Have you imagined owning a piece of land next to the palace of the Pandavas in Hastinapur? You could soon be able to do it on Metaverse. You could even own the chariot that brought Arjuna into the battle of Kurukshetra. It may sound like fantasy, but the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Metaverse promise to make comic stories and characters that most of us have grown up reading, not just larger-than-life but also make us a part of that universe.

One of the first NFT drops of an Indian comic character was that of 'Chakra – The Invincible', created by the legendary Stan Lee (creator of iconic characters such as Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men and Iron Man). The first drop, which took place on December 27, released 6,865 unique art pieces based on characters and sold out within 51 seconds. The second release, the following day, contained 5,400 NFT comics that also got sold in less than a minute. People from 14 countries participated in the auction, 22% of the audience being from India.

“When we created ‘Chakra - The Invincible’ our goal was to launch a character that would transcend countries and cultures, bringing together ideas from east and west by speaking in the primal language of human imagination. We wanted to introduce one of the first big Indian superheroes to the world giving new representation to over 2 billion South Asians. This NFT project has stayed true to that initial vision and succeeded in becoming the first major, and most successful, US-India NFT partnership,” says Sharad Devarajan, Co-Founder & CEO, Graphic India, who co-created the character of Chakra along with Lee.

Digital IP company Ikonz has recently acquired content rights for the iconic Indian comic series Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. Abinav Kalidindi, founder and CEO, Ikonz, says that popular characters such as Shambu, Supandi and a host of others such as the Pandavas would soon have digital avatars on Metaverse.

“We will modernise the characters, keeping the original values. We will do editions of Amar Chitra Katha covers and release them as NFTs. The stories would be accessible to users only if they own the cover as an NFT. If the token holder owns an NFT, the additional content and benefits would be air-dropped,” Kalidindi explains.

The stories would be narrated in 3D formats and would have a virtual reality element. There would be games too. So, a consumer, hypothetically, can not just fight the battle of Kurukshetra, they could even own a chariot or a bow and arrow NFT, which could also be traded.

Priyanka Khimani, founder of Khimani & Associates (a global IP & media rights consulting firm), says the IP ownership in the Metaverse and NFT world is an extension of the physical world. “If somebody wants to take posters or a studio’s catalog and sell it as digital art, they would be using the studio’s copyright and would hence have to take permission from the studio. If one wants to create a digital avatar of a character of a particular film even then they have to approach the studio which has produced the original content. But if they want the character to have movement or talk, they may need to go to the character and ask him/her to render services as a performer,” she explains.

How would one monetise a digital avatar of Supandi on Metaverse or how much would one have to pay for a Tinkle cover NFT? Kalidindi says they will keep the price points as close to a physical comic (a physical copy of Amar Chitra Katha would cost around ₹100) initially.

“We have to first create a mindset of owning digital assets. India is a value-conscious market so we will bring in a lot more value for the NFTs or the stories. Even if they have to spend a slight premium, the NFT and Metaverse version would be loaded with value,” he says

Owning a NFT of a comic would also enable a token holder to trade it. Devarajan of Graphic India explains, “When I used to go to a comic store or a comic convention, I could trade or sell them however I wanted. However, if I buy a digital comic book on a platform like Kindle or iBooks, it may exist in that digital platform for me to read it anytime I want, but I can’t take it to other platforms. And more importantly, I can’t sell it to someone else. Even though the cost may be pretty close to the physical price. NFT’s solve that problem with blockchain ownership – replicating the way a physical collectible can be rare and traded.”

Khimani cites an example from the world of brand endorsements. Celebrities often endorse apparel and lifestyle brands. If they are spotted wearing a Gucci jacket or a Tag Heuer watch, it is invariably a brand endorsement.

“In the world of Metaverse, the same celebrity can have his/her digital avatar who could wear the same Gucci jacket and watch a fantasy sport in a digital sport. People can buy that digital merchandise as it would have value attached to it. So, the IP is the same, only the ways of communicating it are different,” she explains.

Brands across the globe have started investing in brand-building on Metaverse. Apparel brand H&M recently announced that it would be offering a three-dimensional shopping experience to its consumers on its virtual store on Metaverse via CEEK city. While those clothes can only be worn in the digital environment, consumers can also order them from the physical stores later.

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