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Making Technology Magical

Nitin Chawla, VP of Strategy and Business Development, Disney
Amelia Roblin
September 18th, 2015

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Nitin Chawla has been working to infuse the Internet of Things with imagination. He leads a multi-disciplinary organization of creative, product, content, engineering and R&D talent, leveraging skills and capabilities from across The Walt Disney Company. The games that they have created are nothing short of innovative.

Nitin’s past experiences include more than eight years in management consulting at Deloitte, where he led the build-out of an innovative, globally integrated consulting venture with over 200 practitioners. Before that, he held brand management roles at Johnson & Johnson and J Walter Thompson. Nitin’s wealth of business experience, his value of multifarious teamwork and his motivation to explore the vast possibilities of technology have led to transformational ideas and products.

7 Questions with Nitin:

1. Please tell me about yourself, your role and your work with Disney.

As Vice President, Strategy and Business Development at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI), I am responsible for the development and commercialization of Playmation––an active and imaginative play experience for kids that combines Disney storytelling and the latest technology (wearables, Bluetooth and the cloud) to bring make-believe into the real world.

In my 7-years at The Walt Disney Company, I have played multiple strategic, operational and business development roles in the U.S.A. and Asia. I led two large-scale acquisitions to expand our footprint in South Asia, and as general manager Disney Interactive, I expanded and operationalized our games business in India.

2. What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation?

Innovation is an integral part of the Disney culture and is infused into everything we do. Playmation in particular has been an exciting challenge to reinvent the world of play using the Internet of Things, wrapped in Disney storytelling. We assembled a diverse team from across the company, including, software and hardware engineers, Imagineers, game developers and physical product designers on this challenge more than two years ago. An entrepreneurial environment that fosters open, cross-functional collaboration has been the hallmark of the Playmation team. We take a practical approach to innovation that focuses on delivering cutting-edge products that are straightforward to understand and affordable. We are tirelessly focused on learning from kids and parents through continuous play-testing, and we pursue a rapid prototyping approach to build and iterate for an accelerated product development process.

3. What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?

Like any path-breaking initiative, bringing Playmation to life came with its challenges. Our diverse team comes with a plethora of inspiring ideas that have to be quickly reconciled against commercial and marketplace realities to deliver the best play experience for our consumers. This process can often result in prioritizing some ideas and concepts over others through an open dialog within our team, in an environment that is collaborative and transparent.

4. Do you find inspiration or ideas from adjacent industries?

I am incredibly proud of what the team has accomplished with Playmation a very short timeframe. We are blessed to have access to world-class talent from across the company that represents the very best in innovation. Our biggest inspiration is Disney’s rich heritage of storytelling and unlocking imagination in new and immersive ways.

5. Looking to the future, how is your company going to be a leader in innovation?

Disney is a leader building play and entertainment experiences for decades and innovation is central to everything we do across products and businesses.

6. How does Playmation differ or expand upon the Disney Infinity experience?

The biggest difference between Playmation and ‘Toys to Life’ video games is that the primary offering for a video game is the software. Instead of using toys to activate a screen-based experience, Playmation brings the best digital technology to real world play, using connected toys, wearable technology and customized Disney stories to allow kids to actually play alongside their heroes and heroines.

7. How do you see the marrying of Physical and Digital content evolving in the toy space?

We are incredibly excited about the future of play that will emerge from physical products converging with digital storytelling. We believe that Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies will transform the world of play, and that Playmation Avengers represent our initial steps in this impending phenomenon.