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Strike the local chord

For TV channels and now business publications too, reaching out effectively in India translates to not just talking the local language, but creating relevant local content, reports Saurabh Turakhia.
Hindustan Times | By Saurabh Turakhia
UPDATED ON APR 17, 2008 09:35 PM IST

Media managements agree that localisation is important, that striking the right local chord is an imperative now. Be it Disney coming up with an all-Hindi channel or publications coming up with regional editions. While foreign content for television and films dubbed in local languages has been popular for some years, these days, content owners don’t hesitate to spend time and energy to produce local content. Across segments including animation, broadcasting, publishing and film-making, the trend is getting to be fairly established.

In January 2008, Disney entered a licensing agreement with Popular Prakashan, a leading publisher in India, to publish classic Disney storybooks such as The Jungle Book, Aladdin, The Lion King, Winnie the Pooh, Bambi, Cinderella, Tarzan, and Peter Pan, in Hindi and Marathi.

Localisation is sort of a buzzword today, when globalisation creates saturation in some markets and boom in others. Says Monica Tata, vice president, advertising sales and networks, India & South Asia, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd, “Localisation has been a key part of our India strategy. But what is even more important is to have local flavour and relevance in every aspect, be it programming, marketing or distribution. With aggressive localisation, we have succeeded in maintaining our strong leadership position in the kids’ entertainment television space with Cartoon Network and POGO, for over a decade.”

Tata refers to original productions such as the Indianised version of Sesame Street, titled Galli Galli Sim Sim, and the arts show M.A.D. (Music, Art and Dance), a dedicated kids’ awards show. She promises more localised original productions for 2008, including M.A.D. (Season VI and M.A.D in Singapore), Sunaina and C.I.A- Season II. “We are expecting to produce over 200 hours of original production in 2008.”

Tata says that Turner has approached localisation from multiple aspects such as marketing, programming, language, merchandising and distribution. “Realising that cricket is a near-religion in India, we came up with ‘Toon Cricket’-Cartoon Network’s signature event.” Besides carefully dubbed English language programmes, Cartoon Network has shown television premieres of Indian animation movies Bal Ganesh, My Friend Ganesha, and Krishna Aayo Natkhat Nandlal. Recently, Pogo acquired Chhota Bheem, its first Indian animation series. Plans are afoot to set up Cartoon Network and Pogo theme parks in India.

Turner has recently also decided to launch its animation theatrical business and a Hollywood movie and series' channel in association with Warner Brothers in India.

“We will produce two Hindi animated movies a year starting mid-2009,” says Anshuman Misra, managing director of Turner International India. Turner Broadcasting System recently invested in Miditech and entered into a Hindi general entertainment channel partnership with the Alva Brothers.

It is not just kids’ channels that are reaping the awards of localisation. Says Neel Chowdhury, vice president — marketing, CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz, “Post launch, CNBC Awaaz has ensured that the business genre grows from 10 million to 50 million. Almost 60 per cent of the growth has been possible only because of its interactive content and localisation through catering to different viewers. Rather than dilution of brand equity, localisation has provided us with growth and consolidation by bringing in more and varied advertisers.”

Tata agrees: “Localisation only strengthens the brand equity further – it becomes more relevant and therefore it has a wider audience and reach; it thus becomes more bankable.”

Chowdhury is of the view that localisation goes beyond just making content available in a regional language. It is, he says, about picking up various nuances of the target market and coming up with relevant content.

“A trader in Gujarat will have completely different issues than someone in, say, Punjab. It becomes imperative for us to have local flavors in our programming. Moreover, there is a new-found confidence and income growth among middle India – they've taken center stage. In response, we have shows such as Stock Talk Aapke Shaher Mein where we go to small towns and take stock specific queries, or Hum Honge Kamyaab, where we counsel today's youth from small towns on career options.”

Chowdhury insists that this trend will grow in the future. “Even as we speak, we're laying out plans for a very challenging series where we teach financial planning to the masses in an initiative called Money Yatra. We've tied up with the Post Office for this. Over the year, we'll travel to 32 small towns explaining to the people there how to manage their money.”

L Subramanyan, CEO of Chandamama, the 60-year-old homegrown brand, claims localisation is behind the magazine’s long-standing success. “The essence of Chandamama is localised content. Since we have been there in 14 languages with Indian culture and heritage, our language editions are examples of localised content and language. There is a huge interest in advertisers for local content in local languages.”

The recent spate of regional editions (Hindi, Gujarati) of business dailies reinforces the fact that marketers are speaking to the consumers in a language that they understand. It makes business sense.

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