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THE ‘SUPERHERO’ OF MERCHANDISING

BY Sweta Pal  |  comments ( 0 )  | 

ersistence pays dividends could be easily described as the motto of Rajiv Chilaka and Samir Jain, CEO and Director, respectively of Green Gold Animation, and developers of the blockbuster Chhota Bheem character. Chilaka, 39 years, worked in the US for a few years after completing his degree in computer science, and was keen to make Indian mythology-based animated content for channels here. In 2004, his company Green Gold Animation made the series Bongo for Doordarshan and subsequently, Vikram Betal for satellite channels. This initial success, encouraged Chilaka, and Jain, who joined the company in 2004, to consider making an animated series - Chhota Bheem, but none of the channels were interested. Instead, these satellite channels were keen for a series related to Krishna and its success during the period ’05-’07, made Chilaka and Jain once again attempt to garner support for Chhota Bheem from channels.

 

The channel - Pogo agreed and the rest is history. Chhota Bheem, which features a nine-year old boy with extraordinary powers and set in a fictional village Dholakpur, and with no relation to the character in the epic Mahabharata, has become the flagship show for Pogo over the past few years. This boy who is brave and intelligent, along with the popularity of his friends - Chutki, Raju, Jaggu Bandar, Dholu, Bholu and Kalia, has resulted in Pogo becoming a leading channel in the kids’ entertainment segment.

And, with everyone in this village including the king ‘looking up to‘ Bheem for solving their problems, along with his ability to defeat demons like Kirmada, Kichak and Mangal Singh, has resulted in this show becoming vey popular. Chhota Bheem’s strength is derived from the laddoos made by Chutki’s mother.

Small to big screen

The success of the TV serial led Green Gold to launch two movies based on this theme - Chhota Bheem and the curse of Damyaan, in 2012, and Chhota Bheem and the Throne of Bali in 2013, and these two box office hits ran for five weeks. “Our TV series has also become immensely popular in Indonesia and we plan to release The Throne of Bali in a local language in Indonesia, too,” said Rajiv Chilaka of Green Gold.

Green Gold also did not follow the international marketing norm, of converting popular movie characters into TV serials. Instead, they first sought to popularise their character via their TV show and create a sufficiently large ‘fan’ base, and then made movies with a similar theme. As part of this strategy, a movie titled, Mighty Raju-Rio Calling is set to be released during the summer of ‘14. Samir Jain of Green Gold, said, “We plan to release a movie every year.”

Creative freedom

Chhota Bheem is currently being telecast in 12 countries including the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North America. The creative team associated with Chhota Bheem highlighted that as this principal character is not shown to grow older, along with being set in an undefined period, it offers them considerable liberty to develop new episodes.

Creativity in this serial is often made via themes like fighting alien attacks, pirates, human clones and mastering Shaolin arts.“Unlike our serial based on Krishna, who was constantly growing and had to be accordingly depicted, at Chhota Bheem the creative canvas is rather wide,” adds Chilaka.

Striking a similar note, Jain, highlighted, if you ask any child where Indonesia is located on the world map, most likely, he will point out to islands of Yopu!

Licensing and merchandising

Green Gold started with designing and producing its merchandise like comics, DVDs and apparel. However, as the popularity of this icon grew over the past few years, Chhota Bheem tied up with a range of products and brands including McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson, Pepsodent, United Biscuits, Usha Fans and Microsoft.

Apart from that, the company’s in–house games division has developed several apps for Android and Apple smartphones, and plans are also on the anvil for launching a Chhota Bheem tablet. These merchandised products are available across the country via a store network of 30 Green Gold stores, along with an e-commerce site related to this icon.

Jain also pointed out they offer more than 3,000 SKUs and products which are priced significantly lower than merchandise of popular international icons available here. In addition, plans are on the anvil to expand their store network to 50, shortly, via the franchise model.

Road ahead

Green Gold is currently focused on expanding the merchandising strategy for Chhota Bheem and as part of this strategy, is working on expanding the range of co-branded products, along with restaurants, amusement parks, live shows and plays related to this theme. In addition, a new show - Arjun would air on Disney channel shortly, while a 3D version of Chhota Bheem would also be released next year.

Clearly, Chhota Bheem is en vogue.

 

 

Our comics and action figures are Bestsellers

 

Retailer: Chhota Bheem is one of the few homegrown licensing icons. Kindly highlight your strategy to stay ahead?

Rajiv Chilaka: We started our operations with four employees nearly 12 years ago, and given the success of Chhota Bheem, our staff base is currently 300. 

Bheem is more than just a superhero, he is an inspiration for young children. In addition, parents also approve of this icon as he encourages ‘good habits’.

As a result, it creates wider licensing opportunities for us – for instance, Chhota Bheem’s presence at events, malls, schools and birthday parties helps draw children, and in turn enhance our brand value. 

 

Retailer: How do you plan to expand your licensing activities?

Samir Jain: We are currently present in several categories including F&B, apparel, toys, and FMCG goods. However, our best selling products are comics and action figures.

Parents spend a large amount related to kid’s activities, and we are constantly evaluating new categories to enter, and the accompanying distribution strategy.

 

Retailer: It has often been observed that popular movie characters are also leveraged in TV serials. However, Chhota Bheem followed an opposite strategy. Why?

Samir Jain: We decided to first create awareness, as well as a large ‘fan’ base for Chhota Bheem. And, once our character was popular via our TV serial, which is currently viewed by nearly 40 million children, it was commercially viable to also have a movie based on a similar theme.

 

Retailer: How do you deal with counterfeits?

Rajiv Chilaka: We have an active legal team and have also conducted raids jointly with the authorities. Apart from that, we have a consumer education campaign to highlight our intellectual property, both with consumers and the distribution network.

 


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