April 27-2020
“We are trying our best to wade through the rough waters of lockdown”: Rajiv Chilaka on the effects of COVID-19

It’s been more than a month since the imposition of lockdown in India due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, and the country is still grappling with its consequences. Several sectors have been badly hit with events, film and TV productions being stopped, eventually hampering the cash flow. 

Animation studios across the country have also not been exempted from COVID-19’s prey but in comparison to live-action and VFX studios, the harm is lesser. According to the KPMG report, COVID-19: The many shades of a crisis, the animation sector has a medium effect due to the pandemic and the lockdown that followed.

Source: KPMG report

One of the biggest studios in India, Green Gold Animation, the creators of one of the most popular animated IP, Chhota Bheem are also making changes and adaptations to cope up with the unprecedented situation.  

Speaking to AnimationXpress about the scenario, Green Gold Animation founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka mentioned, “These are truly challenging times for us all. The government regulations have indeed been strict but very necessary. The swift implementation of the lockdown didn’t give us much time but we’ve managed to put a business continuity plan in place. We have been actively working from home and the process even though affected has not stopped. We have made provisions, wherever possible, to continue the work from the safety of the home.”

Currently 70 per cent of the production team is working from home while 30 per cent are discontinuing work due to several reasons, Chilaka further informed. There are certain teams who do not have much to work from home are also discontinuing work. The authorities at the studio have also taken special permission from the Government to have office high-end systems delivered to the homes of our artists across Hyderabad. There has also been a restriction on final deliveries of projects which are completely dependent on production volume.

Rajiv Chilaka

Our entire company has gone through a huge transformation, shifting as much production work as possible from the office to individual homes. All our artists are being able to work remotely, communicate with their team and have bounded access to the data servers. The ongoing projects are still on track albeit at a slower pace. We are fortunate to have partners, both broadcasters as well as co-producers, who have been very understanding of the challenges we are facing as a studio,” added Chilaka.

Animation projects take time, patience and also necessary technologies. With the imposition of lockdown and transports being temporarily hindered, deliveries of essential hardwares and software are also not possible. Hence, the 2D projects of the studio are faring better than the 3D projects which are much more hardware dependent. “As of now, we are focusing on whatever is in our control and prepping any remaining workplace dependent process, be it hardware or software , within our pipeline. We are ready to move ahead on them as soon as the situation abates,” mentioned Chilaka.

Earlier in February, with the downsizing of its Mumbai based Golden Robot Animation studio, there was a migration and reduction in number of employees in the Green Gold family who are now managed directly from the Hyderabad office. Thus, there has been no further furloughs or layoffs during the COVID disruption period. In fact, there has been no salary deductions for the last month. However, Chilaka said that for the upcoming months they’ll decide about the payment structure as per the situation, as well as for those who are unable to work at all owing to circumstances, by the end of April.

I have always maintained that our people are our biggest strength. The effort of our teams, in these trying times is a testimony to that very fact. Of course, the lockdown has thrown up some challenges but we are trying our best to move through these rough waters intact. We have always thought of ourselves as a family rather than a company. We took precautions and distributed masks among our employees much before the lockdown was implemented as well as took steps to up the sanitation efforts within the office. We have also been checking up on their family members and keeping a close eye on their well-being throughout this period.” he noted. 

Chhota Bheem

Every crisis also throws light on the possible solutions. This crisis has put forward the importance of digital solutions. Compared to live action production, animation production has still managed to hold its ground, of course with quite a few bumps. India still is in the growing stages of connectivity. Not everyone has access to the high speed network required to transfer, upload and share the heavy files. Even though digital platforms provide us with access to streamline a part of the process, closing the loop on time requires live coordination especially in a creative industry.

Throwing some light on how COVID-19 has affected the industry and its possible solutions, Chilaka stated, “The silver lining during this lockdown period is the massive increase in content consumption across all media and we are happy to be a part of that universe with our shows like Chhota Bheem and Mighty Little Bheem performing really well. In terms of solutions, I think we will be better off thinking of innovations in creating an overall cumulative creation process rather than solutions specific to the particular problems thrown up by COVID-19 as the next crisis might bring about a bag of entirely different challenges.”

For a booming industry like animation, this is a testing phase and the ones to adapt to this struggle for existence, will be fit for survival.