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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Tintin ventures into India's rural markets

By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Tintin in Hindi poster
Cartoon reporter Tintin is no longer a boy - he turned 75 last year
The exploits of the cartoon character, Belgian boy-reporter Tintin, have delighted people the world over for 75 years now.

And Tintin comic books and DVDs in English have been imported and sold in India for many years.

But now for the first time, DVDs and Video CDs (VCDs) of "Adventures of Tintin" have been launched in Hindi too.

The comic character's enduring charm is not the only reason why Tintin has learnt Hindi.

Saibal Chatterjee, a media critic, says the move is driven by pure commercial sense.

"When you do something in English, you're only reaching out to a certain number of people, a certain percentage of the audience," he says.

"That is why most English programmes today are dubbed, even Hollywood films are dubbed into Indian languages.

"When you translate Tintin into local languages, you're only expanding the base of consumers," he says.

Enduring popularity

Georges Rémi, who wrote by the name of Herge, created Tintin in 1929.

Supported by a colourful cast of characters, including Tintin's loyal dog and partner-in-adventure, Snowy, and Captain Haddock - famous for his love of whisky and colourful expletives - Tintin comics have been a world-wide hit.

Jiten Hemdev, director of Star Entertainment
Jiten Hemdev: success of Tintin on TV prompted DVD and VCD release

They have appeared in more than 120 million books and been translated into 45 languages, with Hindi the most recent.

For the curious, Captain Haddock's "blistering barnacles" translates unexpectedly as "bhadakte hue baingan" (literally, "angry aubergines"). "Thundering typhoons" comes out as "toofani lehren".

Mr Jiten Hemdev, director of Bombay-based film and TV firm, Star Entertainment, which released the Hindi Tintins, says: "Tintin, dubbed in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam has been shown on television for some time now and the success of the dubbed versions has prompted the release of the Hindi videos."

Priced at 75 rupees (£1, $1.70) a piece, the Tintin VCDs are mostly being sold in small towns and villages in northern India.

And the response has surprised even the distributors.

"The Hindi Tintin is selling very well," says Mr Amit Chedda of the distribution firm, Shethia Audio Video.

"In just a month and a half, we've sold 40,000 copies and we've got repeat orders from several places."

Disposable income

Mr Hemdev says: "This group may not be fluent in English, but they want to try out new things and have the money to pay for them."

What he says tallies with the findings of a survey by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) which says the new emerging markets are in small towns and villages.

Mr Rajesh Shukla, the NCAER's principal economist, says: "The urban market has more or less reached the saturation level. The new customer is certainly in the smaller towns and villages.

Tintin video-CD case
In just six weeks, 40,000 Tintin VCDs have been sold
"If you see the larger towns, of the 30% of the total urban areas, metros have hardly 15-16% of the total population. So the next target will be smaller towns which is another 15% and the next ones are the well-connected rural areas."

Mr Shukla says the total consumer demand from rural India was 45% in 1995 and is expected to grow to 60% by 2010.

Several big-ticket brands are doing well in rural markets and sales of consumer durables like televisions and motorbikes are growing rapidly.

Trickling down

India's total rural retail market is worth almost $30bn and the big corporate houses and multi-national corporations are now trying to woo a part of the population once dismissed as largely poor and illiterate.

Do Hindi speakers approve? Going by the sales figures, it seems they do

Mr Gurcharan Das, author of "India Unbound", says India's economic turnaround began in the early 1990s with the opening up of the economy and in the first instance it largely benefited the English-speaking middle classes.

"But a decade and a half later, the fruits of economic liberalisation are filtering down to smaller towns and villages."

To understand the dynamics of the rural market, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is holding a two-day conference this week called "Decoding Rural Markets" in Mumbai (Bombay).

It's with this focus on rural marketing that many products are being re-designed to make them more attractive to village folk.

So Indians can now buy a washing machine that talks, shampoo in sachets that cost only a couple of rupees and black and white TV sets.

And more and more English-language programmes and films are being dubbed into Indian languages in order to break into this market.

Tintin is just the latest to join the line.

Do Hindi speakers approve? Going by the sales figures, it seems they do.

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