Disney may be a household name in most parts of the world, but until recently, the entertainment giant had a relatively small presence in India. That, however, is changing, in part because India is reckoned to have more than 100 million children under 10 years of age. Rajat Jain, managing director of Walt Disney India, says Disney has stepped up its activities in the subcontinent – he now has a team of more than 100. Disney is focused on building “a strong family brand … and leveraging that equity into all the businesses that Disney is well known for, such as making movies, running media networks and TV channels, merchandising products and licensing,” he adds.
The challenge that Disney faces in emerging markets like India, China or Russia is two-fold. First, since these are enormous markets, the company must figure out ways to build distribution for its global products. At the same time, according to Jain, Disney seeks to participate in the local culture. “This means creating content that is compelling but also locally relevant,” he says. “In India we are focused on making locally relevant television content. Soon we will be making local Indian cinema. You have to understand the local needs of your audience and marry that with your global expertise and your global brand.”
This can be a daunting challenge since India, with 27 languages, in some ways is more like a continent than a country. “If you imagine India to be like Europe, that would be far more relevant,” Jain says. “Kashmir [in northern India] is as different from Chennai [in the south] as Finland is from Spain.” In an interview with India Knowledge at Wharton, conducted during the Wharton India Economic Forum in Philadelphia, Jain discusses how he and his colleagues are coping with this challenge.