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Cashing in on the animation biz

Yusuf Begg | May 23, 2003

The $7-million Toonz Animation India Pvt Ltd, which sold its Indian animation series, The Adventures of Tenali Raman, to a UK-based distribution company recently, is kicking off its animation training academy this summer.

With that, Toonz, promoted by the billion-dollar multinational Comcraft Group, joins the club of animation production studios in India that have started training programmes to meet the growing requirement for skilled manpower in the industry.

Says Toonz Animation director (operations) P Jayakumar: "Toonz Animation School will convert raw talent into marketable skills for the entertainment industry."

For starters, the school will offer comprehensive training in 2-D animation and layouts. The course will include sketching classes, industry awareness programmes, character development and pre- and post production work.

However, Jayakumar says that eventually the school will also offer training in 3-D animation.

In 2002-03, Toonz Animation, based in Thiruvananthapuram, did $3 million worth of business. The company expects at least 10 per cent of its total revenue to come from its training school in the near future.

That may not be difficult to achieve considering that NASSCOM has projected a healthy growth for the industry.

According to its study, animation and related IT-based services industry grew from Rs 820 crore (Rs billion) (Rs 8.20 bilion) in 1999-2000 to Rs 1,600 crore (Rs 16 billion) in 2000-01.

The number of professionals employed in this sector also grew from 15,000 to 27,000 during this period.

More important, guesstimates suggest that the industry will touch Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion) by 2008 with an employee-base of 300,000.

Small wonder, then, the existing animation training academies are also gung ho about their business prospects.

Says Rajesh Turakhia, head of Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC): "We see animation as a big business and have invested heavily in our academy."

MAAC, owned by film director Ketan Mehta's Maya Entertainment Ltd, was set up in 2001. In a short duration, the academy has already opened 16 centres including four in Delhi alone.

According to Turakhia, MEL invested Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) in the development of the courses for the academy, as well as on faculty.

He claims that its students also have the advantage of gaining practical experience by working on studio equipment worth over Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million).

"We're growing rapidly on numbers and in reputation as a high-end academy," claims Turakhia.

MAAC offers multiple courses in 3-D generated computer graphics and animation, visual effects for feature films, film scanning and recording, as well as composing and editing.

According Turakhia, the investment in the training business has paid off and MAAC has generated a revenue of Rs 4 crore (Rs 40 million) in two years.

Meanwhile, even Escotoonz, the 2D and 3D animation studio in Delhi launched its academy less than two years back.

Escotoonz is a brand of Escosoft Technologies Ltd, a subsidiary of the Rs 32-billion Escorts Group. An Escotoonz official says that the training programme was launched in view of the exponential growth in the Indian animation industry.

"There is a visible lack of trained animation professionals in India to sustain and ensure international standard in animation production," says the official.

Most of the courses range from animation processes, layout, scene folder, sequencing to real life productions.

They come in packages that range from two months to two years with a price tag that starts at roughly Rs 15,000 and touches a whopping Rs 100,000-plus.

Most institutes have top-of-the-line facilities for students to practice on. Quite a few of the students who pass out of the institutes are absorbed as instructors.

But with the market booming, students have a host of opportunities. Says Ritwik Nag, an animation artist with Jadooworks, Bangalore: "You might start off with about Rs 5,000 a month but if you're talented you might take home a cool Rs 50,000 to Rs 150,000, within a few years."

While Escotoonz and Toonz Animation are cagey about revealing the exact number of students, MAAC has trained 1,000 students in its two years of existence. Turakhia is confident that his academy is all set to double its growth.

Turakhia isn't the only one ready to invest in training. There were around 10 animation training institutes in the late 1990s.

Now, the count has gone past 25. With global figures for animation and computer generated graphics set to touch $50 billion by 2005 it might not be a bad idea to go back to school, albeit of a different kind.


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