Interview with Vice President of Animation Today

Mr. K.M. Ranjith Chandrasekharan

India is a country that stepped into the animation industry much later than many of the other western and Asian countries. However its late entry has not deterred it from growing rapidly into the animation field. And today it has attained quite a respectable position on the global map of computer animation.

Indian Animation industry is estimated to be growing at 30% per annum. The current size of the industry is estimated at US $ 2 billion and is expected to reach US $ 4 billion by 2008. Due to the extremely competitive climate as well as the global slow-down, some of the large studios in the US have implemented large amounts of layoffs of animators and artists. India is slowly emerging as an alternative to Korea, Philippine and Taipei for animation outsourcing. India is also emerging as a post-production hub for animation.

TechShout.com conducted an interview with Mr. K.M. Ranjith Chandrasekharan, Vice President of Animation Today, which is the leading animation publication in India. He gave us an insight into the animation industry and threw light on India’s growth and position in this rapidly growing field.

T.S.: Could you briefly introduce Animation Today to our readers?

R.C.: Animation Today was conceived around a year back. Till date it remains to be India’s pioneering animation magazine and infact one of the first in Asia in the English language. Till date we have covered a wide and diverse range of topics, from tutorials to interviews of wizards from the field…Animation Today has covered it all.

T.S.: What was the main reason behind starting such a unique initiative?

R.C.: Animation is quite a nascent concept and industry in the Indian sub-continent. Our main purpose behind Animation Today was to create an awareness of this upcoming field and I am quite confident that the magazine has been successful in its initial endeavour of atleast introducing the subject to the otherwise animation novice country. Infact I am very confident that very soon we will create a widespread interest and passion of this field to many.

T.S.: Were you apprehensive about coming into this field?

R.C.: I was always keen to do something new and novel. I started off with Chennai-based MUV studios and its head Mr. Rajesh Shah had a very fine and broad vision. He was the one who inculcated the idea of starting a magazine that caters solely to animation.

T.S.: Can you throw some light on the statistical details of Animation Today, such as its circulation, reader base etc.

R.C.: At present we have crossed 5,300 copies in India. Mumbai and Bangalore are the areas where we have our maximum circulation.

T.S.: Are you licensing content or do you have your own team of writers?

R.C.: At present we are not licensing content, but we may see the probability of doing the same in the near future. Currently we are having excellent contributing writers who are affiliated and work with various publications, who are writing articles for Animation Today.

T.S.: What do you have to say about Venture Capitalists looking at Indian animation?

R.C.: I consider this the perfect time for venture capitalists to invest in Indian animation, because India is undoubtedly the perfect market and investors are sure to profit leaps and bounds by setting their base here.

T.S.: Animation industry in India is witnessing an outsourcing boom. What do you think are the contributing factors?

R.C.: India’s excellent knowledge in the field of Information Technology is known throughout the world. Indians are also extremely talented and have a good hand at drawing and sketching. And ofcourse the skilled labour and language proficiency only adds on to the genius of Indians. Actually in India’s case, the English-speaking nature of its manpower is emerging as a strong factor in favour of Indian companies. Ironically, the lack of spoken English skills has restricted the production houses in Asian countries such as Korea and the Philippines.

T.S.: What is the nature of work being outsourced to India?

R.C.: Until 2003, India was only being considered during the final stage of production. However with the country’s increasing knowledge and skill in the animation forte, the works are now being taken from the initial level of production itself. From top to bottom and from start to end India has a significant role to play throughout the making.

T.S.: Can India become a leading outsourcing destination for the animation industry? How long do you think will it take for India to accomplish that dream?

R.C.: At present Japan, South Korea and China are the leading outsourcing destinations. However, India is not too far behind. As mentioned before, India’s biggest strength is its language and ofcourse the cheap and skilled labour that we offer.

T.S.: What do you have to say about the scope of co-production assignments in India?

R.C.: Co-production was the first thing to take place, and a lot of studios were involved in it. Post production involves a lot of ink, paint and compositing and scanning work, which is the labor intensive part of the entire process of animation and requires less skill. Thus we can see that the animation industry in India is following a similar evolutionary part as the software industry.

T.S.: What according to you are the reasons behind the slow adoption of 3D animation by the Indian animation industry?

R.C.: Until recently, much of the work done by Indian computer animation production houses for the global market was mainly 2D animation. 2D animation has been there since times unknown; however 3D animation came into being in India in around 2001. So therefore the first and foremost reason behind India’s slow adoption of 3D animation is its late entry in the country. Due to this there is lesser skilled man-power in this sector and fewer amounts of people are engaged in this field. However Indian companies are scripting limited success stories in their attempt to penetrate the global market for 3D animation work.

T.S.: Whilst speaking about 2D animation one cannot help but mention ‘Hanuman,’ India’s first fully animated 2D feature film. What are your views on ‘Hanuman’s’ success and what do you think have been its effects on India’s animation industry?

R.C.: ‘Hanuman’ is a name which has placed India on a very respectable position on the global map of animation movies. It is a feather in India’s cap. Its enormous popularity not only in India, but throughout the world has proved that we Indians are not far away from becoming one of the best countries in this field. The good news is that very soon ‘Hanuman part 2’ will be released, which will further reinforce India’s position in the world of animation. The success of ‘Hanuman’ is a call for companies to venture into animation.

T.S.: Will we see more animated movies from India in the near future?

R.C.: Yes, definitely. As I mentioned before ‘Hanuman Part 2’ is on its way and there are other works that will surely hit the big screen by 2007.

T.S.: Do you think animation movies are the best way to acquaint Indian viewers with the world of animation?

R.C.: Indians have always been greatly fascinated and enthralled by media. Thus, I think that not only the medium of movies but the medium of media as a whole would be the best possible way to acquaint the Indian viewers with the field of animation.

T.S.: Is Indian television witnessing a ‘Toon Boom?’

R.C.: India is certainly experiencing a ‘Toon Boom,’ but I do feel that it is high time that we start conceptualising and creating original works. Until now we have been taking works from foreign studios and merely dubbing them. But there should be something that is solely of an Indian origin from Indian studios.

T.S.: India’s main lobby group for software industry – the National Association for Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) – had projected the Indian industry to log $950 Million in revenues in four years. Do you think that is an achievable target?

R.C.: NASSCOM is generally on the higher side. But all the same, I do think that we should reach upto atleast $900 Million in the coming four years.

T.S.: What has been the government’s role in supporting animation in India?

R.C.: Ironically, the government has not played any positive role in promoting or supporting the animation industry. There has been no financial backing from the Indian government to this industry whatsoever. This is definitely a major issue and a big reason behind the country’s slow pace in the field of animation. There are countries like France and Germany which receive tremendous government backing, because of which they are the upcoming nations in this field. Ironically, the same doesn’t stand true for India.

T.S.: Can India outperform advanced animation content creating countries such as U.S. and Japan?

R.C.: Outperforming advanced nations such as U.S. and Japan is a dream that is a little far away to achieve at present. But we can atleast come in par with them to begin with. And ofcourse with our strengths of labour and language, I am quite confident that someday we will outshine them. Infact a lot of U.S. companies are coming to India, due to the strengths that India possesses and the benefits it offers over most other countries such as that of cheap labour. Infact India is cheaper than many other Asian countries too.

T.S.: What do the Indian players need to crack the global market?

R.C.: Nobody can dispute India’s genius in the field of creativity and artistry. However we do lack in training skills and technical knowledge and know-how about the subject. Once we attain that I don’t think there can be any stopping for India to become the Numero Uno in the field of animation.

T.S.: What do you think are the prerequisites to enter the animation industry?

R.C.: Apart from things like creativity and technical knowledge, one thing that anyone keen to enter this industry should have is a lot of sustenance power. I would like to mention here that in this field nobody starts big. There is a lot of hard-work and struggle before you get anywhere. You need to be focused towards your goal and nothing or no failure should deter you from working harder and better by the day. Once you make your mind about this and get focused, then you are surely set to hit big.

T.S.: What’s the future of the animation industry in India?

R.C.: The animation industry is growing very well in India. I think I can see it somewhere on par with India’s IT industry. Infact there are many big IT companies that are investing in this industry.
Over time it is projected that more and more high value jobs would be outsourced to India. For low value post-production works, it is easier for a studio in the US to outsource its post production work as probably nothing is going to go wrong. India has one of the lowest labor rates, which makes it an attractive destination for animation outsourcing.

T.S.: And finally what can we expect from Animation Today in the near future?

R.C.: We are looking at Asian markets and have already put forward our first step towards the same.