Interview with Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India & Chairman of ABAI [Association of Bangalore Animation Industries]

birenBiren, you have taken over as the ABAI Chairman at an exciting time when there seems to be a momentum on the first Government-Industry Partnership for the AVGC Sector in India. Was it difficult to convince the government to consider a separate policy not falling under the IT Sector? What are the key differentiators between these two industries according to you? BG: Karnataka, thanks to Bangalore, has been an excellent example of growth in the AVGC sector and a great pedigree of international MNCs has chosen to set up and expand their studios here. We see this as just the beginning of a much larger ecosystem, which is still in its early maturity phase, and ABAI partnering with several stakeholders and industry would like to evolve this considerably with a strategic Why an exclusive policy on Animation, VFX, Gaming & Comics? BG: Increasingly the trend towards interconnectivity between economies, enterprises, societies and governments is giving rise to a new order of development. As new expectations of markets shift the measure of what they value – India and other emerging economies play an increasing role in fulfilling those needs. The AVG industry is facing a huge shift all over the globe. The needs of the AVG sector are quite unique from those of its IT and IT enabled counterparts. For starters the AVG industry started a few decades after the IT industry and hence the support and tax holidays etc that the IT world enjoyed in relatively less challenging times is not something the AVG sector has fully utilized. AVG is a creatively lead production process powered by very high technology, which is rapidly changing, both in consumer preferences and in new technology paradigms, and studios have to keep up with new releases of technology products and solutions that are constantly being innovated. The time horizon to monetise investments on capital expenditure is very short and hence utilisation is a key to maximize returns. This calls for a need for an ecosystem to have many elements simultaneously available at hand: talent; sales pipelines; training on new software and workflow tools; power; image processing infrastructure; storage; connectivity on an international scale [TPN’s] etc. What kinds of benefits will the policy on Animation, VFX, Gaming & Comics? Helps create a platform for BRAND BUILDING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT as India is not even 1% of the Global Business. Karnataka will benefit from being the 1st mover and attracting a huge pipeline of work if it moves now. Help Streamline CREATIVE- LEAD INDUSTRY PROCESS involving Visualization, Film Direction, Design of Characters and the Story itself, Voice Recording/Dubbing, Music, Editing of Audio & Video apart from the actual production with the help of Software tools and infrastructure including data centers and Hardware. Will provide a major boost to ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & SCIENCES DOMAIN wherein similar IT infrastructure is required but the focus of business is on various platforms across the media and entertainment Industry. The policy will attract INVESTMENT FROM MAJOR PLAYERS. This requires major Indian companies to be attracted to it. Helps in the research innovation and development of tools and technologies relevant to animation and filmmaking. Currently there is a huge license fee paid annually to international providers of such tools even where they have developed this in Asia/India. In high end production 30% of team is technical. What is your view of Karnataka as an upcoming destination for AVGC sector? And what are the areas where you see potential and growth?  BG: Karnataka currently has more than 20 training institutes imparting AVGC related training through more than 60 campuses across the state. We have been informed that currently more than 10,000 students are undergoing training (study done in 2010). This figure is likely to increase to 25000 by the year 2012. More than 2000 professionals are employed in the education and animation production units in the state apart from web and content development. Karnataka AVG Industry has yet another advantage of having some of the major suppliers of software, tools and technologies to the Industry such as HP, AMD, NVIDIA, etc. located within Karnataka and more specifically Bengaluru. ABAI has been active in Bangalore, Karnataka since 2005 and represents the AVGC community in taking the cause of AVGC related activities forward by holding regular state level events and expos through private partnerships. Karnataka has a rich and diverse heritage of art and culture, and there is a great potential for the talent in the state to adapt to AVG sector. So far, science and technical streams were preferred avenues of the society for employment but the AVG sector will create better employment opportunities to arts stream. Since there is a requirement of nearly 70% of creative and artistic employees in this industry, it will lead to the economic upliftment of large strata of economically backward sections of the society especially in the rural areas. Why the AVG Summit on the 15th Sept’11? BG: The purpose of the summit is to showcase Bangalore as the pioneer in collaboration and innovation between the government, industry players and academic institutes in the AVG segment. In fact the summit is meant to serve as an eye opener and be the catalyst in creating a “collaborative enterprise” between these various constituencies. The program we have put together for the conference is intended to be a very unique mix of the past, present and future to enthuse new entrants and investors while leveraging on the strengths and resources of existing players and investors. PWC has just confirmed that the AVG sector will continue its frenetic pace of growth and forecast 21.4% (CAGR) growth by 2015. I see a significant growth opportunity in the confluence between traditional AVG formats and new media opportunities.  As a result of this opportunity some of this excitement is due to the roll out 3G, internet connectivity and the advent of devices such as the tablets, IPAD, low cost smart phones etc. How has the industry responded to this initiative? BG: While the initiative has been spearheaded by me and several members of ABAI, we have received great support and encouragement from all our industry partners including DreamWorks, R & H, Big Animation, DQ Entertainment, Crest, TATA Elxi, Dhruva, MPC, Xentrix, Aiga, and Manipal University among others and I also thank my colleagues from Technicolor for their support to this initiative.

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