Like many Indians who came of age in the 1980s, Samir Patil grew up on Amar Chitra Katha comic books. Through fables, religious parables and biographies of historical figures, they introduced him to the great, and lesser-known, stories of India in a didactic format meant for a young audiences.
Patil, a 38-year-old former McKinsey consultant, acquired the publisher two years ago, and today he is betting he can do the same for a new generation of Indian children who are growing up on a staple of television, texting and the Internet.
He plans to broadcast animated versions of the books on television starting early next year. The shows are expected to first appear on Cartoon Network in India, and he is negotiating deals with the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
Patil hopes to take advantage of a vacuum in children's entertainment in India's otherwise bountiful media market. Most television shows that cater to children, for instance, are imported from the United States, Japan and other countries and dubbed into local languages, even though the vast majority of adult programming is produced locally to suit Indian tastes.
“My experience at McKinsey around media and technology convinced me that there is an opportunity to take some of these brands that have been locked into their old worlds and truly rediscover them in other forms,” says Patil, who was on a sabbatical, touring India, when he learned that Amar Chitra Katha was up for sale.
Before the deal came along, he had planned to write a book about the history of ideas in India — a project he calls “my Don Quixote mission.” He has put the book aside for now. Time is at a premium.