We’ve been through that stage in life where all we wanted to do was emulate Superman, our best friend was Scooby Doo and our biggest rival was Bluto. Yes, right about the time we had milk teeth and although going to school was such a pain, we were gobbling up knowledge at an almost frightening pace, and a lot of it from our fictional friends.
Karadi Tales is a desi children’s publishing house based in the sweltering city of Chennai. It was started in 1996 as the brainchild of Shobha Viswanath, C. P. Viswanath and C. P. Narayan to create a space for Indian culture in the child’s mind, providing meaningful entertainment alternatives for kids and families and bringing fun into the development of early learning skills.
A few die-hard fans would recall the first title of Karadi Tales was launched in December 1996, featuring Naseeruddin Shah as Karadi the bear. Since then, there's been no looking back. Over the years, they have brought together some big names including Gulzar, Usha Uthup, Nandita Das, Udit Narayan, SP Balasubramaniam, Shankar Mahadevan, Vidya Balan, Jaaved Jaaferi, Boman Irani and many more.
Unraveling the story behind the creation of a fictional and central character named ‘Karadi’, Manasi Subramaniam, editor at Karadi tales says, “Even though the bear is such an integral part of the Indian forest, we have very few childrens’ stories with a bear in them. So we thought we could create a storyteller bear – a wise, gentle grandfather-like creature. Karadi (which means bear in Tamil) had a wonderful ring to it.”
The team at Karadi tales is a small one aided along by a host of wise educational developers from the Karadi Path Educational Company and a team of sales and administrative staff. “The quadrangle editorial team is led by publishing director Shobha Viswanath, a writer, a teacher and an all-round nice person.” Besides creative director Narayan Parasuram, who composes all the music for the Karadi Tales audiobooks and DVDs, the team of editors comprises of Annie Besant and Manasi herself. “Our visualisers are Vandana Shah and Rajesh Kumar. Both of them are wizards at PhotoShop,” says Manasi giving a round-up of the team.
One would imagine the onset of the Cartoon Network revolution in the late ‘90’s posing a threat for Karadi tales, which at that stage, mainly relied on audio books. Manasi however disagrees saying, “The classics never really grow old. We’ve all grown up listening to folktales and legends from our grandparents and it’s only natural for us to want to pass them on to our children and their children! What makes a Karadi retelling different is largely the audio factor.”
There also seems to be optimism towards the reception of Karadi Path 3E, a programme that can be implemented by all schools, the focus mainly being English medium matriculation schools where English is being taught to first generation learners.
Talking about their evolving revenue model, Manasi says, “It used to be retail, but now more and more it is sales through the digital space through varied platforms such as iPads, Kindle, ebooks etc. We also do sell through online retail chains such as Flipkart, Infibeam and our own websites.”
When they started off, Karadi tales, conceived and initiated by personal money of the founders, was promoted merely by word of mouth. “We now promote actively on our website and via social networking through Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Google Plus, Blogger etc. We often rely on individuals who are Karadi evangelists in spreading the good audiobook,” adds Manasi.
About the future of the company’s products, Manasi says, “In five years, I hope we would have trail-blazed a picture book industry in this country, just as we did with audiobooks, making beautiful, sophisticated picture books available, affordable and accessible to all children.” They are also developing a set of exciting applications for the iPad, Kindle and other multimedia platforms.
For more info and tales from Karadi land, check them out at - http://www.karaditales.com/