In an interview with Pickle, Apurva Chandra , Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, shares the Government’s role as a facilitator and enabler of the Media and Entertainment industry as he highlights the evolution of the Indian AVGC sector and its growth potential and steps being taken by the Government along with initiatives to encourage filming, co-production, and post-production.
What is the Government’s stance on the Media and Entertainment Industry in India?
India’s M&E Industry is standing at the cusp of transformation. It is valued at around $27 Bn and is expected to grow to US$ 35.5 billion by 2025. The sector has witnessed significant innovation and dynamic technological advances, driven by increasing importance on content and better technology adoption, availability of low cost and high skilled talent, mobile -first gaming population with rising internet & smartphone access and local games targeted specifically at local audience.
Recognizing the significant potential of this sector, the Government aims to be a facilitator and enabler of the M&E industry. We recognize the Industry’s rapid growth, but we are also cognisant of the need to catch up with global standards. The Government of India is vigorously working towards achieving these objectives.
Can you throw some light on how the Indian AVGC sector has evolved over the years?
It began with the establishment of the Cartoon films unit by the government in Mumbai in 1955, which laid the foundation for animation filmmaking in India. Prominent filmmakers like Ram Mohan, Bhim Sen, and VG Samant emerged during subsequent decades and produced award-winning films, including the first animation telefilm, “Banyan Deer.”
The Indian Animation Industry witnessed a significant leap in 1992 with the creation of the popular character ‘Meena’ and her parrot ‘Mithoo,’ aimed at raising awareness about female infanticide under the auspices of UNESCO. This character inspired the creation of ‘Sana’ in the African context. Notably, the industry co-produced the landmark animation movie ‘Ramayana’ with Japanese assistance, showcasing the collaborative nature of the sector.
The AVGC sector is gradually making progress with the adaptation of world-class techniques and innovative technologies coupled with immense talented pool in the country. The new potential of AVGC-XR sector has now made a huge inroad into the Media and entertainment sector, education sector etc which alone has the potential to create over 20 lakh (2 million) new employment opportunities.
We are also happy to see many international studios setting up their captive studios in India to benefit from the talent of Indian AVGC artists. Indian studios have also been exporting their services to international clients and studios as the cost of technology is comparatively lower in India. Looking at the huge India Opportunity presented by the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, and Comic (AVGC) sector, could you share your perspective on the growth potential of this industry in India?
India’s AVGC sector has shown steady growth in recent years and has emerged as a sunrise sector both at the national level as well as globally. The sector is expected to grow 2.2 times over the next four years driven by market forces and constitute about 1.5% of the global AVGC market. We aimed at capturing upto 5% or more of the global market by 2030 with right sets of intervention.
Recognising this immense potential both in terms of providing employment opportunities, generating original IP s from India and also contribution towards revenue generation in the service sector through exports, the Union finance Minister in the 2022 budget speech announced the formation of the Task Force on AVGC headed by the Secretary, Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. The task force comprising of inter Ministries officials, industry experts on this field has since then had several rounds of meetings and has now submitted the task force reports. The task force report brings out the existing scenario of the AVGC sector in the country and its potential. Also the major part of the report is the draft National and model Draft State Policy on AVGC.
One of the biggest advantage for India is the demographic dividend which has a promising talent pool not only from cities but also from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. By providing vibrant ecosystem that supports the AVGC sector in all parts of the country, we would be the centre of attraction for any content creation be it the original IP s from India or from works outsourced to Indian and foreign companies based in India. For instance, India based Animation Company 88 Pictures have now set up their facilities at Toronto. The Country is being seen as the primary destination for high-end, skill-based activities in the AVGC-XR sector and increasing number of global players have expressed interest in the Indian talent pool to avail offshore delivery of services. You may like to recall the example of one of the biggest leading Visual Effect Facilities – Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) has decided to set up studio in Mumbai and expected to start functioning as early as this Calendar year.
We are committed to providing incentives for the animation and visual effects industry, as well as supporting pre and post-production activities in India.
Our message to the world is that India is ready to welcome filmmakers and storytellers from across the globe to come and create in India for the world.
Can you tell us more about the incentives and support that the Indian government is providing to encourage filming, coproduction, and post-production in the AVGC sector?
The Government aims to promote ease of doing business in all sectors including the media and entertainment sector. For ease of Filming and post-production related works, we have established the Film Facilitation Office (FFO) under the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). The FFO facilitates domestic and international filmmakers, acting as a single window for central and State Government permissions and incentives which are being offer both by the Central and the State Government.
Since the launch of Financial incentives in May 2022 for Audio-Visual Co-Productions with foreign Countries and for shooting of foreign films in India, there has been huge interest being shown by several foreign film makers and also from different Countries that has already signed Audio Visual Co-Production Agreement with India. We have started disbursing the incentives too in this regards. It is noteworthy to mention that in the last 1 year since May 2022, over 39 international projects have been accorded permission for shooting in India.
In terms of incentives, we have announced schemes for foreign productions in India. Qualifying productions can claim reimbursement of up to 35% of their qualifying expenditure in India, in addition to tax credits such as GST benefits. This incentive scheme is also applicable to co-production under bilateral treaties. The scheme is also unique in the sense that we have included not just film shoots but also pure postproduction, animation and visual effects projects also as eligible for incentives. Today we have already signed bilateral audiovisual co-production agreements (AVCAs) with 16 Countries around the world, and presently pursuing with over 20 countries including Nigeria, Mexico, Colombia, South Africa etc to foster collaborations and provide better access to markets.
That sounds like a comprehensive approach to attract international collaborations. Moving on to the AVGC policy, could you provide insights into the government’s strategy to develop a national policy for the AVGC sector?
The Government is taking concrete steps to provide a boost to the AVGC sector in the country. We recognize the importance of a comprehensive National Policy for the AVGC sector. The AVGC Task Force report has laid the foundation for this policy, and we are currently in the process of finalizing it. By way of a National Policy for AVGC, MOIB has put together certain priority pointers for different machineries across areas of enhancing the industry’s market access, focused skilling, and mentorship initiatives, standardising AVGC education, increasing access to technology for all in the sector, enhancing the sector’s financial viability and ultimately promoting creation of high-quality content in India.The policy will encompass various interventions to stimulate the growth of the AVGC sector in India and help establish the country as a global hub.
Ministry is actively considering setting up of national centre of excellence for AVGC-XR which is being proposed to be set up with industry partners as major stakeholders. This is being done to ensure that this Centre is industry driven and that the best of both human and infrastructure requirement is being met as with changing times to keep pace with the industry demands. This centre will act as the main hub for driving visions and objectives of AVGC as planned to be roll out through the country and meet the objectives of National and State AVGC policies.
How is the AVGC sector being promoted at State Level across the country?
State Governments have either laid out AVGC polices or are proactively working to fine-tune and update existing AVGC policies to promote the AVGC ecosystem in the state and region. It is noteworthy to mention that few states like Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra has been leading in this front and had set up their own policies and related infrastructures and is now reaping the fruit from this sector. Similar to the boost given by Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) to the IT industry, AVGC sector is among the priority areas of STPI to work with State Governments to create Centres of Excellence in the AVGC and immersive media verticals. For example, in an attempt to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem, STPI has already set-up a CoE for start-ups working in IoT (Internet of Things) at Guwahati, and another one at Shillong exclusively for animation startups. The State Government of Karnataka, as part of its AVGC 2.0 Policy, has set up a state-of-the-art 30,000 Sq ft CoE at Whitefield, Bengaluru. Their Centre of Excellence provides facilities for start ups and entrepreneurs and film makers in some of the latest technology in this field. All of these has been made possible with the strong support of the Government.
SIMILAR TO THE BOOST GIVEN BY SOFTWARE TECHNOLOGY PARKS OF INDIA (STPI) TO THE IT INDUSTRY, AVGC SECTOR IS AMONG THE PRIORITY AREAS OF STPI TO WORK WITH STATE GOVERNMENTS TO CREATE CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE IN THE AVGC AND IMMERSIVE MEDIA VERTICALS
Moving on to the strength of Indian animation and VFX companies, India has been making significant contributions to the global AVGC industry. Could you highlight India’s strengths and its ability to produce VFX for Oscar-winning films?
India’s animation and VFX companies have showcased their talent and expertise on the global stage. Indian studios have been involved in the production of several Oscarwinning films, delivering exceptional visual effects and animation. This demonstrates the strength and capabilities of Indian companies in providing high-quality VFX services.
The talent pool in India is a major asset. We have a large number of skilled professionals in animation, VFX, gaming, and comics.India is being seen as the primary destination for high-end, skillbased activities in the AVGC-XR sector and increasing number of global players have expressed interest in the Indian talent pool to avail offshore delivery of services. The recent Oscar winning movie RRR had all the VFX and post production works done in India by Indians.
Just to mention few globally acclaimed projects, you may like to recall the fact that movies like Avengers-Endgames, Black Panthers, Mission Impossible etc being done by Prime focus ltd.(DNEG) a company based out of Mumbai. Further there has been several blockbuster and highly acclaimed movies like Top Gun Maverick, the Lion King, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, that won the best Animated Film at Oscar 2023 etc. amongst others whose considerable parts of the film shots were done by Technicolor India based out of Bangalore office.
There are several factors that serve as India’s strengths in this context:
Government’s support in the form of policies and incentives.
Strong IT ecosystem, and rapid technological advancement
Increase in skilling and training opportunities. For instance, more than 150 institutions are offering AVGC courses in the country, and 1,15,000 training programmes are being conducted every year for skill development and education in this sector.
OVER THE YEARS, INDIA HAS GRANTED OFFICIAL COPRODUCTION STATUS TO 14 FILMS, AND THE GOAL IS TO INCREASE THIS NUMBER AND ENCOURAGE MORE FILMS TO BE COPRODUCED. IT IS NOTABLE THAT OUT OF THE 14 PROJECTS GRANTED COPRODUCTION STATUS THREE PRODUCTIONS NAMELY MIA AND ME (INDIA- GERMANY) SCHIRKOA (INDIA-FRANCE) AND NOAH’S ARK (INDIA-BRAZIL) ARE ANIMATION FILMS
THE IMAGE City at Hyderabad supported by Telangana Government has been a successful example of the State’s Government initiatives to support the Start-ups and entrepreneur in this AVGC sector.
As a Part of National Centre of Excellence for AVGC, 5 Regional Centers of excellence is also being proposed to be set up in different parts of the Country in collaboration with respective State Governments.
How is India promoting co-production, and what are the future plans in this regard?
India has been actively fostering Bilateral AudioVisual Coproduction Agreements (AVCAs) with various countries to promote collaboration and growth in the film industry. Currently, India has AVCAs with 16 countries with Australia, being the most recent ones to have signed andnow Ministry aims to expand this number.
Out of the G20 countries, India has AVCAs with 10 nations, such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, India has agreements with other countries that form part of the European Union, namely Spain, Portugal, and Poland. India is also actively negotiating AVCAs with others, namely Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey and more. These efforts aim to considerably expand the number of countries with which Indian filmmakers and professionals can collaborate.
Co-production agreements have led to the creation of remarkable cinema. An example is the Indo-French treaty co-production “Lunchbox,” which achieved both box office success and critical acclaim in the past decade. Over the years, India has granted official coproduction status to 14 films, and the goal is to increase this number and encourage more films to be co-produced. It is notable that out of the 14 projects granted coproduction status three productions namely Mia and Me (IndiaGermany) Schirkoa (India-France) and Noah’s Ark (India-Brazil) are animation films.
THE TASK FORCE ON AVGC HAS PUT IN PLACE A DETAILED STRUCTURE ON HOW TO INTRODUCE AVGC AND MAKE IT PART OF THE NEW EDUCATION POLICY
These agreements also provide a platform for cultural exchange and help in strengthening bilateral relations between nations.
By signing co-production agreements, India aims to tap into the global market, enhance the quality of its films, and create opportunities for its filmmakers to reach international audiences. Furthermore, co-production agreements enable Indian filmmakers to explore diverse themes, settings, and stories, thereby broadening the creative horizons of the industry. Through collaborations with international partners, Indian filmmakers can learn from different filmmaking techniques, styles, and experiences, enriching their own artistic repertoire.
How does the Government plan to address the challenges of manpower and infrastructure in the Industry?
The Government is committed to working alongside the industry to establish more institutes and bring more human resources on board. The Government intends to explore ways to introduce AVGC in school curricula to expose students to this exciting sector at an early age. Attempts have already been made in this regards and today Central Board of School Education has introduced curriculum from class 6 to 8 on AR-XR. The Task force on AVGC has put in place a detailed structure on how to introduce AVGC and make it part of the New Education Policy.
As mentioned earlier the National Centre for Excellence in Mumbai will roll out several programs that includes training of the trainers’ program amongst others which will exponentially enhance the skilled man power for this sector.
A UGC-recognized curriculum for Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees will be established with a dedicated component of practical skills that will be imparted through a mix of in-house training by faculty as well as mentorship by industry recognized mentors.
The NCOE will provide policy advisory services, industry consulting services in terms of setting up of management clinics for National and international partnerships, curriculum design for institutes, training of experts and in the long term, will serve as an employment exchange for the industry as well as for individuals seeking career opportunities in AVGC-XR sector.
The Government also intends to undertake mapping and upgradation of existing curriculum of educational institutions (Short- & Long-term trainings or courses) as per NSQF guidelines to meet industry and international standards. For the same purpose, uniformity in course content and delivery will also be looked into as part of the standardization process.
To address the gaps in infrastructure, the Govt. will take adequate steps to encourage companies offering AVGC technology products, including software, to move from a traditional license and maintenance model to a subscription-based model. This will lead to expensive software not becoming a financial barrier to adoption of new AVGC-XR technology. Feasibility to set up AVGC-XR and design specific R&D labs in various Institutes of Eminence like IITs, NITs, IISc, in the country, will be evaluated.
What initiatives are being taken to preserve and restore India’s film heritage?
The National Film Heritage Mission (NFHM) was launched by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 2016, to undertake preservation, digitization and restoration of India’s cinematic heritage in a Mission Mode. As part of NFHM, 3 major projects are ongoing at NFDC: Digitization of Films, Preventive Conservation of Film Reels and Restoration of Films, that are of immense significance and have never been attempted on this scale globally. The project aims to digitize and restore more than five thousand feature films and short films, with a significant portion already completed. Storage vaults of global standards meeting the requisite spatial, storage and climatic requirements are also being constructed to accommodate films and filmic material across variety of mediums. These new storage vaults will be fully functional by the end of this year.
Ministry is contemplating on launching a program through which film enthusiasts and citizens can fund the digitization and restoration of their favourite films. The National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) will play a crucial role in financing projects and providing support to young filmmakers who lack access to funds. The Government also intends to establish NFDC’s own OTT (over-thetop) platform or tie up with already existing OTT players in the market to showcase to the world these restored/ digitized films.
How does the Government plan to address film piracy?
The Government is in the process of revamping the Cinematograph Act in order to combat the menace of film piracy in a comprehensive manner. Stricter punishments have been proposed to empower the Government to effectively address the issue of unauthorized recording and exhibition of films as well as illegal distribution of pirated films over the internet. The Government aims to introduce the revised act in the Monsoon Session of Parliament and hopes for its quick passage to strengthen their resolve to tackle film piracy and strengthen the IP regime.