New Delhi: Riding on popular superhero-like characters Shaktiman, Nagraj and Chacha Chaudhary, Indian comic books have come a long way. They are expected to grow by leaps and bounds into a Rs.300-400 crore industry in the next decade.
"The comic book industry is growing at a stable rate. Right now it is a Rs.50 crore to 100 crore market and I feel that in the next 10 years, it will be a Rs.300-400 crore industry," Karan Vir Arora of Vimanika, which has a turnover of Rs.4 crore, told reporters.
In India, about 200 comics are published in a year.
It is an exciting time for the industry, says Jatin Varma, founder of Twenty Onwards Media, and feels the annual event Comic Con India will help the industry grow and bring comics and the graphic art medium to a whole new generation of fans.
When asked about the industry`s performance in the last 60 years, he said: "I think saying 60 years is going back too much, though the industry traces its roots back longer than that; comic titles didn`t come out till about 40 years ago. Though there has been a steady growth, the late 1990s and early 2000s was one of the slowest periods.
"However, the past five years have seen a resurgence, with new labels being formed and new titles being published. A whole new genre of graphic novels is also being created."
The comic book took off in India when cartoonist Pran tried to penetrate the domination of foreign titles by giving the country its first comic characters Dabu and professor Adhikari in the 1960s and later introduced Shrimatiji. He continued with his experiments and came out with one of the most popular comic pairs, Chacha Chowdhary-Sabu, in 1973.
Around the same time, Anant Pai of the India Book House launched the series Amar Chitra Katha in 1967. His aim was to tell children stories of historical and mythological figures.
Generations of Indians also grew up on international comic book heroes like Phantom and Mandrake the Magician.
Writer Adhiraj Singh points out that there has been considerable growth in the industry in recent times and that graphic novels are finally getting into the Indian scene.
"Comics have always been a `niche` or at least non-mainstream industry. In India, particularly, the main factors hampering growth were stagnation in terms of content and quality. But the recent rise in comics has led to a wide range of styles and comics as well as a huge rise in quality," he added.
Adhiraj, whose recent offering is "Uud Bilaw Manus!", says about 10 publishers are involved in the comic business right now.
"Speaking purely about comics, there are about 10 publishers, but if one takes into account comics in all its forms, like graphic novels, illustrated books, licensed reprints, and collected comic strips, then publishers like Penguin, Random House, and the Times Group would also be counted, making the total to be closer to 25," he said.
"There is no unified organisation; so there is no one to take note of the `problems` with the industry. Due to the nature of the medium, which has a long preparation period, and delayed returns on your work, there are always problems in it," he added.
Karan Vir feels competition is not tough, adding there is a dearth of trained writers as well.
"There are a lot of aspiring writers, but they have to be trained to write for comic books. It is not easy to write comics. Vimanika is planning to start training institutes in the next three years," said Karan Vir.
People in the business are thinking of new ways to promote the industry.
"We are expanding the Comic Con brand and taking it to different cities. Though the main event, the Annual Indian Comics Convention, will be annually held in Delhi, Comic Con Express, starting this year, will bring the same atmosphere of the main convention to new fans in different cities.
"In addition to that, we are planning a slew of activities to promote local artists and writers and generate more interest among fans," said Varma.