VFX Regional Competitiveness: Stay Focused, Get Ahead, Stay Ahead -

Regional Competitiveness: Stay Focused, Get Ahead, Stay Ahead

NASSCOM Animation & Gaming India 2007: Session Wise Coverage


The session �India�s Position of Regional Competitiveness� at NASSCOM discussed amongst many things, strengths & weak points as well as what exactly India�s studios needed to focus on, in order to consolidate its emergence on the global animation map.

Chaired by Anirights CEO Ashish Kulkarni, the panel comprised of PMI GreenGold Animation CEO Rajiv Chilakalapudi, MAYA Entertainment Production Consultant Jai Natarajan, Toonz Animation India Sr Vice President Atul Rao and Animation Xpress.com CEO and Managing Editor Anand Gurnani.

Regional Competitiveness session started with a clarification note by Ashish S.K., that, the session will focus on the following three points:
a]India�s competitiveness as a Animation process outsourcing hub.
b]India�s competitiveness as a IP creation location.
c]Regional competitiveness within India.

If one word were to define what the panel laid emphasis on it was �Quality�

MEL Production Consultant Jai Natarajan

“To be honest, we live in a global world and as far as competitiveness goes, anybody can be our competitor. We spend a lot of time on the Industry to go ahead and to see how we can grow, but this is not enough. We have to look from behind our shoulders and see who is doing what. It must be remebered that the price of complacency is high. Urgency and sense of mission are required” shared Jai Natarajan.

“The visibility for Indian animation has been up for the last three years and the output from studios is also getting excellent. But that also means we are constantly under the scanner and have to consistently upgrade our performance levels” he added.

“It is not only Korea and China that have Mind boggling ideas, countries like Phillipines as well as other destinations are coming up too” he further added.

Toonz Animation India�s Atul Rao shared in his power point presentation that while the old challenges for destinations like India were achieving Quality benchmarks, Production and distribution etc, the new challenges included the rising cost of prodcution in India, New competition springing up world wide and the new interest in IP which was a new ball game for Indian studios.

Talking about Indiaâ€?s Strengths, Rao shared, “We have proven to be competent in terms quality and delivery, after having to overcome reputation issues from delivery problems in the past. There is cultural compatibility in which International companies do have a comfort level working with India. We carry a spirit of cooperation with international companies, which is the best way to gain the competitive edge in such a small industry.”

Some of the gaps that need to be shared, according to Atul Rao were, “Gaps between development and production needed to be addressed, distribution access to the market is needed, financing models need to evolve, we need to develop skill sets in pre production and IP creation. We should not distinguish “domestic quality” with “export quality”, if we are to build a similar industry as Japan has done.”

Sharing his experiences of dealing with the International market as an IP creator, PMI GreenGoldâ€?s Rajiv Chilakalapudi who is one of Indiaâ€?s foremost studios in original content creation with long term deals with CN in place, shared, “For us the big challenge was to create an original animated show like Vikram Betaal. We were trying to sell Vikram Betaal in the International market but we actually rode quite a steep learning curve in terms of understanding what the International markets demanded”

Green Gold Animation's Rajiv Chilakalapudi

“We need to collectively create a genre of Original Indian animation content, a style of our own and then market that style in an aggresive manner internationally” he added.

“Another extremely important point worth noting” shared Rajiv “Is that in IP we need to create large volumes, both in terms of titles as well as episodes, becuase the international buyers out there is looking to accquire libraries of content and not mere standalone shows. Also for an â€?Indian styleâ€? to evolve and come forth, we need the volumes, the commonality of wich will define our style”

On the topic of original content, Session Chair Ashish Kulkarni shared, “I think within one India itself, we have a range of art and story telling styles. We can have the richest library of content in the world”

Anirghts Ashish Kulkarni

Talking next about the history of Animation outsourcing Kulkarni shared, “The first instance of animation outsourcing happened in Japan & Canada. This was followed by work going to Korea & Philippines. These destinations emerged as major animation production hubs with most of the big names having their backend outsourcing studios there. And then China, Taiwan and Vietnam too entered the fray.

Although India started very late, just 8-9 years ago, but India quickly established itself as a CG animation delivery hub. India has also delivered a large number of 2D animation series also. India was always open in accepting new trends and evolving business models. For example India did several co-production projects in last few years even in the absence of co production treaties with most animation business countries. India has strongly looked at the needs of animation education and industry requirements. India has rightly analyzed the need for improving the quality of animation training and enhancing the skills of existing animation professionals to specializations within the process. At the same time Indian animation Industry realizes that they have to nurture the talent to grow up the value chain to logically do fully animated feature films and IP development in India, he added.

“We have to make it a point that we learn from these experiences of these countries and ensure that the animation industry in India is here to stay as a high quality animation hub and grow multiple time then what it is today” he pointed out.

Giving an example of how when Lucas Film was looking to set up a studio in Asia, India should have gone and aggressively marketed itself, Jai Natarajan shared, “There was a strong chance that the studio would set up shop in India, but the Singapore Government worked swiftly and that plus the better IPR protection mechanisms attracted Lucas film to Singapore”

“There are various global majors which have their front end in Asia and all of these can be India. The thing with having the front end operations of these companies on the macro level is that it also helps pull in talent for the backend work” he added.

Session Chair Ashish Kulkarni next asked AnimationXpress.com Managing Editor Anand Gurnani as to what his experience was in his frequent trips to International Animation conferences and destinations.

“I must share that the business of animation is driven by passion, be it in India or any other place in the world. In my visits to studios in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore or even in the UK and France, what I have observed is that the creative artist gets a lot of respect. The kind of adulation and attention that â€?The Bad Eggâ€? director got in Japan at Digicon needed to be seen to be believed”

AnimationXpress.com Managing Editor Anand Gurnani

“Again when it comes to places like China and Singapore, the local governments are spending a lot of money to ensure that the environment is conducive to the business and production of animation. They are also very aggressive when it comes to marketing their studios collectively in the international arena” he added.

“Respect for the artists, Government support and a strong local market is what we need to imbibe from these destinations” shared Gurnani adding that, “I see most of these destinations, not as competition but as future collaborators and vendors as India moves up the value chain”
“Look at Japan, thanks to its local market, the self sufficiency not only makes it create great original regional content, but Anime and Manga have become cult genres across the world” he further went on.

After the round of discussion on International Competitiveness, session chair Kulkarni next steered the talk to internal competitiveness. He shared some of his statistics charts which listed seven Indian hubs and their infrastructure and manpower index. On being asked to pick their city of choice to open a studio in, the panelists unanimously agreed that, “The most essential part of a studio is talent and where the largest available talent resource pool is, there the studios will open”

“We are the only fortunate country in the world which has so many animation production and development destinations. This should motivate us further to collaborate and tap and hone the depth of raw talent from every nook and corner of India” he added.

On being asked by Kulkarni, wether the increasing reports on original content development in India by a leading vortal and Industry media vehicle, would affect the service work inflow?, AnimationXpress Anand Gurnani replied, “I guess the world is glad to note that one of its favorite outsourcing destinations is moving up the value chain and now in addition to their regular production work, in a couple of yearâ€?s time they can look at India as a hub for collaboration on development, pre production as well as post production work too”

Giving their parting shots, the panelists shared what they thought was needed to be done.

GreenGoldâ€?s Chilakalapudi commented on how the Animation Industry needed incentives akin to what the Software and IT industry were getting in India. “I belive that India has the potential of becoming one of the top three Animation destinations in the world, for that we need some policy support as well as incentives akin that given to the software industry. There are so many countries who do not have as much potential as India has, yet those countries are going ahead due to government support. We need to be given a Tax Holiday and some exemptions on import duty must come into place. This would spur investments in the Animation Arena as Return on Investments becomes higher”

MELâ€?s Jai Natarajan shared, “The only thing that we need to focus on is Quality, Quality and Quality. Everything else will come into place if we focus on quality”

And the entire panel gave Jai a �thumbs up� signal, they agreed unanimously with him. Let�s focus on the quality of what we do and all the competencies will evolve.

Yes maybe Government support and Industry Academia interaction with some forward thinking initiatives being announced and implemented would help too. And a sharp focus and initiatives on developing the domestic market as well.

These things it seems are on their way, and time will definitely tell!