Comics' publishers, once lamenting dropping sales as youth turn to the internet and other media for entertainment, are now laughing all the way to the bank after providing their works on mobile phones to attract the generation on the move.
According to industry estimates, two major comics publishers Amar Chitra Katha and Raj Comics are between them raking in Rs.500,000 to Rs.700,000 per month from m-comics and with a third player, Diamond Comics, set to join the fray, the figure can only climb higher.
Says Rushabh Sanghvi, marketing head of Amar Chitra Katha: "After attaining unmatched reach in all corners of India, we could not stay away from launching m-comics as that's the future."
They, in fact, were the first to launch m-comics in India last January.
"We have a market in 30 cities and to compete with the high-tech entertainment possibilities available, we have launched m-comics with the support of all the leading service providers. We are happy with the result," Sanghvi told IANS.
Several service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Docomo, Idea and BSNL have developed m-comics platforms, some using Java-based applications which have to be first downloaded to the mobile before the comics can be viewed. Others are using Multi-Media Messaging and WAP subscriptions to deliver the comic strips.
Compatible with all GPRS or WEP-enabled handsets, customers are charged Rs.10-25 per week for 10 or more for the comic strips, depending on the service provider. And, with the launch by private operators of 3G services in September, the quality of the content is bound to improve.
Raj Comics is another big name in the industry. Since its inception in 1984, it has created some of the most popular characters like "Nagraj" and "Super Commando Dhruv".
According to Sanjay Gupta, studio head of Raj Comics, it launched m-comics seven months ago as sales were down and youth were found to be distancing themselves from comics and turning to the internet for recreation.
"We have comics for all tastes. The variety is a big reason why we have a huge readership, he added.
Diamond Comics is now planning to enter the fray.
"The world is turning high-tech and so are we. If we want to reach everybody, we have to be everywhere. We are already leading in print. And we now are in the process of launching m-comics also," Gulshan Rai, managing director of Diamond Comics, told IANS.
He said the company is working on the project with many service providers. "We would be on air in July for sure," he added.
All this is good news for youngsters.
"I am happy that my favourite comics characters are available on my mobile phone," said 17-year-old Sudesh Srinivas.
"Travelling will be fun now," said 30-year-old Rachit Tyagi, who is a sales agent with a private company and travels a lot.
This is perhaps why new content providers are jumping on to the bandwagon. One of them is Level10 - the comic jump and it is targeting grown-ups as well.
Shrayas Srinivas, the creator of the brand, is very sure about the success of his m-comics.
"We are new in the market, but we have lots of hope. Comics are the best source of passing the time. With m-comics, one can read them any time, anywhere. Just imagine all the fun," he said.