The Future of Content Episode 29 with Arijit Bhattacharyya

Key Ideas:

  • Entrepreneurial ideas don’t occur in a vacuum—they grow out of everyday situations and interactions.
  • You can never underestimate the impact and influence of a driven individual.

We tend to think of entrepreneurs as “others” and different from us. We think that they have something the rest of us don’t. And while that may be partially true, it’s not the full story.

One defining characteristic of an entrepreneur is that they see opportunities where others see obstacles. This characteristic is especially true for Arijit Bhattacharyya, serial entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of virtualinfocom and Founder of World Leader Summit.

“I started with zero, with nothing, with a lot of passion. 

Ten years after I first approached them, I went back to some film industry guys with another crazy idea. I said, ‘I’m here again, after 10 years; I don’t need any money; I don’t need any work; I want to hire your actors, actresses, and models.’ They thought I was crazy. The last time I talked to them, I was looking for work, but now I’m there and I want to pay them.”

— Arijit Bhattacharyya, serial entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of virtualinfocom and Founder of World Leader Summit

For Arijit, his road to entrepreneurship began in an unlikely place: his love for comic books. He created his own comic books, storylines, and superheroes. He drew comics in a journal during class and his teachers threw him out of class because he was more focused on what he was drawing than what they were teaching. 

It wasn’t that he wasn’t a good student; he loves math, physics, and science. It was just that those lessons inspired him to think about the world in a different way. They sparked a creative fire in him that he couldn’t ignore.

“I love math. I love physics. I thought as a science student, it would be a nice idea to create stories where I can talk about timelines and multiple dimensions. That became my passion.”

— Arijit Bhattacharyya, serial entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of virtualinfocom and Founder of World Leader Summit

Rather than try to recreate the wheel, Arijit used what was around him. Growing up in India, he took historical characters and their epic stories and integrated them into his comic books. In order to do this, he had to teach himself Sanskrit, which was no small feat!

Arijit began working with other artists and created a network that allowed them to find work, make money, and enjoy their creativity. This network became his first company, Bookal. It wasn’t long before he moved from comic books to video games using the same drive and determination. 

“People used to call me crazy. People used to call me mad. When people called me mad, crazy, not smart, and said I wasn’t going to do anything with my life, I created my own word. To me, mad means ‘moderate, accurate, and determined.’ So now, I love that word.”

— Arijit Bhattacharyya, serial entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of virtualinfocom and Founder of World Leader Summit

Arijit Bhattacharyya

Arijit is a serial entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of virtualinfocom, and Founder of World Leader Summit.

>> Arijit’s website

>> Arijit Bhattacharyya on LinkedIn

>> Arijit Bhattacharyya on Instagram

>> Arijit Bhattacharyya on Twitter


Stream Episode 29 now, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform below.


Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!

Todd Nienkerk: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Niekerk. 

Every episode we explore content—its creation, management and distribution—by talking with people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We build digital content experiences for ambitious organizations. 

Today, I’m joined by Arijit Bhattacharyya, Founder and CEO of Virtual Infocom, and we’re going to be talking about video games, comics, and superheroes. Welcome to The Future of Content, Arijit.

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity. Pleasure being here.

Todd Nienkerk: We’re very, very happy to have you. 

So if you wouldn’t mind just telling us a little bit about Virtual Infocom, how you started, how you got interested in this. And then I’d love to hear more about the video games you create and what that process is like and some of the things that you’ve learned along the way.

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Well, the achievement happened when my teacher used to throw me out of the class, because I used to write comics during class, because I hate history to be very, very honest. I never wanted to learn all those. What happened with batons, what happened with, you know, people who attacked us or we tried to save our culture and so forth. But I wanted to dig something else.

I wanted to create a universe of superheroes. I chose science as a study stream. The reason is I used to love arithmetic. I love mathematics. I love physics. And I thought probably as a science student, that’s a nice idea to create science fiction stories where I can talk about timelines, talk about multiple dimensions. Now, if you ask me where I’ve got all those kinds of inspiration, probably the inspiration came from reading a lot of comic books I used to read. That was the only option, at least in that year, for us in India to learn and read the comics of Phantom and Mandrake and Flash Gordon. 

So when I thought of creating comics, because, you know, I hated history. I thought let me take a couple of historical characters and create a superhero out of it. I actually learned Sanskrit to unearth and dig the scientific factors of all those so-called “epic stories.” 

The question came to mind: Can I combine all this knowledge from our old history? Facts or nonfacts, and can I get these artists into some kind of network, some kind of ecosystem which can give them a sustainable amount of money to enjoy their creativity? That was the initial thought for me to start my own venture, Virtual Infocom. We came together. We started doing machine assembly. We started sending it into the local market. At the same time I started an academy, which can actually teach people on programming and on arts, which is basically on classical animation. So I’m a self-taught person—I learned technology on my own, I learned language on my own. “Language,” I mean to say “programming language.” In late nights, we used to develop our own game titles. After three-and-a-half years we created, in our opinion, a great game. And on those days, if you remember, it used to be on CD. So we burned that onto a CD and went to another market. There people used to buy and sell pirated CDs—pirated software. And I had a chat with a gentleman who used to do that massively—he used to be the king in piracy. So I had a discussion with him. I told him, “You know what, I’ve got a new game, which you don’t have.” He said, “That’s impossible! In this town? Something which I don’t have is absolutely not possible.” I said, “Okay, fine. Let me run this into your PC.” So I started playing that game and he was shocked, like anything. Like he saw some alien in front of him, like what the hell happened? I don’t know how this kid has got this game. Oh, my God. He started playing and he got interested. By watching him a bunch more people, they made a queue. They wanted to play the game. So we got interested approximately 20 people who actually played for the next three, four hours. And he said, “Okay, I’m convinced. How much is it going to take to give it to me? I want to pay you.” I said, “OK, hold on. Listen. This is not a pirated product. This is our own product. You can see this logo. This is my own company logo. This is created by us. You want to do business with me? Let’s go for revenue sharing. You take 50 percent, I’ll take 50 percent. I don’t know how to sell against. You know the piracy market. You sell it. Whatever money you’re going to generate, I need 50 percent. And please be fair.”

Somehow, as a kid, to be very honest, I was probably 21, 22 at that time. Not a kid; maybe a young chap. I grabbed that— I don’t know whether you call it a good deal or not, or whatever it is. I grabbed that deal. We made a good amount of money. And, of course, started making more game titles, started exploring the new vertical of technology, and of course, being in touch with a lot of U.S.-based companies—I really don’t know whether I can mention them or not. But there were a lot of companies with people tried to get in touch with. We became software development partners for them. We started making games, we started making content. We started making animated content for Japan, Taiwan, China, and so many local industries. So life is good. So that’s the story of creating Virtual Infocom, creating a USP and becoming mad. 

Because I’m mad, we started another platform, which is called Cosplay Seller. We started giving training to these village people on creating small dresses. So what we are doing now— What are the superhero characters we are making? We are making sure that their dresses can be done in real life. So all these people from the villages, we train them. And we are integrating all these factors into into our universe of superheroes. And we have our intention to sell this through multiple stores in the world. That’s the on this list. That’s coming up. That’s the story, Todd.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, let’s take a short break. And when we return, I would like to talk more about the transition that you have overseen from comic book heroes, to animation, to video games, to cosplay. There’s a lot to cover. So we’ll be right back.

[break]

Hey, everyone, we’ll get back to the episode in just a moment. 

I wanted to very quickly tell you about Four Kitchens. You may know that Four Kitchens creates websites, but we do so much more than that. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content, skill, your Web team, and create world class digital experiences. Most importantly, we get results. We’ve helped media companies streamline their streaming platforms. We’ve helped public broadcasters increase donations. And we’ve helped universities enroll more students. To find out more about how Four Kitchens can help, visit us at fourkitchens.com.

Now back to the episode. 

Todd Nienkerk: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Arijit Bhattacharyya:  Bhattacharyya, founder and CEO of Virtual Infocom. Where we left off, we had talked about your journey inserting starting Virtual Infocom began with. Writing comic books, creating superheroes, writing the dialogue. You then got involved in animation. Animation brought you to video games—video game design and creation. And more recently, you’ve been partnering with people in a nearby village to create the costumes for the superheroes that you have created and animated and put into video games. So now there’s a real-life component. You mentioned, too, that you wanted to make sure that the costumes that were being used could be created by real people using real materials. Was that intentional from day one? Or like when did you realize that you wanted to extend this experience of the characters you had created—the comic book characters, the video game characters, the animation characters? When did you think you wanted to extend that into real life with costumes and cosplay?

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Very good question. To be very honest, it was not planned earlier, really speaking the plan was actually to iron out the Sanskrit characters who probably we don’t care about and then tell the world that these are the characters and this is their power and the science behind it. 

Todd Nienkerk: Why do you think? Why did you think some people may not care about those characters, is it that they were just sort of forgotten and old, or what drew you to them?

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Todd, honestly speaking, our history has been disrupted and our history has been probably smashed because we have been attacked by a lot of people. So if you look at our culture, without hesitation, let me tell you this: It was not India, it was Harappan. So people call us as “Indians.” We are never, ever Indians. We used to be Harappan. The culture was actually Sindhu culture. So when you look at the culture, every medicine was actually defining ayurveda. 

Nowadays, we look at India. People don’t care about ayurveda. But if you read all those so-called “epic stories,” It’s not. There, the writing is actually talking about medicines. It’s not about the story itself. So that’s the reason that was one of the causes.

Todd Nienkerk: The story is a vehicle to teach people about medicine.

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Yep. Number one. Number two, it was actually talking about life. It was talking about a lot of aspects of connecting with life. It teaches us to become like water, which doesn’t have any shape. It doesn’t have any color. Doesn’t have smell. Don’t accept everything. But it is asking us not to become full in a glass. Yeah, a little bit of empty space so that you can absorb and grab more. So it’s very hard within a small podcast to explain the vastness of all those epic stories. But coming back to your line. Yes, the stories, well, small stories and big stories are actually a way to tell people what to do, what not to do, and give them guidance: This is your choice. Our culture doesn’t impose anything, we give choice. Whatever you want to take is completely your part. We never talked about someone who is bad in all our stories. We talked about the situation. So it’s on us. If you want to take him as a demon or as a God or as a follower, or do you want to become that leader? So in our games, we try to portray all these things. So probably a lot of us are forgetting that culture. And I can see that once our Indian salvos from India to the country, they only come back to us, trust me or not, and see that please make more content like this, more games like this, so that our kids can play. So our consumer is not really the parents; they’re encouraging the kids to play the game, to learn and understand that history without reading history, rather enjoying that. So that’s the purpose..

Todd Nienkerk: So that’s really profound, actually. So speaking from the perspective of a U.S. American. We see U.S. American culture exported all over the world, right? Movies and Hollywood and video games and all of this stuff. Having a local, national, cultural connection with that content is challenging, I’m sure, because these are different mythologies, these are different stories, these are different values that are being portrayed in Hollywood movies and U.S. American video games. How many cultures around the world have a thriving video game and animation and content creation culture? I know India obviously has Bollywood, and it’s enormous, it’s a huge industry. But from the perspective of a U.S. American there, there’s not a lot that makes it back. So I really don’t know what else is going on in the world in terms of local content and how that’s experienced and portrayed. It’s really, really interesting and powerful to hear that the parents are saying “we want more of this” because this is teaching our kids about our values and our history and our mythologies and where we came from. Is that initially what drew you to comic books and writing—wanting to create superheroes that reflected yourself and reflected your family and society and culture? When did you come across that? When did that become something that really motivated you?

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Well, I’m glad that you asked me this question. Yeah, I actually started from the very beginning—I wanted to do that. And I wanted to tell it through a storytelling method because people will never ever listen to it. If I wanted to give it them as a theoretical knowledge. I felt if I talk with a storytelling model, maybe people will absorb it—people will grab it. And if I create a superhero out of it, which is actually a superhero—our writings can be translated into a superhero. But unfortunately, my friend, in Indian content creation, we never face an arch to create them as superheroes. So I think that, probably, if I don’t hold any religion, but rather create a little ecosystem of the universe, which talks about the culture, but not talking about the God rather than only the culture, you know, that can probably connect others. If I can give more value to people—if I can teach kids while playing a game, they adopt a cat, or they learn how to nurture a tree, yes, it is possible. So those are the kinds of game that we created. I’ll give you an example of a game we created called Lalkamal Nilkamal, which is from another ethical story, or rather I would say mythological story from a localized language. It actually teaches a kid, if you actually don’t nurture a tree, you cannot move from one level to another level. If you actually lose, eventually the rating will come down. It will tell the kid that you’re not taking care of nature. That means you’re not going to be beautiful to your nature, will not actually have the achievement that you are supposed to do. But some experience, so we are not at all creating game with guns and killing only. Of course, we sometimes use that for the sake of games, the kind of action that is there, but it’s more of learning so-called structure and ecosystem.

And it was calculated, to be very precise about your question. Now, coming back to your question from where cosplay came and how exactly the thought came. Is it calculated? No, it was not. So I was traveling. So I traveled to around 40 countries. I was traveling to South Korea. I was in touch with a couple of guys who are cosplayers and for the first time in my life I learned about cosplay in my life. I learned that it can be connected to all our games. Cosplay is a different genre altogether. Probably if we try to make it in India, Indian villagers may not be able to make that. But can we create a normal costume? Maybe a superhero costume, which is not exactly like cosplay, but people can wear it, maybe at a party, or maybe they want to become like that. So that was that was the initial thought. And now we are doing it a different way. We did that in China earlier now. We were doing it in different ways. We are about to produce dresses which can be used in multiple [ways]. So you can use it as a superhero costume. You remove a couple of things from the dress, and it becomes a normal usual dress for daily wear. 

Todd Nienkerk: I’m so curious to hear a little bit more about that, because it’s taking this content experience from comic books, animation, video games, bringing it into real life. Tell me about how people interact with the costumes that that you’re designing and creating and all that.

Arijit Bhattacharyya: To be very honest, it’s really hard. So we did our own two cosplay shows in India before the pandemic. It’s not a very old business that I’m doing. I mean, making costumes is a baby, it’s a five-years-old baby at the moment. Okay, before the pandemic, we tried to create the market. We wanted to tell the market that is possible. The first cosplay show was really a big hit, to be very honest. A lot of media published it. We did a massive show with all the real actors who became that character. You know what? They acted in the show itself. People loved it. Second show was not that great. Again, people appreciated that. But to be very honest, we don’t have that kind of culture in India yet. So we are trying to explore maybe the other markets wherein the cosplay culture is there and people can bite. The reason we changed it a little bit, where you can maybe remove a couple of things or add a couple of things, and it becomes a cosplay item, and you remove a couple of things, it becomes a daily wear, is because I think that’s a larger market. Example: Every one of us is a kid inside. So what if we can give a dress with a shirt, a normal shark like this, and maybe a jacket on the top of it.

Remove a couple of buttons and it becomes your superhero costume inside. That gives you pleasure. You probably become like Superman. So what if we create these for ladies using simple clothes, which are easily available. But the stitchings are different. You’ll be very honest. It’s hard for me to explain. But yeah, these are actually different. Hmm. The button sizes are different. The way you wear it, it needs a little bit of challenge. We are not successful yet to make it big at this moment. I shouldn’t say this, but yes, we got a very little amount of interest from the local audience and we got a fair amount of interest from the Asian market. Probably, after the pandemic, we can grow more. It’s not happening that much because local stores are closed. The way this game structure will work, once you play the game, you love a dress, you can actually click a button inside the game. You can open up a circle, and within the circle, it will show the shop where you can go and buy these dresses. Now, the sampling opened, but because of the pandemic, a lot of shops are closed. We are unable to sell that. So maybe we will wait for a year more to open up things where we should open and then maybe we can grow.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, thank you so much for joining me today. How can our listeners learn more about you, about Virtual Infocom? Where should they go?

Arijit Bhattacharyya: Super so to learn or connect with me, so I’ll give you two different methods. One method: Google me. Arijit Bhattacharyya. You can follow me on Twitter. Its @Arijitgames. And in Google you can find my LinkedIn, Facebook, so please feel free to connect with me. I’d be happy to connect back and talk. Wonderful.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, thank you so much. 

And I’d love to hear from you. Yes, you, dear listener. What do you want to learn about the future of content? Please feel free to send show ideas, suggestions or examples of the content you create. You can email me at future@fourkitchens.com. 

We’re also on Twitter @FoCpodcast. To learn more about Four Kitchens and how we can help you create, manage and distribute your digital content, visit fourkitchens.com. Finally, make sure to subscribe to The Future of Content so you don’t miss any new episodes. Until next time, keep creating content.