Disney's Eisner, Iger in India; to meet PM & President

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: The Walt Disney Company's head honchos, CEO Michael Eisner and his successor Robert Iger, arrived in the capital today on the first leg of an official visit and met up with President APJ Kalam.

As was reported by last week, Disney executives are due to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is returning from a foreign trip tonight, and some other government representatives. The meeting with the PM is likely tomorrow, though a definite time has not yet been given.

During a 15-minute courtesy call on President Kalam, Eisner and Iger, reportedly, discussed things in general, while briefing the former on various business activities of Disney in India that are mostly related to children.

Kalam, according to government sources, also gave the foreign visitors, accompanied by the India head of Disney's business Rajat Jain, a guided tour of his official website.

Generally media barons and senior execs of such companies don't call on the President, preferring the Prime Minister instead, but Kalam's fondness for children-related issues, probably, made Disney overturn set norms to call on Kalam. An appointment for the meeting was sought late in March.

Eisner and Iger began the first leg of their India visit in Delhi today and are due to arrive in Mumbai on 27 April (Wednesday). The duo will be flying out on Thursday, thus ending their four-day visit to India.

Apart from the President and Prime Minister, they are due to meet I&B minister Jaipal Reddy as also some other government officials as well as business leaders to explore and discuss future opportunities for Disney in the burgeoning Indian market.

Eisner says, "Throughout its history, Disney has connected with audiences around the world through its high-quality, family-oriented movies, television shows, theme parks, consumer products and live productions. We are committed to strengthening the affinity people around the world have for Disney's characters, stories and other entertainment offerings, especially in dynamic, expanding markets like India, where our content already enjoys particularly high recognition and positive associations."

Iger, who is due to take over the reins at Disney from 30 September 2005, says, "We are tremendously pleased with the early success of Disney Channel and Toon Disney, which are critical components in building our brand awareness and driving growth in India. Disney is focusing its energies on creativity and innovation combined with the application of new technologies to drive worldwide expansion of all its core businesses."

The Walt Disney Company has identified international expansion as one of its key strategic priorities and maintains a particular focus on growing markets such as India. Disney currently has several established businesses in India such as film distribution, consumer products and media networks. The company's two channels - The Disney Channel and Toon Disney launched in India in December last year.

Disney's current presence in India also includes branded mobile content. In December 2004, the Walt Disney Internet Group, along with Indiagames, introduced Disney games, wallpapers and ringtones in the market; the content of which, is also available on AirTel.

Disney Consumer Products is establishing Disney Corners at select retail outlets throughout the country from which it will sell licensed merchandise. Apart from that Disney Publishing is also in the process of entering the market.

Walt Disney International president Andy Bird says, "Disney's presence in India today is well poised for growth. We are developing, distributing and licensing content that makes efficient and effective use of our popular brands and creative properties, all of which we expect to contribute to building robust businesses over the long term."

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