Interview with NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik

“Our Primary role is to create an enabling environment wherein the industry can grow”

Will Indian companies make it big in animation? Is the hype around this fledgling nascent $300 million industry just a media indulgence? Are we going to repeat the IT performance?
NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik
As these and some more questions surface, numerous mechanisms and minds are at work. Calculating, working out strategies, planning to strike gold. Indian animation industry is a disorganised lot, studios are busy undercutting, poaching and competing with each another. There are a few bodies and societies like TASI, ASIFA India and APAI which have been doing some commendable work. However there isn’t a single large unified body which could lobby with the government for the industry’s interests. In such a scenario does NASSCOM fit the bill?┬áThere are many arguements for and against. NASSCOM in association with the Andhra Pradesh government recently organised Animation India at the TAJ Krishna, Hyderabad. Animation ‘xpress’ Anand Gurnani met up with NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik and got the NASSCOM perspective on the current state and potential future of the Indian animation industry… Here are excerpts… What are the positive ways in which NASSCOM can push the case of animation industry in India? What sort of co-operation does NASSCOM require from the studios to achieve it? The Indian animation market, fairly static until a few years ago, is suddenly waking up to a host of global opportunities that promise a lot of action for the country’s leading design specialists. The demand for animation production services from international animation studios-spurred in large part due to India’s lower costs of animation production and technical manpower to meet 2-D and 3-D animation requirements-is drawing Indian companies into the animation framework, compelling them to view this emerging market with seriousness. North American film and television program producers (that boast worldwide networks) are finding it viable to sub contract animation production activities to independent studios overseas focusing instead on areas like film distribution. Indian companies are naturally partaking of this expanding potential. While India appears well positioned to play an important role in the global animation production market, NASSCOM recommends that the Indian animation industry needs to take the following steps: *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 *increase the range of applications for animation such as documentaries, etc. *develop a national brand identity in animation *strengthen the interface between local studios and producers *have a representation in major international animation markets and festivals *create assured offtake of locally produced original animation productions by domestic broadcasters *provide relevant funding and infrastructure for animation product development *set up animation parks on the lines of STPs *take a series of strategic initiatives to build a body of manpower talent to fuel the growth of this market What sort of bargaining points does the industry need to possess so that it can lobby with the govt? Total revenues of the animation production services sector in India are estimated to be between US$200 and 300 million in 2004. The sector is estimated to have grown at a rate of over 20 percent during the year. Demand for animation production services from India is growing with the emergence of an organized animation production sector, with state-of-the-art infrastructure, which is able to provide the quality of work required for international TV program production, at substantially lower costs. The Indian domestic market too is throwing up revenue generation prospects for ICT solutions providers specializing in this market. The requirement by the burgeoning Indian television segment for animation and special effects related work is also giving a fillip to this segment. Recognizing this potential, a number of Indian software players are turning their attention to animation. Animation studios now dot the country and the industry is also witnessing the arrival of training houses that are dedicated to building skilled manpower for this market. There has been talk of a standard degree and diploma course in animation, based on Industry needs. Would NASSCOM play a role to facilitate that? NASSCOM believes that there is a need for an Animation academy to build a steady pipeline of skilled professionals in this arena. NASSCOM would be happy to work with the Government on developing a curriculum for these courses. NASSCOM will also work with industry players to generate their buy-in and increase industry-academia interface. In your inaugural address at Animation India 2005, you mentioned something about the gaps in the Indian animation ecosystem. Please elaborate? Modern animation requires 2 basic skills – Story telling skills that is entertainment skills and technical skills which today include a lot of IT input. Looking at the world market, the growth prospects for the Indian animation and gaming industry look bright. The potential is huge. However, inspite of India’s glorious history in story telling and our current status as an IT superpower, animation clients abroad are concerned whether India will be able to deliver. The reason for their concern is the limited number of trained human resource in Indian animation. Our challenge is how do we create a similar kind of availability of human resources in animation just like we have in the field of IT. Currently the numbers are just not adequate. We have many willing partners, but unless you have a total ecosystem these things won’t work. There are many gaps in the Indian animation ecosystem, they are :- * Availability of trained people (Some places like NID are turning out good animators, but the numbers are too small.) There is need which is immediate to train people in the 18-24 age groups , people who are looking for jobs. The long term need is school level training in these fields. Government has low priority for drawing. All this has to change. * Financing ( High risk) reluctance on the Part of VCs. * Marketing When I say marketing I mean marketing India’s capabilities at 2 levels, the industry level and the studio level. As far as marketing the Indian industry abroad is concerned we are trying to do something about it at NASSCOM, however individual marketing of products and branding of icons is needed. *Merchandising streams Animation is dependent on merchandising revenue streams. The commercial potential of an animation product is truly and fully realised when there is multiple usage of a variety of products across many countries over a large period of time, all this originating from a single succesful IP. *Government Support Domestic demand in many countries has driven most developed animation industries. To help nurture animation in India we need the support of the government.