows for Channel V and indeed I had no events background. While I did produce the Golden Kela Awards (still do); that wasn't really on a scale of an exhibition or entertainment event. I produced a lot of content, not just television, but for online mediums and of course publishing. 

I wasn't really prepared for the challenges that existed in the events and exhibitions space, the dearth of venues and infrastructure etc. So, it was all, on the job learning for me and my team. We were also trying to understand what our event should be as there had never been a convention of this kind ever before in India. Now almost 6 years down the road, I certainly have a better handle on the industry, but one of the key challenges remains the same, venues & infrastructure. And add to that the B2C events are heavily taxed. 

But it's certainly been quite an interesting ride. 

How did you devise the business model of Comic Con India and how profitable is the IP so far?

I did not re-invent the wheel, the model is the same world over for most B2C events, you raise revenue from space selling, tickets, and sponsorships. The same applies to our events, the sponsorship & ticketing are relatively new as we only started ticketing our events in 2014 and pursuing sponsorships in 2015. 

We broke even last year and are currently working towards profitability for this financial year. Like I had mentioned earlier, a key element of our revenue is heavily taxed - ticketing, this burden cannot be simply passed on to the consumer. 

Today international media giants and superstars from around the world attend your convention. How did this transformation from a local event to a national convention happen?

Well, when we started, we were still trying to figure out what our event was supposed to be, the event dynamics are not just driven by the organiser but also by the exhibitors and especially the visitors. Over the past 5 years, we have been evolving and learning as we kept launching new shows and growing the existing ones. 

This transformation was not overnight but came in steadily over the years, we also got into consumer research early on, in order to understand what the visitor wanted and how much he/she would be willing to pay for it. 
Ours is an ever-evolving platform and an expanding tent when it comes to popular culture.

What do you feel has been the driving factor behind the immense success of Comic Con India?

Comic-Con is certainly been driven by our visitors and fans, without their enthusiasm, we wouldn't have reached where we are currently. Also, our exhibitors also play a key role in this, some of them have been with us since day one, we have built strong relationships with them, they play an important role in driving our growth. 

And most importantly, the event is only successful because of the team working on it, over the past 5 years, I have worked with a great set of people who have helped me build the events up from scratch. It has always been a team effort. 

What are your thoughts on the comic book publishing industry and pop culture in India?

It's a mixed bag, the amount of content that is generated year on year is certainly a lot more than what it was when we started back in 2011. However, the distribution and retail bit has gotten worse in the past 5 years, with most of the bookstores shuttering and the e-commerce push dying down. 

Having said that, there are a lot of passionate creators in the industry, who despite the odds keep at it. It's not really a business for most of them, it's more of an activity driven by passion. It's mostly individual driven efforts that are keeping the industry alive. 

What is the business Comic Con India does with reference to merchandise sales only from every edition of the property in each city?

We discontinued our own merchandise line in 2014, in order to keep our focus solely on the events. However, we do plan to bring back our own dedicated line of merchandise with exclusive tie-ups with IP owners in the coming year. But, it's far too early in the planning stage for any sort of revenue targets.  

What plans do you have to further boost the property in the upcoming years?

We plan to keep focusing on growing our existing portfolio of events and hopefully keep adding a few more cities (with venues obliging). We also wish to add a new category of events to our portfolio in the pop-culture space. So the coming 3 years will see a lot of new and interesting stuff from Comic Con India.

Also Read: Comic Con India to Conduct Beginners’ Cosplay Workshop in Hyderabad

In conversation with EVENTFAQS, Jatin Varma, Founder, Comic Con India talks about his struggles of creating the pop-culture property, the path that led him there and what new we can expect from it.

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