Established primarily to address the need for quality content in India, The Content Company (TCC) took its first steps towards it with the launched teaser of their first four comic books ‘Exposed’, promising to offer a lot more.
In an exclusive interview withAnimationxpress.com’s Ishpreet Chandock, Aruna Balkrishna Singh – Owner of The Content Company talks about her new company, its visions and missions, 4 upcoming comic books and the current scenario in the comic book industry.
Meanwhile here are the excerpts…
First and foremost, many congratulations to your new venture- ‘The Content Company’. Can you tell us the purpose behind establishing ‘TCC’?Thanks so very much and it does feel good starting something like this. The purpose behind setting up TCC was mainly to challenge and revolutionize the way domestic and global audiences view Indian content, especially from a graphic novel / comic’s perspective. For quite long, we have been awestruck with mythology so we felt it was time to diversify a little.
As we know, TCC is broadly divided into two arms – Isai and Oviyam. Tell us more about it? What is the sole agenda of each of them?Isai and Oviyam mean Content and Pictures respectively.
Isai deals with content creation for Indian companies, managing conversations, brand loyalty and curating themes that encourage conversations and recall for companies across India and global markets.
As content marketers, we believe that competitive edge for brand from now on will come from engaged and aware audiences. They want to talk to you and that’s just what content marketing does – it involves your stake holders, engages their interest and ensures their loyalty. Therefore Isai focuses on ensuring these conversations happen and are sustained over a period of time to influence customers into staying loyal, experience and consume more products and as a result, ensure profitability of business, time after time!
Oviyam, our graphic publishing arm, will focus on comics, animation and graphics – creating and encouraging creative writing and subsequent reading habits in children, young adults and adults, similar to what we see in the West. With a talented team of storytellers and artists, we hope to take comic branding away from brands that publish to the artists who create, thereby ensuring more creative ideation and interesting content. Oviyam would also be working closely with technology companies, education institutions and local folk artistes to achieve a thus far unheard of synergy that has mass global appeal with a largely Indian context and heart.
We also hope to promote and sustain traditional Indian artists and art forms thereby creating a small scale industry in itself for content generation and also rural employment, in tune with what is required today in terms of corporate social responsibility and community growth.
In a bullet form, can you tell us the things you would like to achieve with ‘TCC’?With TCC, we would like to achieve the following –
• Create an ecosystem that encourages creativity and originality in writers and artists thereby allowing them to focus on creating literary legacies
• Challenge traditional concepts while introducing new ones and increasing readership across all age categories
• Use comics or graphic interpretations to reach out to wider audiences that have not yet been reached out
• Integrate new age technologies in order to create new reading experiences
• Revive and sustain old folk art of storytelling by creating opportunities and employment
As a company, which are the grey areas you would like to work on?
• New age content that steers clear of clichéd local heroes and mythology
• Introducing new age technology thereby enriching the experience of reading
• Explore newer ways of increasing audiences either by inspiring a love for reading through interesting content or adapting to methodologies that will help us include more people into reading what we write
Do u feel there is a need to address quality content in India – both from original readership and from a marketing perspective?Definitely yes. We still look up to the West for quality content especially from Marvel, DC etc. We need to create local heroes that inspire the wit of a Calvin and Hobbes to the dry humor of Dilbert and something that enjoys longevity like Tintin and Asterix. We need to challenge our writers manifold to create such works that surpass generations and shelf life.
In today’s times, do you feel it’s difficult to be noticed?That honestly, is the one thing we don’t have a problem with. Although we are newbies in the Indian graphic market, our work has been noticed and appreciated by artists and readers alike.
I believe that if you have a strong differentiation USP, conviction to stand by it, courage to put it into action and strong communication to convince your target audience, you will stand out…easily.
Coming to ‘Exposed’ which is the teaser of the 4 new comics for the Indian dispora launched by The Content Company (TCC) India. Can you tell us more about it?Exposed was primarily a first look experiment with teasers of four of our upcoming titles. Since we were looking at introducing new age content to the Indian audiences, we first wanted to gauge their reaction and better understand their inclinations and choices. Their response to Exposed has made us feel extremely motivated as we realize that we are on the right track.
Canon, Parallax, The Masterpiece and Whackopolis are the first four titles to be launched by TCC. Can you please shed more light on it? How was it conceptualized? Can you take us through the whole process?The funny part was three of the four titles had been conceptualized by Harsho, Anupam and Abhijeet quite some time back but had not been published yet, given that these were all different from traditional Indian comics have been so far. I guess we were at the right place at the right time and I am glad that they agreed to launch these with TCC thereby adding impetus to our stand of being different.
Parallax, however, was inspired over coffee with Anupam where we both agreed that we need a vigilante concept that was Indian in essence but more global in outlook and script. What we didn’t realize then was that having a female vigilante would go on to being more than just a concept. Given the current scenario about women and security, this is more relevant now – both to deter and inspire.
With the four titles, you have managed a scoop of sorts with getting artists such as Anupam Arunachalam, Abhijeet Kini and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj to work on the comics? How did you manage that? How was it working with them?Simply put, we have been lucky to work with the likes of Abhijeet, Anupam and Harsho. While Abhijeet and I have worked together earlier and enjoyed great working and personal camaraderie, Anupam and Harsho were chance introductions and I must say that all three have been extremely gracious in agreeing to be a part of TCC, agreeing to showcase their work with us but also most importantly also considering to pushing comfort zones and boundaries. Working with them has been educative, inspiring and truly humbling.
In the field of animation, comics and graphics today, do you feel there is a need to create a brand of work?Definitely yes again especially in India. That’s what we at TCC have set out to do. We have the talent. What we need is some freedom and the urge to break through clichés and relook at stories differently.
Who is your target audience?Our target audience comprises not just current readers and audiences that love reading but we hope to expand this to people who currently don’t seem to enjoy reading and also those who are unable to read, given situations, capability, and resources etc. In short, we want everyone to be reading our comics, whether in India or abroad.
You had a special preview of sorts at Mumbai Film and Comic Con last year. How was the response?The response was absolutely stunning and the Comic Con in Mumbai which was a great platform for us to launch and meet with our artists and readers. The response we received was simply overwhelming. What started as a modest beginning with four titles for TCC soon burgeoned into a massive production with currently 12 – 15 titles under production with newer and established artists.
What are your marketing strategies to promote the titles? Any sponsors or tie ups?We have said, we at TCC believe in doing things differently. Hence, the marketing of our titles will also be different versus the traditional route of tie ups or sponsors. We will be investing in directly in reaching out to our audiences and interacting with them at a ground level, with several interesting events and avenues . What you will see in 2013, will be innovative methods aimed at engaging audiences to revive their love for reading and comics specifically.
Tell me more about yourself, your background, and your journey into this industry?I have been working as a writer for over 14 years starting as a journalist in Businessworld. It has been 14 years of education with memorable stints in Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, UTV, Hanmer etc before TCC happened.
The only constant in this remained my love for books, comics and stories although the methodologies changed. From writing for children, I wrote for brands and corporate honchos, from visualizing for artists, I co-produced award winning documentaries like The Rat Race. The journey has been varied, interesting and crazy but true to the spirit of the bard. Over 14 years, I realized that I not just liked reading stories, I enjoyed telling them too. With TCC, that is what we plan to do – tell stories across mediums, across industries, across varied audiences.
Do you see the current Indian market support and encourage new companies like yours for instance?Yes we do. From readers to potential investors and even the team, we have enjoyed support and encouragement from every quarter. From Abhijeet’s unstinted support from the start to the addition of his wife, Diksha to our team, from working on one title to begin with from Harsho to now working on over 4 titles with him, publishing the best of Anupam’s secret stash of stories to earning the trust of new artists and launching their series, I think we have been very lucky. The best start to our year, however came from twitter when one of our readers tweeted that his copy of TCC comics is one the things he most looks forward to in 2013. That was the icing on the cake.
Would you also be marketing your titles outside India?We will be marketing our titles the world over and also across newer reading appliances and avenues. We are also in talks with several International collaborators to take this forward.
What is the current team strength at TCC?We are a team of 25 likeminded and passionate individuals with different skill sets and growing every day.
Your last assignment was with Hanmer MS&L Communications Pvt. Limited as a Principal Consultant specializing in financial services PR as a communications strategist and consultant. Tell us about the transition? Tell us about your personal journey?While in Hanmer, I would still write for Amar Chitra Katha as a freelance writer so actually the TCC transition is simply the merging of two roles – that of a marketer and brand consultant and that of a writer into one. The simplest way for me to have achieved this was to become a good storyteller – for brands through Isai and for original stories through Oviyam.
I think all my professional training and experiences have come full circle with the inception of TCC. With TCC, I have managed to combine my interests and passion with my profession. TCC is what gets me out of bed every morning, charged with passion and a zeal that 14 years of work outside haven’t managed to do.
Every new start has some bumps and blocks, what did you’ll have to face?The challenges we face are twofold. One, given as TCC is a company with unique product offerings, educating clients and consumers about what we do and how we do it differently is something we face every day. We are an Indian Company that challenges traditional perceptions while ensuring our working, discipline and quality match international standards – a concept that is yet to find resonance in Indian markets but given the progress, we have thus far made, we are hoping to change this soon.
The second challenge is funding. We are so far self funded and as other bootstrapping start ups, we are unable to grow at a pace that our demand is growing. Given the paucity of funds, we are unable to scale up faster as we would ideally want to. But having said that, we are still self sustainable to reach levels we want t, although our pace would then be a tad bit slower.
What else can we expect from you in 2013?Well, you can expect a load of firsts from us in 2013 starting with our launches and marketing strategies as we launch some interesting projects that we have in the pipeline to redefine not just content but even readership audiences.
Additional Comments?We simply hope that 3 years down the line, when we revisit this interview, we would have managed to achieve everything we have said here and definitely more as well.