India director to have animation academies in Dubai

Indian film director Ketan Mehta's animation academy plans to set up overseas centres in several cities, including Dubai, Kathmandu, Colombo and Bangkok, to cater to the rising demand for skilled animators.

The three-year-old Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC) is producing scores of trained personnel to meet both domestic and overseas demand for animators in an industry that is now worth an estimated Rs. 20 billion ($ 440 million).

According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), the number of professionals employed in this industry has doubled from 15,000 in 1999-2000 to over 30,000 in 2002-03.

The numbers are still growing with India emerging as an outsourcing hub for overseas film, television and games software production and computer graphics, said Naveen Gupta, vice president of MAAC.

"While we are firming up plans to raise the number of our institutes in the country from 30 to 50 in a year, we hope to set up an institute in Dubai's Knowledge Village, which is part of the Dubai Media City, this year," Gupta told IANS.

MAAC has already completed the survey on the potential of setting up an institute in Dubai and Kathmadu.

"In Dubai we are already in talks to set up our own institute with an investment of around Rs. 2.5 million ($550,000) but in other places like Kathmandu we are planning either a joint venture or the franchise route as we have done at many places in the country," said Gupta.

Gupta sees great potential in catering to the demand in the entire Middle East through the academy in Dubai.

Within the country, MAAC is planning to start around half a dozen academies this month, including three in Bangalore.

According to Gupta, what sets apart MAAC is its focus on 3D animation and visual effects for television serials, advertising and cinema. MAAC has 2,000 students on its rolls.

Backed by the Maya Entertainment, "our institute is able to provide hands-on experience. In fact, 80 percent of the animators in our group are students trained at MAAC," he said.

Given the increasing number of serials like Sone Pari and Gharwali Upparwali where animation is widely being used, Gupta sees a growing demand for trained animators, particularly with foreign offers flowing.

The Maya Group is among the 30 top firms striving to bag a slice of the growing animation industry that is estimated to reach Rs. 600 billion by 2008 requiring a workforce of 500,000 animators.

The Maya Academy, with its interests ranging from film production to providing animation and special effects for films, advertisements and the growing number of television serials, is currently in the race to bag the special effects contract for the India/UK production 'The Rising' being directed by Ketan Mehta.

"Indian companies are fast covering the gap in standards vis-?-vis overseas counterparts. In the last six months our company has had to increase its capacity of trained personnel four fold, such is the demand," said Biswajit Das, zonal manager, north, of MAAC.

Every serial, where fantasy or special effects are key elements, can give employment to around 100 animators and technicians.

"Though the Indian animation industry is still at a nascent stage, a lot of companies are at par with global majors and are pitching for work overseas through various animation fairs. Many are doing test animation for overseas clients," said Gupta, hinting at a major deal for Maya in the near future.