Disney’s beachhead

Modi’s first co-venture with the Walt Disney Co. was the Disney Consumer Products division (51% owned by Disney), launched in January 1993.

This division initially set out to license rights to Disney characters to leading Indian and multinational manufacturers and marketers. Disney remains the only company actively licensing characters in India. Its focus now is on product geared to children up to age 12; it will extend later to other age groups.

Present licensing partners include Cadburys, Mattel, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate, Pepsi Foods, Parrys (confectionery) and Bombay Dyeing (home furnishings).

Disney animated films entering the market, starting with “Aladdin” and continuing with “The Lion King,” are bolstered by these merchandising alliances.

The division, headed by Australian Peter Cracknell, entered the publishing field with a series of children’s books and weekly color Disney pages in leading English-and Indian-lingo newspapers.

However the Indian market is plagued by piracy. The vast Indian street markets are notorious outlets for a variety of counterfeit goods sold under famous brands, such as Cartier, Yves St. Laurent and Lacoste.

Disney itself is striving to combat piracy and to educate the market, and the courts are proving supportive.

According to the Motion Picture Assn., which represents the interests of U.S. majors abroad, member companies annually lose approximately $40 million in revenue due to piracy in India. In 1994, Indian authorities conducted 38 raids on video piracy operations, seizing 12,531 bootleg videocassettes.

On Jan. 6 of this year, one raid in New Delhi resulted in the seizure of over 2,000 pirated vids. Thirteen days later, authorities shut down an illegal duplicating house in the capital city, confiscating 15 master tapes and 200 bootlegs, including copies of “Speed,” “True Lies” and “Top Gun.”

In May, the Indian government passed a new copyright law amendment which sets a new minimum sentence for commercial piracy of all subject matter: six months in jail and a fine of 50,000 rupees ($1,600).

Among the counter-piracy measures being deployed are a computerized database of infringers, cease-and-desist actions, market surveys, PR and advertising.

Keith Collins contributed to this report.

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