Samir Jain – COO & Executive Director, Green Gold Animation Pvt. Ltd. speaks about Chhota Bheem’s journey and the future plans to the India Licensing Post’s editorial team.
1. From its inception in 2008: Chhota Bheem emerged as the biggest hit outgunning all the international brands and launching in gamut of categories. What is the current state of play? How many categories are you currently active in?
Chhota Bheem was the first homegrown Indian character and hence Green Gold had the first mover advantage. On the back of this success, other international brands started focusing more on the Indian market and we have enjoyed good competition since. We have stayed ahead of all of them. Having said that, India is a huge market and there is a room for all.
Currently we are doing well in the categories of Apparel, Toys, Food & Beverages, Back to School supplies, Books, Stationery and Home Furnishing.
2. Tell us about the origins of Green Gold and Chhota Bheem?
Green Gold Animation is the brainchild of Rajiv Chilaka. It’s his dream, vision and creation. Back in 2001 when we ventured into animation; it was really a challenging task. With dedication, hard work and lots of patience Green Gold Animation was born.
Chhota Bheem is inspired from Bheema from the Mahabharata. The idea was to create a fictional kid character called Chhota Bheem, who has the similar strength and personality of Bheema but based in a different era, as a commoner. The initial days of creation, fine tuning the concepts, characters, story lines etc. were exciting and challenging. The uphill task was to convince the broadcasters to break into the original content platform since the channels felt safe in running foreign content dubbed in local languages.
3. How has the journey in India been thus far?
In 2001 when we planned to venture into animation in India, it sounded very alien a concept. Today, animation is a promising industry and has geared up to offer a lot more than just entertainment in India. The past few years have seen animation grow and emerge as a serious player. The industry requires not only good talent and creativity, but also cutting edge technology so as to offer the best stories and presentations. Few years’ back Indian Animation Studios were seen as outsourcing hubs for foreign clients. However, with time the situation has changed with more original content and IPs being created locally and successfully. Chhota Bheem is a classic example of one such success story.
4. What are the new initiatives from a content point of view?
Chhota Bheem has completed Nine seasons on air. We have three spin-offs from the show, Mighty Raju, Arjun the Prince of Bali and Super Bheem which are all on TV. Green Gold has also released four theatrical movies till date.
Green Gold has predominantly been working in 2D animation, but in the last two years lot of 3D animation work is also happening. Super Bheem is a 3D animation show. The next theatrical Chhota Bheem movie would also be a 3D animated movie.
5. Chhota Bheem is often cited as one of the key success stories of brand licensing in India. What are some of the things you did right and also any mistakes made that you would like to share for the benefit of the licensing community?
With the success of Chhota Bheem on television, our first plan was to make a foray into merchandising with comics, DVDs, T-shirts and a few stationary items. The sales shot up and the demand touched the skies! This was the time when we started evolving options for brand licensing. We started with Notty, a drink for children and then followed a range of licensing deals cutting across categories. Having said this, we must admit that all licensing deals have not struck gold. This is why I believe that licensing is a long term plan which involves a lot of contemplation, planning and marketing. It was important that brand Chhota Bheem should be in sync with the categories and seamlessly work with the ethos of the show.
6. How important has TV been to the success of Chhota Bheem?
Television has been the biggest generator of viewership for Chhota Bheem. The wide reach and coverage of TV has helped Chhota Bheem penetrate cities, towns and villages in India.
7. What made you want to retain the Intellectual property IP of Chhota Bheem when the norm is to cash out while doing a broadcast deal?
When we launched Chhota Bheem in 2008, we never thought that it would become such a huge and successful IP. Hence our role as creator and producer of the show increased substantially. So it became important for us to keep the IP with ourselves and work on the right mix of stories, animation, licensing, merchandising, retailing, events etc. to ensure that we control all aspects of brand Chhota Bheem.
8. You’ve added a few more characters to the portfolio since Chhota Bheem. Tell us a little more and the thought process behind each of them?
While Chhota Bheem continued to flourish as a successful brand, it was also important for us as an animation studio to work and create new ideas, stories and characters. Mighty Raju, Super Bheem, Krishna The Great, Arjun the Prince of Bali, Luv Kushh, Chhor Police are some of the successful works from our factory. Being an animation studio with an excellent creative force helped us to create new toon heroes like Mighty Raju and Super Bheem.
While Mighty Raju represents today’s kid who is smart and gadget savvy, Super Bheem dabbles in the fantasy world with the stories of a young boy with super powers, a dragon as his friend and the universe as his playground.
Both have been generating a lot of fan following, have been climbing the ladder of success and have been generating buzz in the licensing world. It will be interesting to see them chalk out their success path in licensing.
9. Future plans for Chhota Bheem and Green Gold?
As a company, it’s been our endeavor to keep working and looking for new opportunities. Our primary focus will be on content- creating new animation shows and help expand the animation industry. We recently launched a new studio in Mumbai to cater to the talent and work on exciting projects. Second, is to help and develop the licensing of our brands, make it strong and robust at the same time to work collectively with all the licensors to make the industry powerful and strengthen its dynamics. We are also looking at releasing more feature films; enter new markets through our content across the globe; create exciting products and merchandise; plan more exciting events and activations and ensure that the fun and excitement behind all these efforts keeps growing.
10. How is your retail outlets faring and what’s the roll out plan?
Green Gold Stores are growing at a steady rate. We are looking at newer strategies for the retail outlets.
11. Any last words on the success formula for Chhota Bheem?
The success of Chhota Bheem rests on the team with their unrelenting spirit in making Chhota Bheem what it is today. Their never say no attitude, hard work and perseverance has helped us scale the charts. We also thank Turner Broadcasting for believing in us and supporting us when we needed it most.