In an exclusive conversation with Pickle, Ashish Kulkarni, Chairman of FICCI-AVGC- XR Forum, Indian AVGC-XR Task Force member and Founder of Punnaryug, provides insights into the current state and promising future of the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, Comics & Extended Reality (AVGC – XR) sector. Against the backdrop of challenges faced in 2022-2023, Kulkarni shares a positive outlook for the sector’s growth in FY 2024-2025 as he emphasizes the significance of Bangalore GAFX 2024, shedding light on its alignment with the National Education Policy 2020
Q: How would you describe the recent trajectory of the AVGC-XR sector, especially in light of challenges faced in 2022-2023?
A: The AVGC-XR sector faced challenges, including a Hollywood writers’ strike and network mergers, in 2022-2023 that resulted into non-green lighting of many projects. However, the tide has turned in the financial year 2024-2025, with significant growth and the imminent announcement of AVGC- XR policy recommendations by the Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Q: Can you elaborate on the status of AVGC-XR policies across Indian states?
A: Certainly. AVGC-XR policies are already in effect in states like Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Goa. Meanwhile, states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, UP, MP, West Bengal, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana are in the process of drafting & approval policies. Efforts are underway to establish policies in the North Eastern states & Sikkim envisioning a Center of Excellence in each state.
Q: How do you see the role of Bangalore GAFX 2024 in shaping the AVGC- XR landscape?
A: Bangalore GAFX 2024 holds immense importance, aligning with the National Education Policy 2020. It focuses on creative education from the 6th grade onwards and aims to create awareness about MECAT (Media and Entertainment Creative Aptitude Test) for students aspiring to join the industry. This event, which is expected to be attended by more than 12,000 to 15,000 people, sets the stage for the future by emphasizing skill development and creative education.
Q: Tell us more about MECAT and its relevance in the context of NEP 2020.
A: MECAT, launched by the Media and Entertainment Skills Council, plays a pivotal role in guiding students toward career paths in the media and entertainment industry. With the NEP 2020 allowing school students from 6th to 12th grade to take vocational creative programs, the introduction of MECAT is well-timed to align with this policy shift.
Q: Could you shed light on the Media and Entertainment Skills Council’s initiatives regarding faculty training and skill development?
A: Absolutely. In 2023, we trained 43,000 teachers, and our plans include training an additional 75,000 teachers across formal, school, and higher education sectors. The introduction of the Professor of Practice initiative by the UGC is commendable, as it brings experienced industry professionals into teaching roles. We aim to build a strong foundation for teaching staff and are even exploring the possibility of recruiting faculty from abroad. The MESC is also planning to come up with a National Skill Gap Report. We are currently in talks with various state and national school boards to start skilling in creative arts early. We are also in talks with All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to promote skill education in technical and higher education by providing diploma programs.
Q: How is the AVGC- XR industry adapting to the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and what are your expectations for the future?
A: The industry is embracing AI, acknowledging its potential disruptions while emphasizing collaboration between arts and science to create quality content. I draw parallels with the internet’s disruptive introduction, foreseeing AI as a transformative force that will generate new jobs alongside potential displacements.
Q: What can we expect from Bangalore GAFX 2024 in terms of industry focus and collaboration efforts?
A: This year, GAFX 2024 places a significant focus on the comics and gaming industry as well, which is experiencing the highest growth in the AVGC-XR sector. The event will host workshops and roundtables for states participating, aiding in the formulation of AVGC-XR policies and fostering collaboration.
Q: Finally, what are your expectations from the upcoming budget, particularly in the context of India’s creative economy?
A: I hope the budget will prioritize the development of India’s creative industries & creative economy and promote the ‘Create in India for the World’ initiative. Given the importance of going digital, I anticipate a budget that encourages the building of a digital economy & digital economy to align with the evolving needs of the AVGC- XR sector in the global digital age.