Year Ender Exclusive: “Looking forward while looking within the Indian AVGC-XR industry”- Ashish Kulkarni

We won over 2020 to arrive at 2020WON

2020 was a year of unexpected turns, unforeseen challenges, uncertain situations, and even personal losses for many. It was a year that started with hope but quickly caved into sudden adversity that none of us were prepared for. 

The year 2020 was anything but life as usual. We had to adjust the way we work, the way we communicate, and even the way we go about our daily lives. Although it has been a very valuable year for AVGC-XR sectors in India and across the globe, 2020 reminded us that our vision and mission need a reset.  

For the AVGC – XR industry, this year was unprecedented in more ways than oneWith the challenges, we also saw many acts of kindness, sacrifice and extraordinary service.

Ashish S Kulkarni

All the creative production challenges and unprecedented situations that 2020 posed, made us stronger, more resilient, and more considerate of people’s needs and limitations. For the first time, people understood the value of displaying empathy for each other at home and otherwise. There is no doubt, 2020 has taught us more than any regular year. But as they say, life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. 

The younger generation – specially the millennials, tried their hands and minds at creating cutting edge technologies for social media and people to people engagement, given the fact that the lockdown did not allow for normal means of socialising. New communication patterns quickly emerged, and many new phrases were introduced to our daily colloquialisms, such as:

1] Work for home
2] New normal
3] Teach from anywhere
4] Lets Zoom
5] Let’s do a webinar
and many more.

New normal

Animation, Gaming, Comics and a few XR teams immediately shifted gears and moved computers home to deliver shows in time for its releases. It was all about increasing bandwidth and adjusting to the prolonged working hours as one was expected to deliver shots and scenes from home, and over the internet. Many times, one could not send and receive data in time because of internet issues. The clever solution – production teams sent an office boy with a hard disk to collect dailies for edit line-ups and director’s reviews. It was also amazing to see how animation voice artists took online direction and ensured the timely delivery of voice files. 

VFX teams faced a major challenge during the past year. With production and filming paused, they could not get new live-action shots to work upon for a portion of the year. However, with the new SOPs for shooting films and shows published and followed, many shoots were done against a green screen. It is now estimated that the VFX teams will have 50 to 100 per cent more work on the same shots to complete productions.

Although creative content creation suffered a bit in re-adjusting to the novel COVID-19 situation, creative content consumption surfaced as a clear winner this year. Content consumption became the primary way one could get entertained, as well as remain engaged and connected to the world. In 2020, creative content consumption saw a sudden 600 to 900 per cent growth on various content platforms. New viewing behaviours and content consumption patterns emerged, and we could see new records getting set all the time during the pandemic.

As we enter 2021 and prepare ourselves to turn the page, the year that has gone by offers a great vantage point, for individuals, companies, communities, and families, to look back and reflect on what changed in everyday life. By “looking forward while looking within,” we can reflect on what new practices, which emerged out of necessity in 2020, make sense for the future. We can reflect upon what we felt and did during the pandemic, the decisions we took, the adjustments we made, the confidence we gathered to move ahead in life. 

In a year that reminded us that we live on an Earth with common beliefs as well as problems, the human potential for communication, compassion, creativity, and collaboration, emerged stronger than ever before. The belief in the power of digital to create a better world became stronger by every passing day in 2020. The eagerness to partner, collaborate, contribute, and share the responsibility to turn the present challenge into a great opportunity for everyone is seen through the collective actions and promising environment being shaped at the beginning of 2021, the foundation for which was laid in 2020.

As the year 2020 progressed, unified efforts to design and create a great national AVGC-XR policy for India began, with an emphasis on building and evolving States-Central collaboration to strengthen the AVGC-XR eco-system in India, for India and for the world.

For almost five to six months during the lockdown, the core industry stakeholders from all AVGC-XR sectors met virtually, regularly and for hours to craft a pre-policy draft for a national AVGC-XR Policy.

All the state governments, and even the ministries of Information & Broadcasting, Commerce and Industries, IT- ITES, NITI AAYOG, and so on, with all eagerness, ensured their support and valuable contribution to creating a much needed, win-win pre-draft policy for AVGC-XR industries in India.

This pre-draft policy will now go through deeper consultations and refinement before it is officially approved and released as a national policy document. This policy will set the ball rolling for India to emerge as a global AVGC -XR powerhouse.

Image Tower

Concurrently, the effective implementation of state-level AVGC Policies in Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra, helped the AVGC industry to find a way forward even through the pandemic. One of the most beautiful and iconic workspaces dedicated for use by the AVGC-XR sector, IMAGE Towers, is finally coming up at Hyderabad, as a part of the Telangana AVGC Policy promise. While we are talking about the infrastructure status, cluster development, AVGC-XR Parks, ART Villages, and so on for the AVGC-XR sector in India at various locations, Hyderabad has already taken the lead and set an example by investing in IMAGE Towers. 

In Maharashtra, the fourth IT- ITES 2015 policy is due for renewal in 2021. In addition, the state is also coming up with its first Maharashtra Film, Media and Entertainment Policy this year. This comprehensive and well-crafted policy will be a game changer. 

Karnataka’s second AVGC policy will and Telangana’s first ever AVGC policies have a couple of more years to go for renewals. 

In the state of Kerala, great minds have come together from all AVGC-XR institutions to form SAIK (Society of Animation Institutions of Kerala). SAIK successfully completed its first anniversary on 28 October 2020. Now the team at SAIK is ready with a draft recommendation for the first Kerala AVGC-XR Policy. 

The state of Tamil Nadu already has two associations of AVGC-XR stakeholders namely VEGAS (Visual Effects – Gaming & Animation Society) and AGNI. The leadership team at VEGAS is working hard to put together an amazing draft for the Tamil Nadu AVGC-XR Policy. I am certain we will soon have this policy in place.

The momentum to create AVGC-XR associations and policies in other states like Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Complete North East, New Delhi (NCR), and Goa, is strong.

In the states of Goa and West Bengal, AVGC is covered under the respective IT – ITES policies, but these policies will be due for renewal soon.

In Kolkata, an active group has begun the formation of the West Bengal AVGC-XR Association. The core team has been working on creating a pre-draft policy framework for a new, suggestive West Bengal AVGC-XR Policy. All my visits to meet these stakeholders in Kolkata featured great hospitality and delicious food. In fact, I pleasantly remember eating at joints and great food, than working with this group. I am confident that this group of AVGC- XR industry stakeholders in West Bengal is capable of setting up a great new AVGC-XR Policy sooner. 

A small but very focused group of our AVGC- XR warriors from Orissa have been religiously attending events all over India. Now we have an active group, working on the formation of the Orissa AVGC-XR Association. Recently, the state of Orissa also created a film policy and we are now initiating the creation of the Orissa AVGC-XR Policy.

A very dynamic and dedicated group of professionals from Madhya Pradesh, mostly from Indore and Bhopal are working closely to form a Madhya Pradesh AVGC-XR Association. Notably, a few of these industry veterans met with Madhya Pradesh’s Hon. CM and Hon. Ex. Lok Sabha speaker – briefing them about the emergence and growth of AVGC-XR industry in the state.

In Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, a very energetic and enthusiastic group of youngsters have got together, and we have now started regular interactions. We have a strong group of AVGC-XR professionals at Gurugram as well. As the states’ opportunities define themselves, the Haryana AVGC policy framework is ready and submitted to the government. While the state of Punjab has AVGC mostly covered under its IT – ITES policy, a team of actively invested professionals has started a conversation to establish a Centre of Excellence for the AVGC-XR industry. Although the AVGC – XR industry is very small in Punjab and Haryana at the moment, the traction in these states is very high and so is the level of skill in the AVGC-XR sectors. I foresee a lot of potential for the growth of AVGC-XR in these two states. 

The state of Gujarat had a humble beginning with a few, smaller studios designing comic books and then converting them into animation series. Today, we have a strong Gujarat State Film Policy in place. As the number of AVGC-XR studios and educational institutions are growing, in the year 2021 we are initiating the formation of the Gujarat State AVGC-XR association. Once the association is formed, we will approach the state government to form a separate AVGC- XR Policy as well.

The states within the North East have shown a very keen interest in nurturing the AVGC-XR industry in all the states. We have started skill development initiatives with several educational institutions and universities already. In over 11 institutions, where Animation, VFX and Design is taught, we have over 900+ active students. We are hopeful to have a critical skilled artist base of over 3000+ professionals by 2022 in the North East where 10-12 small companies are already registered and operating. Given the natural creative abilities and interests within the younger generations from the entire North East, we are very sure of a speedy establishment of the AVGC- XR industry in this region. The cost and talent arbitrage are the greatest advantages of establishing a sunrise industry like AVGC- XR in the North East.

More states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, etc., are also slowly emerging as AVGC-XR states as well. Uttar Pradesh already has a film policy and has undertaken the great initiative of founding a state-of-the-art film city. UP already had a great film city at Noida which housed many live-action and post-production studios including  AVGC- XR ecosystem in the same region. Most of the private universities in Noida have animation, VFX & design undergrad programs already, with a sizable number of students pursuing degree programs in AVGC disciplines. Assuring a steady flow of skilled talent.

Finally, we would like to propose a dedicated AVGC-XR policy for Uttar Pradesh as a state for its abundant potential. 

It was truly amazing to see how AVGC-XR stakeholders and groups came together during 2020 to keep the collective energies going and spirits high. Sharing knowledge through digital platforms became the new mantra. It was remarkable to see how many professionals contributed on webinars logging in from various remote locations.

AVGC-XR associations and industry institutions like Animation Xpress, FICCI LEAP, CII, ABAI, SEPC, TVAGA, VEGAS, SAIK, TASI, FICCI AVGC-XR forum, FICCI Fantasy Sports forum, India Game Developer Association – IGDA, The Rummy Federation (TRF), All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), eSports development association of India (EDAI), eSports Federation of India (ESFI), Internet and mobile association of India (IMAI) – Gaming committee, Indian Digital Gaming Society (IDGS), Media and Entertainment Skills Council ( MESE) – Vidyadaan Series and many more, kept up the momentum for the AVGC-XR communities that have evolved in India over the last two decades. 

It is estimated that the present strength of active and direct AVGC-XR professionals in India is between 1,85,000 to 2,00,000. The manpower required by 2030, is estimated to be around 20,00,000 AVGC-XR professionals. Moreover, the total size of the AVGC-XR industry share was just one per cent of the global market share in 2020. It is estimated that AVGC-XR will see exponential growth in the next few years and will have a five to seven per cent share of the global market by 2030. Within the universe of Media and Entertainment in India, the AVGC-XR sectors are estimated to have a 50 per cent share by 2030, which will be mostly dominated by gaming, eSports and XR verticals.

We have seen the prominent growth of fantasy gaming, eSports and more in the last decade. The very fact that we saw the Dream 11 and MPL emerge as major sponsors for Indian flagship league IPL, clearly defines the positioning of a large audience connect to fantasy games. In fact, it was a matter of great pride to see Indian AVGC-XR brands bid and position themselves. Although we have seen the emergence of several gaming verticals within the digital gaming ecosystem, there is an urgent need to define them and position them correctly to ensure clarity and understanding for all stakeholders. I am confident that with all the associations, as well as state and central governments’ interactions and brainstorming, we will invent a policy framework for the AVGC-XR industry that clearly sets India on a trajectory towards success and desired growth by 2030.

The challenges that lie ahead are large, partly obscure, and daunting. We know the world around us will continue to change, so let’s never stop listening, learning and showing up for people when it matters most. We firmly stand on a solid foundation of our cultural ethos, which provides us an ability to reset our goals and rethink our assumptions to adjust with the emerging ways of dealing with the future – in that sense, at least, it will be business and life as usual.

esports

I’ve had the honour of working closely with most of these policies and respective industry counterparts. I take immense pride in having been a part of our Indian AVGC- XR industry since the last 25 years where I have made great friends and have a deep respect for each and everyone’s contribution in building the Indian AVGC-XR industry.

I hope that we come out even stronger and ready for what it takes to make a difference in 2021 in near terms, laying a rock solid foundation to emerge as a global AVGC-XR powerhouse by 2030!

(This article has been contributed by Punnaryug Artvision founder Ashish S Kulkarni and Animation Xpress doesn’t necessarily subscribe to these views)

Games