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Animation: India shines, but woes linger

By George Iype
March 18, 2005 17:08 IST
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India's animation sector is witnessing a major boom. Overseas entertainment giants like Walt Disney, Imax and Sony are increasingly outsourcing cartoon characters and special effects to India.

Other companies are outsourcing animation from India for commercials and computer games.

But the sector still suffers from a lot of challenges and problems. So what will it take to make India a true global animation powerhouse?

In this special series, we take a look at what makes India shine in the world of animation and what ails it.

India's animation industry is seeing an unprecedented boom time, but the sector is also facing several challenges these days.

In the last few years, India has emerged as a global powerhouse in technology development. But experts say that unlike animators in countries like China, South Korea or the Philippines, Indian animators have not been exposed to animation films.

"It is a relatively new industry. Not much animated stuff is locally available in India. The only experience most animators have are from commercials and special effects fields," points out Abraham Ninan, an animation consultant working in Bangalore.

Experts like Ninan say there is also image that Indian studios have a hard time in delivering quality and schedules effectively.

Agrees Toonz CEO P Jayakumar: "There is lack of awareness about the industry and absence of substantial venture capital inflow. There is also need for a proper animation training in the country."

Another major problem is lack of government support and financing.

The Central government and every state government in the country have come out with liberal policies aimed at helping software companies. But no such governmental policy or programme exists for animation companies.

Access to venture capital funding, deft or equity financing for animation firms are preventing the industry from gaining stakes in co-production or bringing more work into the country.

India also does not have any international co-production agreements. The animation industry has been lobbying for this and, to enhance the industry's global profile, a group of Indian animation houses have banded together to form the Animation Production Association of India.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), which conducted an elaborate study on the animation industry in the country last year, came out with a series of recommendations to position the Indian animation studios to global excellence.

Some of these recommendations are:

  • Set up animation parks on the lines of the software technology parks.
  • Increase the level of interest of audiences in the domestic market in animation.
  • Enter into co-production tie-ups with countries such as Canada to develop animation content, and arrangements with producers/studios in the US.
  • Increase the range of applications for animation such as documentaries, etc.
  • Develop a national brand identification in animation.
  • Strengthen the interface between local studios and producers.
  • Have a representation in major international animation markets and festivals.
  • Create assured off take of locally produced original animation productions by domestic broadcasters.
  • Provide relevant funding and infrastructure for animation product development.
  • Take a series of strategic initiatives to build a body of manpower talent to fuel the growth of this market.

Nasscom says that to make Indian animation industry world class, there is a need to develop and strengthen the supply base of animation production studios by importing hardware and software equipment.

To achieve this, Nasscom has asked the government to make import of hardware and software required by a studio, free of custom duty.

Collective bargaining with overseas IT equipment vendors to get the best possible prices and providing Indian IT companies with incentives to undertake product development effort in animation software are the other important suggestions from Nasscom.

Ninan advocates that one of the major areas is granting industry status to the animation sector to enable it to gain access to funding from banks and financial institutions.

Experts say there is also a need to set up more training institutes that focus on animation.

"We need to increase the demand for animation as a career option for our students. Now everyone wants to become a software engineer. We should inculcate in students similar interest to become animators," says Madhu Jayaraj, an animator working in Trendz Studio, a Bangalore-based small-time animation firm.

"Let us hope that in the days to come, India will have animation parks, along the lines of software technology parks, that provide us all the infrastructure facilities to become a global player in this field," Jayaraj added.

Don't miss the fourth part of the series on Monday!

Design: Rahil Shaikh

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