Television

MAX's Rajat Jain to head Disney India

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MUMBAI: Media speculation may have thrown up varied names, but the man who will be heading The Walt Disney Company's diversified operations in India is Rajat Jain, at present head of Sony Entertainment's events and movies channel MAX.

Rajat Jain will join the Disney group as vice-president and managing director of The Walt Disney Company (India) Private Limited and Walt Disney Television International (India) from 1 August.

When indiantelevision.com had broken the story in the morning, Jain had refused to confirm or deny the development. Much later in the evening came the official statement from The Walt Disney Company (Asia-Pacific) ltd.

As Disney's India head, Jain's area of responsibility will, however, be far bigger than just managing the three channels that Disney is expected to launch in the first half of 2005 --- The Disney Channel, Playhouse (for pre- schoolers) and a localised version of ABC. Under Jain's purview will also be film distribution, merchandising and (this is the real kicker) the theme parks and resorts business.

Industry sources have told indiantelevision.com that Disney has already identified 900 acres of land in Gurgaon, located on the outskirts of Delhi in the state of Haryana, on which will be located the third Disney theme park to come to Asia after Tokyo and Hong Kong. Disneyland is expected to open to the public in 2010.

To give some idea of the sheer size of the theme parks business in Disney's scheme of things: Tokyo Disneyland is the best-attended theme park in the world and also includes the Tokyo DisneySea theme park and Disney hotels; Disney's Hong Kong park is due to open in 2005 and will cost around $3 billion and Disney expects that the Hong Kong park will attract 5.6 million visitors in its first year of operation alone.

But before all that happens in India, it is the channels that will take up all Jain's time and efforts. Disney's size and reputation notwithstanding, it is going to be a tough haul for The Little Big Mouse in India to overhaul a well entrenched Cartoon Network, what with Nickelodeon trying to get its act together and UTV's kiddy channel, Hungama, set to launch on the Star platform.

A tougher call will be to get the entertainment channel up and running against the likes of Star Plus, Sony and Zee TV (and who knows how many more new players?).

THE OFFICIAL LINE FROM DISNEY

Many in the industry would be eating their hearts out, but the Disney statement makes it all official with effect from 1 August, the date when Jain will take over his new assignment.

The official statement quoted Walt Disney International president Andy Bird as saying, "The Indian marketplace is developing quickly and represents strong growth opportunities for all of our businesses as Indian consumers have a strong affinity for the Disney brand. In an increasingly competitive and diversified marketplace, Jain's outstanding abilities, which he has successfully demonstrated over the years in the Indian industry, will be a significant asset."

According to Walt Disney Television International (Asia-Pacific) executive vice-president and MD Doug Miller, "Rajat is an outstanding and innovative executive who constantly finds new ways to grow successful businesses by providing great services and value to consumers. We believe, he is the right person to oversee Disney's continued growth in India as we strive to become one of India's leading providers of high quality family entertainment."

Jain will report to Miller in both roles.

Prior to SET India, Jain has also worked at organizations like Telstra International in the telecom sector, as well as Benckiser India and Hindustan Lever in FMCG sector through his total of 17 years of working experience.

Jain received a Bachelor of Technology degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi and a post-graduate degree in business management from the premier Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad.

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