Rajiv Chilaka: Renaissance Man
The gilded future of Green Gold Animation
Founder & CEO
Green Gold Animation Pvt Ltd
n 1955, Walt Disney was famously quoted as saying, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
Certainly, the spirit of Walt has echoed through time and space, and in this story, we focus on how it sparked the dream in one man, millions of miles away in Hyderabad, India.
Destined to be an engineer, Rajiv Chilaka – armed with a master's degree in Computer Science – was hopelessly bitten by the magical bug that impelled Walt himself all those decades ago. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Chilaka is more popularly known as the man who owns the largest animation production company in India that caters primarily to children. In fact, for his awe-inspiring work and pioneering acumen in presenting cartoons at affordable price, Chilaka was bestowed an honorary doctorate of humane letters by the Academy of Art University (San Francisco) in 2016.
Walt would have been proud.
Based on 2016 numbers, China and India, in addition to the top 5 most populous countries in Asia Pacific, offers more than 834.3 million children (Statista 2017*). And we haven’t even added the remaining 17 APAC countries of significance. The region alone holds more than 60% of the global population.
This statistic shows the share of the child population in the total population in the Asia Pacific region in 2016, by country. In that year, approximately 31 percent of the population of Nepal were children, amounting to almost 8 million kids.
It is a compelling sum when it comes to not just offering entertainment on TV for these young ‘uns, but searching for favourable circumstances to inspire young minds and hearts across the region. Chilaka is set to become that muse of motivation; a soul that can only be described as some kind of wonderful, especially when you realise what a daunting task it can be for Chilaka, where his lowest hanging fruit alone – which is the Indian sub-continent, including Sri Lanka – accounts for over 23% of the world’s 7.5 billion people (April 2017).
The man behind the super human world of a boy named Bheem (pronounced, Beam), Chilaka has taken this iconic character on the Indian cartoon panorama to mind-boggling heights.
“Green Gold’s Licensing & Merchandising business took shape in 2008, and has steadily added 3,000 SKUs, 100 product categories, and 15 stores, alongside a bouquet of games and apps.
“It all started when we received unprecedented demand for our comic books. We then started character licensing across categories, such as action figures, stationery, F&B, apparel and furnishings.
“When we forayed into the licensing business, the licensing industry in India was still at a very nascent stage, despite the long presence of Disney. The major challenges included the lack of licensees who had any high standards of manufacturing, sales, distribution and integrity. Further hurdles comprised educating them, as well as managing piracy,” Chilaka explained.
Bewitched by Bheem
Chhota Bheem was introduced to kids almost a decade ago and now enjoys cult status. Then, taking an overwhelming feedback from consumers who desired the experience of Bheem in their everyday lives, outside of the TV world, Green Gold Animation diversified.
“Our diversification was key to driving greater affinity for our characters and building a long tail business model,” Chilaka illuminated. “The last few years were very successful, but we still have a long way to go.
“True success for Green Gold’s diversified domains will be when we achieve category leadership and scale across all regions where our content is broadcasted and beyond,” said Chilaka, who is steadfast in the animation style of the IP productions from Green Gold, described as one entrenched in traditional art.
The story telling of the content, as well has its own distinct style in script and production have all been beautifully woven together with a touch of Indian culture to elevate Bheem’s global appeal.
Moving forward, a carefully crafted strategy is needed to take the business to the next level of growth. “We have a huge number of enquires and requests for partnering with our licensing and merchandising business. However, we do have to ensure our characters are not over exposed, and we do not enter the wrong categories,” said Chilaka.
“We aim to scale the business up with the right product and consumer strategy. We want our characters to be timeless, and our licensing and merchandising business to flourish for a long, long time.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Green Gold’s shows are very popular in India and among the South Asian communities. In fact, it has been garnering top ratings for the last 8 years, drawing inexorable viewership. Chilaka noted that growth outside of the Indian subcontinent clearly comes from the ASEAN region, notably Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. With this, Green Gold now endeavours to extend themselves further to other countries in the territory.
But of course, popularity has its price. Piracy in Green Gold’s merchandising of its shows, Chilaka believes, is paying a genuine compliment of how successful the company is in this category. It clearly indicates that the demand is superior to the supply and Green Gold is no doubt working towards bridging this gap, while re-enforcing stringent measures to curb this criminal act once restricted to the high seas.
Into the future
And so we wondered if Green Gold’s success will depend on sticking to core characters, or start expanding outside its core content and develop IP through new paths.
Chilaka feels it will be a mix of both.
“Our core characters depend on strong storytelling and action adventure. Today, visual comedy and humour are doing well. Broadcasters are always looking for simple, but unique content and shows with a heart – stuff that kids can relate to in this day and age.
“We believe there's a need for character-based stories with universal appeal. We are not looking at just one ‘next big character’. We are looking at seven to eight big characters, so that the company can sustain itself for the next few decades.”
The animation industry is definitely evolving. Why, Theme Parks could very well be the next frontier for Green Gold. For now though, they are investing heavily on its creative talent and robust infrastructure. When you have access to a treasure trove of talent and passionate leadership, says Chilaka, it is bound to set a new precedence.
“Green Gold will do its very best to serve its core audience in the APAC region,” declared Chilaka with conviction. “How big the story unfolds, only time will tell.”
Catch Green Gold Animation’s Rajiv Chilaka on Nov 30 at ATF’s Production Day –Panel: The 360 Experience Kids Want