Hyderabad was one of the first cities to start animation along with Mumbai, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram a few years ago and slowly it has expanded to VFX, Gaming and all others. It is one of the fastest-growing AVGC industry in India. Following the route in becoming the hub of AVGC excellence Government of Telangana, Telangana VFX, Animation and Gaming Association (TVAGA) has launched IMAGE Centre of Excellence (CoE) in animation, visual effects, gaming, CV and AI along with Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), an autonomous society under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, today (17 February 2020).
In conversation with AnimationXpress STPI, Hyderabad, director C. V. D. Ram Prasad shares, “The IMAGE CoE will nurture and support start-ups in gaming, animation, VFX, computer vision and AI Space through the strong support and participation by the Industry leaders and domain experts providing strategy guidance, domain knowledge, technology mentoring thereby supporting innovation to develop the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
CoE is positioned as an apex institute excellence and will lead in providing skills-based educational programming that integrates theory with application, preparing students for global careers in art foundation, digital and technical fields. Apart from that, “The CoE will provide access to the required infrastructure and labs to start-ups for development and validation of solution, from design to prototyping. STPI will establish the CoE by collaborating with Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA) and TVAGA with active support from MeitY, Government of Telangana, IIIT – Hyderabad, TiE – Hyderabad, Hyderabad Angels and Industry. The CoE will run accelerated start-up programmes for the start-ups being selected through monthly/quarterly/half-yearly events,” added Prasad.
It has been in discussion that the Telangana government is aiming to set up IMAGE Tower which will not only help Indian studios but even foreign ones to come together and create unique content. With the launch of IMAGE CoE, Hyderabad will be a step closure to the circuit of IMAGE tower formation and regulation.
STPI-IMAGE also signed MoU with five partners TVAGA (Telangana VFX, Animation and Gaming Association), Hyderabad Angels, HYSEA, IIIT- Hyderabad, and TiE Hyderabad with an objective to nurture and promote start-ups and budding entrepreneurs by offering resources like mentoring, technology support, infrastructure like Plug & Play Incubation, Mocap, CVAI labs and funding.
The 10000 Sq ft, IMAGE-CoE, inside the existing STPI facility targets to incubate up to 25-30 start-ups per year for the next five years. A total investment of 19. 68 Cr shall be spent over a period of five years for the CoE in addition to existing infrastructure in the STPI facility.
The start-ups will be mentored by a group of accomplished industry and academic pioneers, led by the Chief Mentor and aided by a strong Governing Council (GC) & Project Management Group (PMG) consisting of top technology industrialists, investors and academicians.
Benefits to Start-ups
Applications to get on board in the CoE is open and closes on 31 March, 2020. The start-ups will undergo various levels of evaluation before selection. On selection, they will be assisted with a seed fund of Rs. 5 lakhs after due diligence by the PMG. This fund will be released to start-ups during the structured accelerated program, at regular intervals, based on achieving set milestones.
In the first year, 20 start-ups will be chosen for on boarding this program. Each start-up will be given access to best-in-class infrastructure and R & D lab facilities, for development and validation of solution from design to prototyping to democratise innovation, including the newly set up first of its kind Motion Capture Lab. They will also be provided access to funding, mentorship, and marketing.
Industries & Commerce (I&C) and Information Technology (IT) principal secretary Jayesh Ranjan said, “Hyderabad is fast emerging as the best global destination for Gaming and AI landscape. That’s one key reason we believe STPI chose to set up its CoE in Hyderabad, and as partners, we are fully committed to this initiative. We have a strong eco-system, as the city of Hyderabad hosts established world-leading-gaming companies, global scale events such as IndiaJoy, The India Game Developers Conference (IGDC) plus India’s biggest IMAGE towers readying to open in Hyderabad.”
Stating that Hyderabad was a natural choice to set up the IMAGE CoE due to its inherent industry strengths, STPI director-general Omkar Rai, expressed, “The CoE will bring a paradigm shift in revving up research and innovation in Gaming, VFX, Computer Vision & AI through a robust ecosystem in collaboration with tech partners, industry, investors, industry associations and government, and will bolster indigenous product development while propelling the growth of tech entrepreneurship in the country. By collaborating with industry associations, academia, and angels, we have ensured the IMAGE incubation model is built on a solid foundation to realising our mission to build world-class gaming, Animation and Deep Tech providers to the world.”
“Setting up STPI-IMAGE CoE is great news for the Gaming sector, especially startups as they now have access to game development, funding, foster strategic partnerships with game development companies and global gaming publishers, TVAGA will play an active role in promoting the gaming sector and support IMAGE mission .” TVAGA president, and Green Gold Animation founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka.
Congratulating Software Technology Parks of India, Hyderabad, for setting up the Centre of Excellence in animation and gaming as well as in computer vision and AI, IMAGE CoE chief mentor and Qualcomm India VP Engineering Shashi Reddy, in his address said, “Hyderabad has a lot of animation and gaming companies, and the industry has been maturing over the years. This is a great opportunity for new start-ups to build, nurture innovation at STPI-IMAGE and accelerate the growth of gaming and animation in the city.”
“I am really excited about the future, as the new computer vision and AI at CoE will propel deep learning techniques and help grow the CV and AI areas, as well as augment new Startup,” Shashi added.
Highly Value Partnerships
IMAGE is a collaboration between industry associations, academia, and angels, the model is built on a solid groundwork.
TVAGA will lend support in funding game development start-ups and fostering strategic partnerships between game development start-ups and global gaming publishers. In addition, TVAGA will be sponsoring Gamelab related resources such as cloud and advertising credits for gaming start-ups being accelerated at CoE.
HYSEA will help provide seed funding, strategy guidance, market access besides helping the start-ups on matters related to product definition. On their part, Hyderabad Angels will provide strategy, mentoring, and help to raise funds for the start-ups. IIIT-H: will extend technology mentoring support.
The State Government will aid in strengthening the CoE goals with industry-friendly IMAGE policies and may also consider providing grant-in-aid to meritorious start-ups.
Gaming Industry’s Market Potential
Year 2020 will see social interactive gaming and esports become mainstream. India ranks fifth among the world’s top mobile gaming markets and is expected to move to the top three in the next three years. Mobile gaming is anticipated to be a $105bn opportunity by 2023 and outpace China which is estimated to be at $73bn. From 2mn gamers in 2016 to 100mn gamers by the end of 2019, the momentum will likely continue.
The average gamer spends 60 mins on mobile games with OTT platforms seeing 45 mins spent. Add to the fanatic user engagement is the repetitive behaviour where 40 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women play mobile games at least five days a week in India.
60 per cent of online gamers are in the 18 to24 age bracket who want to make quick money and also don’t hesitate to spend. Tencent’s PUBG makes a mind-boggling $7MM a month from India.