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Layoffs: 'I'd not recommend animation as a career to anybody'

Last updated on: July 29, 2013 19:19 IST

Layoffs: 'I'd not recommend animation as a career to anybody'

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One of India’s largest animation houses, Crest, based in  Mumbai, is facing financial problems and is laying off employees.

This raises the question: What went wrong for India's animation industry that was not too long ago considered to be the next big thing? Rediff.com's Divya Nair spoke to a senior employee at Crest to get an insider's view of what led to the trendsetting company's decline. 

I have worked with Crest for about 12 years now. I was here when the owner, who had founded the company, looked after its affairs.

He was a very nice guy. When he moved outside India to start another company, he passed on the responsibilities to another person who took over the day-to-day affairs of the company.

We were doing well under this person and had a number of both national and international clients.

At one point, we had over 700 employees in our office, working on different projects.

Most of us were in the age group 20 to 35 years. As artists, we shared a very friendly atmosphere at work. No matter how rigorous the deadline, we always delivered on time.

In 2011, however, things gradually began to change.

Although the quantity of work remained the same, we were told the clients were upset with the quality of our work and that we had exceeded our deadlines.

As artists, we required faster machines and new software. Despite repeated requests, these were never provided to us.

We were not given enough time to work on the creatives. We were asked to work on old machines which often delayed our productivity. We cannot be blamed for this.

Each time we brought up these issues, the management would turn a deaf ear to our pleas and ask us to concentrate on the projects at hand.

Our salaries were delayed; the reason cited was low productivity.

When we asked HR, we were told our salaries were not credited to our accounts because the clients had refused to pay money for the projects.

Our salaries did trickle in slowly, but it was only 10 to 20 per cent of the total amount; some of us have received cheques for amounts as low as Rs 200 and Rs 250.

We had many meetings with the top management. We were told to improve our quality of work or quit.

The then CEO was a very friendly person. When we approached him. He said the company had been receiving cheques from clients but the money was not passed on to the employees.

He even suggested clients could issue the cheque in the name of the artist who had delivered the project. That idea was immediately written off by the management.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Reader invite

Dear Readers, have you worked in the animation industry? Are you still working in one?

What are the issues you are facing, if any?

How has the experience been for you? More importantly, what is your advice to young aspirants who would like to pursue a career in animation in India or abroad?

You can e-mail your career experience, suggestions and advice to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: Animation Career Advice) and we'll publish the best responses right here on Rediff.com.

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'250 employees and their families depend on the organisation'

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As months passed, things worsened further.

Artists who’d come from cities like Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad put in their papers and started to look for jobs outside the organisation, because they were unable to pay their monthly rent and manage everyday expenses in Mumbai.

By mid-2011, we had come down to 250 employees -- within a year, about 500 employees had quit and moved on.

Around this time, we also found out that despite the 'poor financial condition' of the company, all expenses of the managing director including petrol, accommodation, food and electricity bills were being reimbursed by the company.

Two months ago, in May 2013, our fourth floor office space was shut because the company had failed to pay its rent for more than a month.

All office equipment was shifted to the fifth floor where our current office is.

When all discussions with the management turned futile, the CEO, who had been our only hope and support so far, also gave up and quit in June 2013.

Since then, we have been fighting a tough battle. Some of my colleagues have even had to sell their jewellery to pay rent, EMI or buy food for the family.

In the last few months, we’ve been threatened to work to save our jobs.

We’ve always obeyed the orders of the management and delivered even when we were denied our monthly salaries.

On July 20, the managing director  told us that the company would be laying off 90 per cent of its employees because it could no longer afford to pay monthly salaries.

Twenty per cent of work that had been pending, we were told, was outsourced to artists outside the organisation.

After giving so many years to the company, we were jobless and had to hunt for new means to survive outside the organisation.

We tried to explain that we relied on the company and were willing to give everything it takes to resurrect its situation, but the management stood its ground.

We are talking of 250 employees and their families who are dependent on the organisation.

We should at least be given our pending salaries. How can they expect us to leave just like that?

Right now, we don’t know who the 10 per cent employees are. Or who will continue with the organisation. But we should at least get paid for what we toiled and contributed. For all you know, these could be people from the top management, but we can't say that for sure.

Even when so many employees quit, we chose to stand by the company in its difficult times and today, when we are facing a crisis, the company is giving us the cold shoulder.

We know a lot of parents who have a sunshine view of the animation industry.

Institutes like Arena Multimedia, Maya, Keyframe tell you that if you pay Rs 1 lakh for a one- or two-year course, you will have a job that will pay you at least Rs 30,000 at the end of it.

It’s all hogwash, wishful thinking.

Only one out of the 100 or 1,000 professionals get that kind of a job and even if they do, as they get older, they’ll realise how badly they are treated in the organisation.

To all those parents and young readers, I want to tell them that the story of this particular animation house is not a case (by) itself; in fact, it represents the situation in many production houses that are biting the dust because of cheap labour.

When these animation companies get talent for dirt cheap outside, they pick on seniors like us and find ways to terminate us.

According to them it is easier to find artists who will work on a contract basis, on lower pay, than invest in us professionals.

They ignore our hard work and the professionalism with which we have delivered in the past. If we have served an organisation for 12 years, there has to be something special about us and our work.

From my own personal experience I can tell you that the animation industry is no longer what it used to be.

There is no respect for senior professionals or their talent.

If this is what a senior professional gets after years of loyalty and dedication, I don’t think I would recommend this as a career to any young graduate. It’s really heartbreaking!

Mohan Rajan, the publications relations firm hired by Crest, sent us a press release stating, inter alia:

Much against our wishes and the expectations of our employees, yes, we have had to announce temporary layoffs across the board, purely based on business demands with a caveat that we would re-hire as many of them as possible subject to the needs of the business. 

CGI projects are manpower intensive and to that extent we would re-hire our employees subject to reassessment of competencies and skills that would be required to meet the demands of the projects that we would undertake. We would also hire additional resources, as and when required.   

However, questions from Rediff.com about the fate of employees, their pending salaries etc were not addressed by either the PR agency or the firm. 

Reader Invite

Dear Readers, have you worked in the animation industry? Are you still working in one?

What are the issues you are facing, if any?

How has the experience been for you? More importantly, what is your advice to young readers who would like to pursue a career in animation in India or abroad?

You can e-mail your career experience, suggestions and advice to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: Animation Career Advice) and we'll publish the best responses right here on Rediff.com.




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