Amar Chitra Katha, Suppandi, Shambu in the metaverse? This NFT startup empowers Indian brands to manage, monetise iconic IPs
Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) became a rage in 2021, with the Collins Dictionary even making it the word of the year. Amid the crypto and blockchain boom, the world is increasingly becoming aware of how NFTs act as building blocks for peer-to-peer economies in virtual worlds, or the metaverse.
The momentum looks set to continue in 2022 with various NFT startups cropping up, and the likes of NFT marketplace OpenSea recently raising $300 million to accelerate NFT adoption.
Entrepreneur Abinav Varma Kalidindi believes India should not be left behind, and should bring its own iconic IPs and the biggest cultural icons to the metaverse.
To this end, his Singapore-headquartered startup Ikonz came out of the stealth mode in late 2021 with a mission to bring together 50 percent of India’s premium entertainment IPs and brands under a single banner.
“We work with iconic Indian IPs and brands so we can help them tell Indian stories to the world through NFTs and the metaverse. In fact, we have already onboarded Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, and characters such as Suppandi and Shambu,” he tells The Decrypting Story.
Need for IP protection in virtual worlds
Backed by Anthill Ventures and actor Rana Daggubati, Abinav’s NFT startup is essentially a wealth-building platform that supports IP owners, artists, and other established icons to manage their digital assets and participate in virtual worlds in a safe and protected manner.
“It’s a confusing world out there, with numerous virtual platforms, metaverses, blockchains, and cryptocurrencies. It is not easy for IP owners to decide how and where their brands should participate, all without risking their brand reputation. Ikonz helps them navigate the landscape of choosing the right technology as well as monetising and upscaling their IPs,” Abinav explains.
For instance, an owner of an Amar Chitra Katha NFT may be free to take their NFT and theoretically jump to any virtual world, as blockchains powering NFT marketplaces become increasingly interoperable.
However, an Amar Chitra Katha NFT may not fit well in a horror-themed virtual world, and the reputation managers at the brand may want to prevent this from happening.
“Web 3.0 is decentralised, so people can use NFTs in many ways. So, there is a need to protect IPs in terms of where they’re going. It is critical to design the correct methods and the rights and formats for how these IPs will participate in the metaverse, and this is where Ikonz steps in,” Abinav says.
Ikonz also works with Indian brand owners to help distribute the IPs and choose the right partners to do so. This way, Ikonz is aiming to become a one-stop-shop for IP owners looking to dabble in NFTs.
Iconic IPs in the metaverse
Abinav recommends people watch Steven Spielberg’s 2018 science fiction flick ‘Ready Player One’, to understand how brands will participate in virtual worlds.
In the movie, the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future movie series, the titular robot from The Iron Giant, the RX-78-2 Gundam, King Kong, Mechagodzilla, and several other iconic IPs feature as characters or player skins and items inside a 3D, virtual reality game.
“The movie provides the nearest form of metaverse example. NFTs/digital assets of brands will act as the foundational layer for the main business model or economies in the Metaverse. All digital items will become NFTs in virtual worlds. Everyone is a fan of some brand or IP, and so there will be several fan communities in the Metaverse,” Abinav says.
After partnering with Indian IPs, Ikonz takes a percentage of revenues generated from NFTs and also from other opportunities the startup can get for its IP partners in the metaverse, such as in gaming, digital fashion, brand collaborations etc.
Abinav claims this uniquely helps position Ikonz without any direct competition.
“We work with every IP partner exclusively, and we see very few players approaching the market like we are and building global relationships with artists, brands, virtual platforms, fashion designers, etc. We believe we are uniquely positioned in the Indian market,” he says.
Building an Indian metaverse
Although it has ambitious plans, Ikonz is still an early-mover and faces an uphill battle in educating audiences as well as brands on virtual worlds and NFTs. There is still a lot of room left for NFT education and adoption, according to Abhinav.
The year 2022 is expected to bring more stability and maturity to the NFT market, with many more use cases and applications becoming available for NFT owners. In line with this, Ikonz is looking to build its own Indian metaverse and bring stories, characters, and IPs from Indian mythology to the world.
“Historical as well as contemporary stories from India can be brought to the world by partnering with IP owners and giving them a long term plan and space to feature in virtual worlds. One day, maybe we’ll even see movie premieres in the metaverse!,” Abinav says.