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DNA Conversations: Animation may be a potential blockbuster industry, it still has a long way to go

Animation as a form of entertainment has evolved considerably and transcended age barriers. With its new approach, the genre now appeals to adults as much as to children. Within India itself, experts have envisaged that even though growth for this industry in India will be exponential in the short-term, the industry would need to ramp up the numbers of trained manpower. But India has a lot to catch up on. Animation movies began being made only a decade ago, compared to the West where such movies were embarked upon in the 1920s. Obviously, therefore, there are concerns about a demand-supply mismatch and the industry’s ability to realise its untapped potential. Is it the fault of the students? Do they have expectations beyond their level of competence? What do employers look for?

While animation can be a potential blockbuster industry, it is still at a nascent stage and has a long way to go. However, the potential is phenomenal. At the same time, there is no denying that, as with all industries, trained manpower remains a challenge. Can training institutes help aspirants make the transition and prepare them for the career realities that lie ahead? Where does the animation industry in India stand today vis-a-vis its counterpart overseas? How can its untapped potential be realised? Can aspirants wake up to the ground realities and adapt to the changing requirements?

DNA’s Vijay Pandya, discussed the current scenario and what lies ahead with a cross-section of industry representatives. The panel included (in alphabetical order) Chand RK, director, Digitales Studios and co-founder, cgtantra.com; Arnab Choudhary, director, Arjuna The Warrior Prince; Bhavika Chouhan, Sr VP - marketing, Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics; Mehul Hirani, creative director, Crest Animation Studios Ltd; Kireet Khurana, director, Toonpur Ka Superhero and chief creative officer, Frameboxx; Easo Thampy Mathew, country head, Arena Animation; Sapan Narula, managing partner, Epic Studios; Ram Warrier, head - corporate marketing, Aptech Ltd.

DNA: The first question is – how big is the animation market at present for animation and special effects? In terms of revenues, what is the kind of sum you are looking at? And to generate those revenues, what’s the kind of recruitment you would need?
Hirani: I’m generalising right now. I really don’t have an idea about the exact industry size, but it’s scattered across India. There are around 10 to 12 huge studios; we have a team of more than 300 to 400 people. If you look at each one of them — many are even publicly listed — none of them is more than a Rs50-crore company. So that’s the highest cap right now if you look at it this way. So people are doing small, small businesses of Rs50 lakh, 40 lakh, 30 lakh, going up to Rs.50 crore, that’s the maximum bankroll that we can see right now. There may be some studios which might not be listed, which don’t really show the results. And as far as recruitment is concerned, it’s at a very average level right now. There is not too much recruitment.Maybe, overall, across all the studios, the animation sector must not be even requiring more than 3,000 to 5,000 artistes.

Don’t consider VFX (visual effects) sector; VFX in itself is an additional industry and the biggest turnaround has happened in the conversion business. They have gone into converting 2D films into 3D, which requires many man-hours. So that equation is completely different.