Viraj Kalra is an Independent Consultant in the areas of Marketing, Corporate Training, Market Entry Management & Strategy, and End-to-End Services for Media, Education, Cinema, Animation & Entertainment Companies. He has also served as CEO at Planman Marcom Pvt. Ltd., Director at Planman Motion Pictures, Vice President at Planman Technologies and Manager-Media-Services at Perfect Relations. Viraj’s education includes masters in Marketing from Belgium, a post graduate diploma in Planning and Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Human Resources from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management and a Bachelor of Commerce from Delhi University.

Viraj KarlaCG Today : Welcome, Pleasure to have you with us today.

Viraj : Thank you.

CG Today : Mr. Viraj, you were CEO at Planman Marcom Pvt. Ltd. One of the quotes we have read about the team at Planman Marcom extols the professionals that are creative, imaginative and committed. The client adds that Planman “thinks from the heart”. Can you expound on this thought?

Viraj : Planman Marcom belongs to a group (The IIPM & Planman Group) that is known for being a passionate entity. We at Planman Marcom always went to market with the same spirit. The foundation of the agency closely reflected the glory-days of the Madison Avenue agencies and the strategies & solutions were cutting-edge. This combination of passionate creativity and a strong consulting ethos coupled together (according to me) make-up for Planman Marcom’s mojo.

CG Today : During your time with Planman, you were also Director at Planman Motion Pictures. One of your duties in this position was to oversee content strategy with regard to the animation content from the studio. Would you share with us one of the more memorable projects you worked on during this time and your content strategy methodology for this project?

Viraj : The three projects that we put into pre-production one after the other are all memorable projects for me. But at this point I can’t spill any beans with regards to these animation projects as they have not yet been formally announced. But I can tell you that there has been such intricately detailed focus on key art, especially the central characters that it is truly world-class. Fur & Hair simulation, costume changes per character and facial expressions are all being developed meticulously.

And that has been the content strategy. Make an animation film that appeals to cross-sections across the globe in terms of age, sex, ethnicity, culture et’all. So, there were two strict guidelines – 1. No done-to-death mythology and 2. Quality in terms of storytelling, CG & Effect and Characterization have to match global standards, only then can the content truly cross-over and become international. At animation festivals and markets in LA, France & Singapore there is demand for content from India, Asia & the Far East but not at the cost of compromised quality.

CG Today : For almost four years, you were Head of Marketing for Planman Motion Pictures. The studio had only been established for about a year when you took over this position. What was your initial plan for promoting the new studio?

Viraj : While setting-shop in Mumbai for Planman Motion Pictures the message that needed to be sent out was clear and simple – ‘this is a production-house that supports the cause of good-cinema and functions like a corporate, hence the color of money and ethics will never be compromised.’ Other than ensuring this universality in our communication there is very little that we needed to do to promote the studio. And this message did go out loud and clear to everybody who interacted with the Studio and saw it’s cinema. When a studio makes critically acclaimed cinema like Dosar, Mithya, Last Lear & Do Duni Chaar building credibility is easy.

Internationally also we ensured that at Cannes, Berlin, London, Toronto and other such festivals & markets every time we met a buyer, critic, jury-member, journalist or audience we were known to them first for our cinema followed by all the strengths we brought to the table as a group.

Off-late of course in order to be more interactive with the audience, fans and stakeholders there are social media tools that have been put to good use. Twitter, Facebook & Youtube go a long way in promoting the studio and it’s content.

CG Today : Branding were also part of your job description as Director at Planman Motion Pictures. Movies are a product and a brand name, all at the same time. What was your branding philosophy?

Viraj :
I remember authoring an article way back in 2004 on film-marketing where I started by writing ‘Good Content + Good Marketing = Hit Film!’ So for me a Movie is more of a brand and less of a product. I know many would argue that cinema is the perfect example of a very FMCG, but that is the box-office aspect of it, that is the commodity / product aspect of it. And box-office is just that, an aspect. Toy-story, Star Wars, Spiderman, James Bond are all examples of how important it is to consider each film a brand and a potential franchise. Today in order to breakthrough the clutter and sustain the audience interest in your movie you need to give it a brand life cycle perspective.

CG Today : Planman has played a vital part in your career. You were also Vice-President of Planman Technologies, heading the animation studio as part of your duties. What exactly did your job entail while you held this position?

Viraj : Planman Technologies in a very short span of time has gown into a respectable outsourcing company in Asia for digitization, media process outsourcing, publishing & art work. Idea with the animation piece was to add-value to all the client projects that we were already handling and simultaneously seek projects in high-end animation outsourcing of video games, 3-D movies and TV series.

I was sure that in order to win high-value projects in an already gutted and competitive animation outsourcing market our strength will have to be quality of animation. And that is why to head production we brought in Kartik Dayanand Bodapatti from Hyderabad who at that time was with DQ. He quickly put together a fantastic pre-production team that produced fantastic content in terms of quality and creativity – a showreel that was much appreciated by all potential clients.

Next challenge was to rapidly create a global network of potential clients, artists, partners and intelligence. To counter this challenge among other things I started a group on LinkedIn called ‘Animation, Media & Entertainment’. With a start-up network of some 150 members this group surprisingly expanded to 1500+ in a matter of weeks and today is 20000+ members. This network has given me access to the biggest and the best in the world of animation.

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