In-depth: How Indian publishers are looking to benefit from NFT bandwagon

With Indian publishers taking the NFT route, connects with them to understand what more one can expect in the days ahead

Roohi Gupta
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In-depth: How Indian publishers are looking to benefit from NFT bandwagon

With Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) gaining ground globally, Indian brands from across categories are now entering the space. Recently, Time Magazine’s Time Pieces and Associated Press’s photojournalism and Pultizer prize-winning images are some of the most-celebrated digital art pieces that have been launched by global media houses as NFTs. 

If reports are to be believed, the most expensive NFT sold by Time was its digital cover of their issue entitled, “Time ‘The Man of the Year’ – January 2, 1928”. The NFT was sold for $ 463,000 last year. 

In India, lately, publishers like Hindustan Times, Free Press Journal, Viacom18 and Chingari have also launched their NFTs. While HT and FPJ decided to launch their own collection of digital art pieces, Viacom18 and Chingari, along with NFTs, are also coming up with their NFT marketplaces. 

While these are the early entrants in the space, experts believe that a lot is going to happen in future as the market holds huge potential. 

However, the investors’ sentiment took a beating following Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s recent announcement during her Budget 2022 speech proposing a 30% tax on crypto and NFT income.  

A recent report by IAMAI Eysa Centre stresses the importance of a future-proof regulatory and legal framework to help the Indian economy derive full benefits of NFT. The report titled “NFTs: A Technological and Legal Primer” identifies several regulatory and legal challenges presently being faced by NFT players in India, which impedes their growth and adoption.

Looking at the aggression amongst the digital art enthusiasts and exponential possibilities the market holds, the need for a legal framework is indeed unavoidable. However, despite being a new market, publishers aren’t shying away from experimenting. They’re well-stocked with their ideas and are prepared for all kinds of risks involved. 

Abhishek Karnani

While speaking with, Abhishek Karnani, Director, The Free Press Journal, says that everyone is learning and understanding what NFTs and digital currencies are and he also compared the Indian markets with that of the West. 

He says, “Now is the time when people are talking about it, there is a buzz around it and surely there is a huge market. One thing that we surely feel is that India is a very mature market as compared to the west.” 

Avinash Mudaliar

To which Avinash Mudaliar, Co-founder, HT Labs, added, “The total market of NFT in 2021 alone was about $ 40 billion and we got tech giants like Meta investing billions of dollars into this space. Even though it seems like the market is riding high, I feel it's just the tip of an iceberg and true potential will be realised when both web 2.0 and web 3.0 merge together.” 

Sumit Ghosh, Co-founder and CEO, Chingari App, said that they wanted to launch their own NFT space so that their creators can generate new and entertaining videos and earn from them. 

“They (creators) will have the power to create content, generate money on Chingari App, and buy/sell content on the GARI NFT marketplace,” he said. 


In the NFT space, what everyone is going gaga over is the charm of owning a digital art piece that has a story attached to it. Be it the Sneaker community or NBA, they’ve all leveraged that craving to monetise through NFTs. 

Viacom18’s Youth, Music and English Entertainment (YME) Cluster, that is known for its pop culture is also foraying into the space with its digital art pieces. The broadcaster gave a sneak peek of its quirky digital art pieces ahead of launching its NFT marketplace – 

Anshul Ailawadi

Anshul Ailawadi, Youth Music and English entertainment cluster Head, Viacom18, had earlier spoken to about the decision. He said, “It’s a natural progression for us as our consumers are already there.”  

Meanwhile, HT Media has rolled out HT Timeless tokens – the digitised versions of original historic creatives published in HT through the decades. The publisher is aiming to leverage its archives and come up with some rare content pieces. 


HT’s Mudaliar, while responding to a query on their plans about NFTs, narrated how they intend to educate the younger generation about the history of India. He said, “Hindustan Times has a legacy of close to a hundred years. Through the course of the century, HT has witnessed and set forth India's most iconic moments to its citizenry. But with the new generation, the mode of communication is changing. We started with the printing press, then moved to websites and apps. Now we are getting ready for web 3.0 where we can effectively connect with younger people and teach about India’s history.” 

FPJ’s Karnani, who considers 2022 as the best year to come up with well documented pieces of information about Independence, said, “With such a history and such a creation, this is the best time to do something like this. I’ve been talking about it and I believe somehow the problem in India is that nothing has probably been documented well enough.” 

“This is the 75th year of Independence and everything that has happened in 1947 anything that is related to 1947 is what we are going to be looking at. We’re going to be looking at the front pages of our archives, news articles and cartoons to put them on the digital NFTs,” he added.

FPJ will be going live with its NFTs at marketplaces and auction houses on August 15, 2022, as per Karnani. 

Purpose and expectation 

On the one hand, while uncertainty still remains on how NFTs will provide monetary benefits to these publishers, one thing that all of them feel very strongly is that they intend to further strengthen what they stand for. 

Viacom18’s Ailawadi, while commenting on their intent behind getting into this space, said, “The benefit is two-fold. One, from a point of view of building a stronger bond with our consumers, in terms of engaging with them. Especially the younger audience who look at many virtual touch points. They are spending most of their time in the virtual world, in any case. And the other reason also is to see from a monetising perspective how it stands out.” 

HT's Mudaliar, who is aiming to be future-ready with NFTs, said, “The main benefit is connecting with the millennials and Gen Z. Not to mention, entering this new space is opening up new challenges and opportunities both internally and in the market. While we keep a close watch on the real-world application of blockchain and related technologies in the media industry, entering the NFT space is our first step to make us future-ready.” 

“Our objective is not to make money through NFT but to be able to tell the story of India and connect to younger generations,” he added. 

Ghosh of Chingari App, while decoding their plan, says that their primary goal is to monetise through NFT space. He narrates that how they are planning to collaborate with the creator community.  

“When a creator lists a video on the $GARI NFT marketplace, we will charge a listing fee. So, let's say it is $1 or $2, this will be equal to 4 or 5 $GARIs. This listing fee will go to the Chingari App. Imagine a million videos being listed on Chingari, so that is like a million dollars every day that we will be earning from the creators,” he said. 

While explaining the transaction fee, Ghosh said, “Any time an NFT gets bought, sold or traded, the platform will charge a 3% fee. Let's say your NFT got sold for $ 1 million, we will make $30,000 out of that.” 

What next? 

With a lot of experimentation and plan ‘B’, brands are trying to leverage every single opportunity to get into the new-age digital world. 

While sharing his plans for FPJ’s NFTs, Karnani said, “This year will be all about 1947 but in the coming years, we’ll also be looking at other content pieces – articles, front pages and cartoons, as well.” 

For the record, the founder of Shiv Sena, Bal Keshav Thackeray aka Balasaheb Thackeray began his professional career as a cartoonist with FPJ. 

Karnani, as he shares another plan of action, says, “We’re just doing this idea right now. So along with NFTs, we’ll also be going to auction houses like Christies to auction our archives.” 

Whereas Ailawadi shared that they are planning an elaborated campaign to promote their NFTs and He says, “We’re evaluating two things. One is the frequency of drops. We’re thinking of whether we should do it every quarter or should we go for a longer duration with more artworks. The other thing that we’re evaluating is the artwork by other artists. 

“Ever since we spoke about it, a lot of people have approached us to showcase their own artwork which we are evaluating from a framework perspective. We’ve been very clear in terms of our proposition to those artists because it gets into the space of shared IP,” he added.

NFT bandwagon