There is a war brewing among celebrities. But this one is not being played out in tabloids. It’s over your closet space. Actors, cricketers, retailers, talent managers and licensing firms are all in this to sell you more clothes. And shoes. And accessories.
Last week, actor Tiger Shroff launched his clothing line “Prowl” in partnership with Mojostar, a celebrity-driven house of brands. This is the first company (formed as a joint venture between celeb management firm Kwan Entertainment and merchandising firm Dream Theatre) whose sole purpose for existing is to create new celeb-brands. It has also launched “Just F” with actor Jacqueline Fernandez.
Since 2016, many actors and some cricketers have launched brands to latch onto a segment that, so far, has remained largely untapped. In fact, celeb-led brands, in the overall Rs 4,000 crore ($556 million) licensing and merchandising market, are so nascent that analysts, executives and consultancies don’t know the estimated size of the market.
But celebrities seem convinced that there is money to be made, just like actor Hrithik Roshan has through his brand HRX. Launched in 2014, activewear and fitness brand HRX is a joint venture (70:30) between Roshan and his talent management agency Exceed Entertainment. The company has gotten some things right in the past four years. It managed to get e-commerce platform Myntra on board, first as a licensee, and later, as a majority investor (51%). In the year ended March 2018, HRX crossed a turnover of Rs 140 crore ($19.5 million) in apparel, says Afsar Zaidi, founder and managing director at Exceed Entertainment. He adds that his brand is profitable and projects a doubling of turnover next year. That’s just from the apparel business. HRX also launched workouts and healthy meals in 2017 in partnership with Cure.fit, a Bangalore-based health startup run by Mukesh Bansal, Roshan’s longtime collaborator.
Buoyed by the success of HRX, Zaidi is now planning another apparel brand with a top Bollywood actor, the details of which Exceed didn’t share with The Ken.
And not just Zaidi. The apparent success of HRX, marked by a strong investor, a popular name and decent turnover, is what most celebs and companies entering this space want to ape. “To be fair, HRX has been a pioneer,” says Jiggy George, managing director and founding partner at Mojostar and founder at Dream Theatre. “It started off much earlier. Though it was harder in the beginning, HRX has got it right now, with a strong investor.”
But celebrity licensing is not an easy task. It is difficult to create brands that are extensions of a celeb’s appeal for many reasons. The history of advertising and marketing is littered with examples of products suffering from tricky celebrity associations (and vice-versa). There is also the tall task of making money. Celebrity brands have limited appeal compared to mainstream ones; they usually only strike a chord with the people who relate to celebrities.