I spent Sunday of this week at the Harvard Business School's India Conference.
The conference highlighted investment opportunities, infrastructure challenges, and the generally explosive business climate in India today. There were some very impressive speakers, including Alan Rosling from Tata Group, and Vivek Paul, formerly of Wipro fame, now at TPG.
These two guys were great speakers, and said a lot of interesting and insightful things about our business, and about today's India.
But the most interesting speaker at the conference was Sharad Devarajan, who spoke about his entrepeneureal venture with Sir Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra, who got together to form Virgin Comics.
Virgin is putting out a line of comics called "Shakti" - produced in India (story, story-boards, and all the art). As you can see from the cover of The Sadhu pictured below, the art work on these comics is just stunningly good. First blush, I'd say what I've seen is as artfully drawn as Sandman, or anything else I've read for that matter.
Pictured at the top of this post is Spider-Man India, from Gotham Entertainment Group (a precursor to Virgin Comics). In this comic, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man - Peter Parker - is now Pavitr Pabhakar. In the American comic, Peter is mocked by his classmates for being a bookworm, and studying all the time. As Mr. Devarajan explained, this storyline wouldn't have worked in India, because those are common and admirable traits that simply aren't ever ridiculed. Instead, Pavitr is a villager, living in the bustle of Mumbai. He's mocked for his quaint village ways by all the cool kids in Mumbai. And instead of getting his powers from an irradiated spider, he gets them from an ancient yogi. Oh, and his spidey-toggs are transformed to look a little like traditional Indian garb.
Very cool stuff, and a very cool way to learn about the commonalities between American culture and Indian culture. (...if you happen to be an adult who isn't ashamed to still read comic books.)
Anyway, learning about these comics was worth the price of admission to the HBS conference, and I know what I'm buying myself as souvenirs on my next trip to India.