Chhota Bheem is today’s hero for most five-year-olds, and its maker, Green Gold Animation, has struck the right chord in this market by doing a few things right – getting parental approval, instilling values and virtues among the children, getting the consumer connect, collaborating to grow and most importantly, believing in its vision. Now, the key to their continued successful presence will lie in their ability to sustain that interest and stay updated with the changing trends
I visited Hong Kong last winter and my joy knew no bounds when I entered the world of my favourite cartoon character – Mickey Mouse – in Disney Land. I became a child again and I relived my childhood days – times when any Mickey Mouse cartoon on television (which was very limited) would just drive me nuts. Those days, Doordharshan used to telecast these cartoons only for half an hour every Sunday morning. But, every Sunday was just not enough and the weekly wait was even harder during summer vacations. And hence, my mother’s friend who lived in the U.S. sent us six cassettes of recorded Mickey Mouse series.
I would be stating the obvious when I say things have changed now. Not the craze part, but the channel explosion and excess content for children. When my little boy started watching television, he was hooked on to many cartoons, most of whose names I cannot even recollect. But, two of them held his interest for a long spell, which can almost be described as that craze I felt during my younger days for Mickey! One was Ben 10, a story about a 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, and the other was Chhota Bheem, adventures of a small boy named Bheem in the fictional city of Dholakpur. Of the two, Chhota Bheem caught my attention and I started watching it along with my son. The story behind Chhota Bheem, the first ever Indian animation character to have its own line of branded merchandise and exclusive stores, brought back that childlike thrill in me. And when my colleague got an opportunity to interview Rajiv Chilakalapudi, founder and managing director of Green Gold Animation, I wanted to hear their story and bring it to our readers.
Here’s what I like about the Chhota Bheem story.
In my mind, the biggest hurdle that Chilakalapudi crossed was in getting my approval, as a parent, for my son to watch the cartoon. The basic ideals of the series – clean content, no blood, gore or dark mysteries make it a good view for the innocent audience. This apart, the show instills certain values among the children like the importance of friendship. Bheem and his friends Chutki, Ramu and Jaggu work together in solving many mysteries by encouraging and praising each other.
Chhota Bheem cartoons don’t connect with their audience just during its half an hour sessions on Pogo channel. The team at Green Gold has worked out a combination of factors that ensures consumers connect with the brand even outside the small screen world. It has come out with Chhota Bheem T Shirts and other merchandise which ensure day-to-day connect with its viewers. The makers have taken Chhotta Bheem to the big screen as well and plan to make it a yearly feature. The craze that my son and nephew have for their own version of Chhota Bheem ladoos gives a strong connect and recall to the brand Chhota Bheem.
Any management expert will tell you about the advantages of collaborative effort. Green Gold has partnered with Turner International India Pvt. Ltd, which owns Cartoon Network and Pogo channels, to keep Green Gold updated on viewer responses to its shows and the team then analyses and makes necessary adjustments to it based on the feedback.
The biggest winning point for Chilakalapudi is his belief in his vision and the creation of Chhota Bheem. During the making of the first season of the cartoon, an international organisation wanted to outsource an animation project to Green Gold. But they felt the company’s vision was myopic when they realised the whole studio was working only on Chhota Bheem. But, Chilakalapudi stuck to his strategy and went on build the Chhota Bheem brand to what it is today.
Chilakalapudi and his team are aware that they need to constantly innovate to keep Chhota Bheem’s popularity high and come up with fresh concepts to retain the interests of the smarter, yet fickle younger generation! Sustaining its connect with its audience and acquiring the ability to jog back to their childhood memories several years from now, like how I react even today when I am with Mickey, will be its true measure of success.