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TED Talks are going desi with a little help from Bollywood’s biggest star

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
On your TV screen soon.
By Maria Thomas
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Big ideas are coming soon to Indian television screens.

TED, known for its glitzy global conferences featuring the best and brightest in tech, design, and entertainment, as well as its viral videos on topics ranging from exploring Antarctica to the power of introverts, plans to launch a television series in partnership with Star India. Titled TED Talks India: Nayi Soch (“new thinking”), the show will present original TED Talks in Hindi, and will be hosted by Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan.

TED (which stands for technology, entertainment, and design) started out as a one-off conference organised by Richard Saul Wurman, an architect, in California in 1984. Envisioned as both the “ultimate dinner party” and the “anti-conference,” the first iteration featured a demonstration of the compact disk and the mathematician Benoit Mandlebrot talking about mapping coastlines using his theory of fractal geometry, among other presentations.

Though it didn’t do well financially in the beginning, the formula began to work in the 1990s, with its 18-minute presentations designed to fit the supposed limit of the human attention span. TED conferences began selling out tickets and, in 2001, the non-profit Sapling Foundation, led by Chris Anderson, took over. Over the next few years, Anderson presided over a massive global expansion of the brand that resulted in TED conferences featuring scientists, philosophers, musicians, and more from around the world, and the development of the now beloved, free TED Talks video and audio podcast series.

But while many of these videos—Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s arresting speech on the danger of a single story and one on ”period man” Arunachalam Muruganantham and his sanitary pad-making machine are among them—have gone viral in India, too, their audience has often been limited to viewers who speak English.

In India, that’s just around 10% of the population, or around 125 million people. A much larger component (around 41% according to the 2001 census) speaks Hindi, and that’s the market TED is likely looking to tap with its new show. Moreover, Star India’s wide reach is sure to be a big help.

“The sheer size of Star TV’s audience, with more than 650 million viewers, makes this a significant milestone in TED’s ongoing effort to bring big ideas to curious minds,” Juliet Blake, TED’s head of TV and the executive producer of the series, said in a statement.

And the legions of Shah Rukh Khan fans will likely tune in too.

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