One of the largest media companies in the world, Walt Disney, is laying its focus on India by bringing back its former chief Mahesh Samat in a bid to lead, stabilise and further grow its business in the country. He takes over from Siddharth Roy-Kapur who departs from The Walt Disney Company India as managing director.
Samat will assume management of all Disney businesses in India (except ESPN), with all local business segments reporting into him.
Starting November 28, Samat will be responsible for setting and driving The Walt Disney Company’s strategy, coordinating all business efforts in India including overseeing Disney global franchises in the market, expanding existing businesses and creating new business opportunities. He will be based in Mumbai and will report directly to Andy Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International.
“Mahesh guided Disney in India in its early days (between 2008-2012), and we are thrilled with his decision to return to the organisation he helped build,” said Bird in a statement, adding, “We are encouraged by the opportunity we see to further grow our business in India and believe Mahesh’s entrepreneurial spirit, knowledge of our brands and franchises and long-standing expertise in our broader operations will continue the momentum we are experiencing in this dynamic market.”
This move by Disney seems to be an effort to steer things in the right direction, after a poor year at the box office and a stagnant year in terms of its television business growth as well. In fact, just a few months back, the company announced its decision to exit from the Hindi film production business after suffering losses from its latest Bollywood ventures including Mohenjo Daro, Fitoor, Tamasha, Katti Batti etc. Shortly after, speculation was rife about Kapur’s possible exit as a result.
Trade analyst Komal Nahta states, “You need to back the right films and only then can you market and earn from them. I think the company wasn’t able to pinpoint what the problem was exactly and things started going wrong even before Mohenjo Daro and Fitoor.”
Given the challenges with the current economic model for investing in the local film industry, the company shifted the focus of its film strategy to driving its Hollywood movie slate in India based on its success with The Jungle Book. Siddharth Roy-Kapur will bid adieu once his contract gets over in December.
An industry expert tells FE that when Disney acquired UTV in 2012, the team had to meet certain projections and was given aggressive growth targets which did not happen.
With Kapur at the helm, the company further aimed to become a major player in India as well by growing its television and film business. Disney already has a strong foothold in the licensing and merchandising space.
“There have been quite a few failures in the past few years. The TV business has remained flat as Disney doesn’t have a flagship channel in India,” says an industry watcher.