9 August 2012

by Aria Rajasa Masna

[Simply Business] Creating Demand From Thin Air

Makko is a comic book publisher with high quality standard that focuses on digital distribution. The company is trying to do the impossible, it's trying to create a market from thin air, something that Nintendo did with its Wii which turned everybody into casual gamers. A move that was then followed by Apple with its iPhone which can make non-gamers be a avid Angry Bird players. It's definitely confident with the talents that it has, but does the market actually exist? If you look around your favorite book stores, you will find it hard to see comic books done by Indonesians.

Our book stores are filled with Japanese, Chinese and Korean comic books, with some American ones, especially the ones that have movie tie-ins to the recent big screen titles. The Indonesian comic books are left untouched and draw interest only for fanatic idealists who are either comic book artists themselves or their friends and family. The industry is pretty much non-existent and it's been like this for ages.

To succeed, it needs to be distruptive to the industry and make a game-changing plan that may drain its capital even more. Yes it has received investment but I'm rather skeptical as to whether it has enough to survive the transition.

For starters, it is the first in Indonesia that pays the comic book artists directly per chapter submitted. Other similar services usually pay the artists with a royalty system which means the money will be delivered months after the comic books are released. This proves to be quite a troubling condition for our local artists which is why from a couple of local artists that I've spoken with, they chose Makko as their main publishing outlet.

Sweta Kartika, a veteran comic artist, claims that the income he gets from Makko exceeds even from traditional publishing through a conventional book store distribution. Something that is rather surprising. He mentioned that he will only get around 10% of the royalty which he will get about 3-6 months after the published date of one complete book. Makko pays per chapter which will be published per month. Monthly payment for 1 chapter vs 1 year of payment worth 10% of your (not so guaranteed) success? That's quite a difference now isn't it?

Makko did it this way because steady financial support is the first problem that local comic artists are facing when working on their art. Although after doing this for a year, they found out that it's not the only problem.

Professionality and quality of talent is another problem. Makko hopes that by paying the artists on a monthly basis, they would make awesome work and stick to the deadline. But that's not the case, numerous delays still happen and the quality is still lacking, at least according to their high standards.

Sunny Gho, the founder of Makko admitted those problems himself and is trying to solve this by working very closely with the artists, giving them guidance and treating them like family so they can grow together. He believes that to create demand, great content, not just good-enough content, is a must.

The other thing that Gho admits is that paying the artist per chapter drains a lot of Makko's capital and that it really needs to find a viable business model to make Makko a self-sustaining business.

Right now it is surviving from sponsors by making events like PopCon Asia and also sponsor-themed comics. I personally think that programs and events will not be a sustainable business model, it needs to figure out how to put non-disruptive (or at least less disruptive) ads to reach sustainability. But ads require massive eye-balls, something that it is still lacking.

In my opinion, it should not focus on monetizing and instead focus on expanding its library further and acquiring a lot more readers in the digital world by making apps for all platform. It should work together with Scoop Magazine to amp up its distribution channel and cut its development cost to pretty much zero. For monetizing, I think its best bet is ads on pages like most American comics. I wouldn't mind a couple of one page ads if I can read comics for free.

I believe that Makko is heading in the right direction, it has big potentials and can be the pioneer that open the door to the greatness of comic industry in Indonesia.. as long as it has the capital to scale.

So, to all Angel investors out there.. Any takers?

Aria Rajasa is the CEO of gantibaju.com, a clothing startup backed by a very strong designer community. His passion in entrepreneurship has gotten him to establish a number of companies in technology and design industries since leaving university.