Indian Communications Industry Tour – Day Three. On Education.

Day Three – Ahmedabad
On Education
Friday 13 November

Morning meeting with the Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), in their beautiful campus in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It’s amazing how many astonishing buildings and academic centres Ahmedabad has – whether it’s the NID or the Centre for Environmental Planning (CEPT), or whether they’re built by Louis Kahan or B. V. Doshi, the city just seems to be full of them. While Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore compete for the title of economic capital of India, Ahmedabad strikes us all as being more of an academic centre, severely tied with India’s design and artistic history, be it under the Mughals, the Marathas, the British, or the Gandhis.

MICA, Ahmedabad

The meeting takes place in their Board Room, where we meet with several members of staff, including Ashok Ranchhod, their Director who has recently relocated from Southampton to takeover the role from his predecessor. MICA is arguably the only HE institution in the country that dedicates to the professional development of Indian communicators. It was set up in 1991 with funding from Mudra, one of India’s largest advertising agencies, as an academic response to the needs of the growing local communications/media sector. As with other creative sectors in India, the 90s and early noughties have seen an explosive growth that hasn’t been matched by the supply of trained professionals. Academic training in the creative sectors in India is therefore a major issue (and a huge area of opportunities), and with the government’s lack of support it’s not strange to find cases like this, where the private sector has intervened. Nowadays, though, MICA remains an autonomous entity, no longer funded by Mudra but self-funded through the student’s tuition fees, and regulated administratively at arm’s length by Mudra’s Foundation.

Jane talks to students, MICA.

MICA runs courses on Media Planning, Advertising Planning and Client Servicing, as well as their flagship Postgraduate course on Communications (PGPC). In addition, they run diplomas to improve communicators’ management skills, and manage a series of ‘Centres of Excellence’ that carry on valuable research and provides opportunities for graduates. Through their EDC centre, set up with support of the Government, they run the PGPC course and administer Com-cubator, India’s first incubator for Communications Technology-based start-ups. Com-cubator is an exemplary model of an academic institution that understands and caters for the existing needs of a creative sector, providing incubation, research provision, mentorship schemes and management training programmes. As an incubation facility, they help young practitioners with clever ideas turn them into reality, giving them office spaces, post-production facilities, business advice and opportunities for funding, accounting, and legal support.


Quick lunch in the campus’ garden, and then off to National Institute of Design, the heart of India’s design education. We meet with Professor MP Ranjan, who gives us a quick introduction to the history of the institution and the diverse programmes they run in graphic design. Founded in the early 1960s, NID was created in response to the rapid social, political and industrial changes that came about after independence. Commissioned by the Indian government to write a report on the small industrial sector, Charles Eames recommended the establishment of an education centre that trained professionals in visual and product design. From an economic perspective, NID designers would work to increase the value of Indian products; from a political point of view, the centre would help create an Indian design identity, an ‘Indian brand’ that through designed objects encapsulates and represents the structure of feelings of the newly formed Indian nation. Almost 50 years after its inception, NID continues to gravitate at the centre of Indian design.



MP Ranjan, NID.

Like MICA, NID has started its own incubator. They provide infrastructure for projects, usually for those around design technology (like MICA’s Com-cubator, the incubator here is funded by the Government of India’s Department of Technology, hence the limitations). Unlike the Com-cubator, though, the focus is not on businesses but on ideas, so the space is more of a technology lab than a business incubator. As MP Ranjan proposes, it’ll be better to have a separate network of business people, working outside NID, to come over every once in a while to learn about the ongoing projects and pick up the ones to fund and take over to a business level – with their advice, support, and money. NID runs a small module on design business, so the students are not exactly trained to be on their own once out there. Is this education model viable? Or is it better to concentrate exclusively on developing design skills, leaving business training outside the curricula?


Textiles Department, NID.




Quick stopover at NID’s shop, where we inject some money into the Gujarati economy, and then off to sample some five star cuisine at the House of Mangaldas, a gorgeous restaurant and hotel in the middle of old Ahmedabad.


Indian Communications Industry Tour – Day Two. 9 Things You Need to Know about Indian Communications.

Day Two – Delhi
Nine things you need to know about Indian communications.
Thursday 12 November

Early start for a meeting with Anurag Batra in the hotel. Anurag’s the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Exchange4media Group, ‘an Indian media expert and a journalist rolled into one’. He runs a series of publications on advertising, marketing, real estate and property, and his insights into India’s advertising sector are unique. His advertising magazine, Impact, is the sector’s leading publication – and it will soon feature an interview to the UKYXEs!

Anurag Batra

Later in the afternoon we met with another sector leader, Dilip Cheran (India’s ‘media and image guru’), making today’s meetings a fantastic introduction to the Indian communications industry, full of accurate data, valuable tips, and reliable predictions. Here’s a summary of what we learnt:

 1. Communications in India is estimated at USD 4 billion. Over 50% of the market is dominated by multinationals (JWT, O&M, Y&R), and the remaining half is disputed between 150 local agencies, usually based in Mumbai, Delhi, or Bangalore.
2. Like in the UK, there’s an increasing tendency to specialised agencies within the sector, so there are more and more independent creative hot shops, separated from media buying companies. This increased specialisation responds of course to a growing demand for advertising and comms, which in turn responds to a growing middles class whose aspirations are reflected in an increased consumerism. The increase of the market in turn brings increased competitions from bands, and an increased need to reach customers.

Dilip Cherian.

3. Digital and mobile advertising are still a new and relatively small segment of the sector. Companies still spend most of their money on print, TV and outdoor advertising. From our meetings yesterday, we’ve been able to confirm that social media is still not widely endorsed by agencies, namely because they’re unable to predict its effects on campaigns.
4. As with other creative sectors in India, there’s a huge market for education in advertising. Institutes like MICA (see Ahmedabad post) can’t cope with the growing size of the sector, so there’s a large majority of practitioners that are trained on the job. Anurag himself ran an advertising school, but closed it after a while as it wasn’t making any money. Given the present demand for trained advertisers, he’s thinking of re-launching it.
5. Events management is a key tool for promotional campaigns these days. The segment is worth about USD 400 million – and companies like Box (see yesterday’s post) are using it more and more to ‘create great experiences’ and associate them with the brand.

Communications in Dilip's office.

6. Direct Marketing is the ‘new mantra’ of communications in India, according to Dilip. Worth USD 200 million, the segment grows at about 15-20% every year. DM is an ideal way of reaching India’s metro population – i.e. smaller towns especially, where flyers still draw attentions (as opposed to big cities like Mumbai, where it’s no longer efficient given increased competition).
7. Telecommercials are, as in the UK, an option only for niche products and audiences – e.g. upper/middle class housewives who stay at home and have the time and the disposable income to buy quirky products from the TV.
8. It’s an ‘interesting time’ for PR in India. Estimated at USD 3 billion, the segment grows at 20% each year. There are already about 20,000 professionals working in the field, and Dilip estimates the number of agencies to be between 1000-2000. The top ten agencies (Edelman, Genesis, Brodeur, Dilip’s own Perfect Relations, etc.) account for ca. 60% of the business. For Dilip, the growth of PR comes about with the demise of ‘old-style communications’ (or vanilla PR, as he calls it), where campaigns are uniform and expected to suit all audiences. Nowadays, the vast array of PR activities (from lobbying to risk and crisis management, corporate social responsibility programmes, and web-based PR), aim at controlling the communications environment around a brand/company, and not just manage the media impact of it. Unlike other sectors, PR shows increased growth in local numbers, as companies (even foreign ones) rely more on Indian agencies, as they know their market and their people. Dilip’s agency has profited from this demand, and now runs 14 offices across India and Sri Lanka, employing over 500 people. His clients span the entire economic spectrum, and are both local and international. 
9. India’s media ecosystem is complex – there are more than 100 channels and over 700 daily newspapers in English and 30 other languages. The increased market competition has led, like elsewhere, to sensationalism and loss of journalistic credibility in most media. 

After the meeting with Dilip, we quickly head back to the hotel – drop Amy, who’s staying behind in Delhi for a couple of meetings – and drive to the airport to catch the flight to Ahmedabad, where we’re staying until Saturday.

India Communications Industry Tour – Day One. Delhi and social media.

Day One – Delhi
Delhi and social media

Wednesday 11 November

Dramatic start of the study tour in Delhi. The Indian High Commission in London finally released the finalists’ passports on Monday, so we’ve had to alter the tour’s schedule a bit (we were supposed to start on Monday 9). Thanks Aneesh for all your help with this! (and thanks to the Indian High Commission in Ulan Bator!). Although they’ve barely been in the subcontinent for 4 hours, I have the ungrateful task of waking them all up at 9am and putting them in a car with destination Gurgaon. There, we meet Rwituja, Creative Economy Head for India and Sri Lanka, and we set off for our first meeting.

Rwituja's flat in Gurgaon.

Ayush Chauhan is a branding and marketing specialist that runs Box, a multi-disciplinary studio that hosts five different companies (!), and that does a bit of everything, from media planning to branding projects and products/services’ research and development. Co-Design is their main branding/visual communications company, whereas Quicksand works on the design research and media strategies side of things. They have a small team (about 10), all working from an office in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of Delhi, and sharing clients and providing expertise across projects to help one another. It’s an interesting model, as it translates the amount of crossovers that occur in the creative industries between sectors and skills, and it seems to be working well for them – they have offices in other cities in India, and have had quite a successful international exposure. They argue it’s their ‘focus on content’, i.e. their concentration only on a couple of media platforms depending on the product/service, ‘rather than everywhere’. This effectively means targeting the appropriate market segment and making sure the brand is positioned properly, as part of ‘fantastic experiences’ (concerts, parties, etc.) which they organise and that become associated with the product.

The creative process according to Box.

What’s their USP as a branding & media agency? They argue it’s their ‘focus on content’, i.e. their concentration only on a couple of media platforms depending on the product/service, ‘rather than everywhere’. This effectively means targeting the appropriate market segment and making sure the brand is positioned properly, as part of ‘fantastic experiences’ (concerts, parties, etc.) which they organise and that become associated with the product.
 Do they complement their work with social media strategies as well? Surprisingly, they don’t. Like in the UK, social media is the new buzz word in advertising, but nobody has done much research on it, in the sense of actually articulating and understanding the impact it has on product promotion.

The guys from Box.

The contrast with our next meeting with Gaurav Mishra from 20:20 Social couldn’t be bigger. Gaurav’s company is a consultancy that specialises precisely on social media technologies and their use for marketing purposes. Despite being relatively new (it’s only 4 months old), Gaurav has extensive experience in social research (he conducted research and lectured until very recently in Georgetown University, in DC) and is a devoted believer in the potential of digital media. With 30 million internet users in the country, 400 million mobile users, and 450 million mobile networks, it’s easy to see why. Furthermore, India has the largest population of LinkeD users and the fastest growing population of Facebook users in the planet. Over 20 million people are estimated to use social media communities everyday. Still, very few companies in India are currently engaging with social media at the moment, and the agency is one of the very few digital start-ups in the sector (there’s only about 5-10 in India at the moment, compared with the ca 20,000 that exist in the US, for example).

Gaurav from 20:20.

20:20 works only on strategy development, outsourcing the implementation of it (i.e. the audience engagement bit). Unlike Box’s reservations in engaging with social media, Gaurav thinks the potentials of digital are unquestionable: traditional advertising strategies are expensive, rely heavily on intermittent exposure and customer attention, whereas social media generates a detailed audience database and allows direct and sustained engagement with their target customers by generating content/communities of interest. Is his confidence grounded or is he just transposing a successful model that works in the States but that has no real base yet in India? After all, internet users in India use a broadband connection that’s less that 1M big, so the ‘endless possibilities’ for media use are limited. Also, the millions of mobile users are in their majority on pre-paid ‘contracts’, which also imposes restrictions to their use of broadband. Too early to tell.

India Interactive Industry Tour – Days Three and Four. From IT to IP Parks. NASSCOM 7th Summit on Animation and Gaming.

Days Three and Four – Hyderabad
From IT to IP Parks. NASSCOM 7th Summit on Animation and Gaming.
Friday 6 November, Saturday 7 November 2009.

Woke up at 3am and decided to go for a run in the gym to produce some endorphins to counteract this demoniac jet lag. Ended up pulling a muscle in my back, so can barely sit – which is just ideal when you’re just about to attend a 2-day conference. NASSCOM (the Indian National Association of Software and Services Companies) is organising its seventh annual summit for the Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects Indian sector (they also run the influential India Leadership Forum in Mumbai every year, a cross-sectoral platform for leaders in the different creative sectors). The conference gathers the key players in these Indian segments, who get together to discuss the sector’s trend and needs. From the opening statement delivered by Rajiv Vaishnav, VicePresident of NASSCOM, it’s easy to realise you’re dealing with an optimistic and self-confident creative sector here. One needs only to flicker through their annual report on Gaming and Animation to confirm this – they’re expecting a 49% growth in the gaming market for the period 2008-2010, a 55% growth in the gaming consumer market for the same period, and a staggering 68% increase in the mobile gaming consumer market, again for the same period. The numbers are enough to make any game developer green with envy: the compound annual growth rate of the global market is of 10%, and according to Digital Britain, the UK’s interactive sector is expected to shrink in the following decade.

Although it’s difficult to determine exactly where these figures come from (a problem I’ve seen in other creative sectors in India, like publishing), they are unmistakable signs of optimism, maturity and experienced growth in the sector. From the general tone of the presentations, it’s also easy to determine what the sector’s current leitmotiv, apart from growth, is: they’re all eager to move away from the outsourcing paradigm into an IP generation one. For Biren Ghose, Chairman of NAGFO (NASSCOM’s Forum), animation and gaming need to ‘learn from the software/IT sector’s general experience in India’ and start focussing on a more integrated model of work that covers all production phases. India won’t be able to compete much longer on costs globally (China, South Korea, Canada…), so India’s USP for the future needs to lie less on cheap production costs and more on overall production values, efficient performance and service quality.

NASSCOM 7th Summit on Animation and Gaming.

NASSCOM 7th Summit on Animation and Gaming.

Is India far from being to deliver this? According to Shelley Page from Dreamworks, one of the main challenges for animators and game developers in India is the lack of international exposure, which makes their work relevant for local audiences. More attention needs to be paid to education and skills’ development, and active lobbying within the engineering sector needs to be done to raise awareness of gaming and animation as viable career options – currently, the most talented engineers are migrating into ‘more promising’ sectors like medicine, military equipment development, etc.

Shelley has been developing Dreamworks’ subsidiary studios in Bangalore for the past five years, so her perspective on the issues facing the Indian workforce is quite privileged. So is Ernest Adams’, an experienced gaming lecturer and author, who stresses the need for India to develop production skills if the sectors wishes to move into a more IP generator space. One of the dangers of accustoming the workforce to work on outsourcing is that it ends up focusing on fragmentary processes, and therefore developing fragmentary skills that are incompatible with an overall control of the production process, which requires a combination of engineering, IT and fine arts skills. Education is therefore essential, but unlike Shelley, Adams believes India needs to focus first on developing quality content for its own market. Game developers around the globe continue to make games based mainly on Northern European mythological characters (i.e. characters are elfs, dragons, knights). There’s a huge untapped market out there (outside the IT Parks), and a proved, existent pool of creative talents. It was in India, after all, that chess, snakes & ladders and pachisi were all created. Indian IP generation in the sector needs not to remain a promise, but it requires more support in education and professional training from the government and the private sector.

After several sessions on the future of consoles, the promise of mobile platforms, and the issues around VHX training in India, it’s time to close the UKYIE chapter and get a taste of the real India before heading back to the UK. With Clare, Aneesh and Christoph (Chris and Paul left earlier for the UK), we take the car back into Hyderabad and stop at the Charminar for a walk around the city’s bazaars, crammed with pearls and bangles. We tour the bazaars, amaze at the size of the bangles’ market (how many bangles do you have to buy per year to sustain this market?), examine the quality of rubies and plan trips to Antwerp, get some pearl necklaces, and drink some coconut juice under the shadow of the Charminar – the massive Muslim towers built in 1591 by the founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. It’s good to be out in India again. It was a weird relaxing effect on me, almost as if the chaos forces one to surrender all possibility of control so all there is left is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Hussain Sagar, Hyderabad.

Real India. Hyderabad.

Views from the top of the Charminar.

At the Charminar.

Bangles' bazaar.

At the bazaar, central Hyderabad.

On our way back to the hotel now – the guys are back to London on the early morning flight; I’m off to Delhi to meet with the UK Young Communications Entrepreneur (UKYXE) award finalists.

India Interactive Industry Tour – Day Two. Animation x2.

Day Two – Hyderabad
Animation x2
Thursday 5 November 2009.

I was lucky to catch an editorial today in the India Times (Hyderabadi version) about the important role of the private sector for India’s Higher Education system. It gave me a lot of perspective for the day’s meetings – especially for the first one with Rama Krishna, CEO of 4D Animation, who also runs a private Animation Institute, IACG Animation within 4D’s premises.

After an incredibly spectacular reception (flowers, cameras; think Sophia Loren in Cannes ca. 1975), Rama toured us around the premises of 4D and through the classrooms of IACG Animation. I should’ve mentioned that the offices are in Hyderabad, not Cyberabad – i.e. no A/C pumped-offices here, no tax holidays and other economic benefits that come with the HITEC Park and other EPZs in India. This instead is real India, with real Indian interactive entrepreneurs catering largely for an Indian audience. 8 years old, 4D Animation has mainly produced animation content for local gaming companies and the film industry (Tollywood, Bollywood, etc.), and they’ve started to import content to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

IACG Animation

IACG Animation

IACG Animation

The brilliant thing about 4D is its model, and how it’s successfully coupled education and HE training with work in the creative sector. The lack of HE institutions catering for the growing need of skills in gaming and animation led Rama to found IACG Animation about 4 years ago. Today, they have around 350 students enrolled in their course –a full-on 4 years programme on Computer Animation that is certified and recognised by India’s HE authorities. Because the programme is so successful, they’ve had to open and run separate Halls of Residence, given the growing applications from around the country.

The success of the programme lies in the fact that students learn not only through lectures and labs, but mainly by working alongside 4D members of staff on existing projects. Part of the programme involves exposing the students to what’s out there in animation, via industry tours abroad or through workshops and seminars with foreign lecturers. Some stay after their course to continue working as members of staff at 4D, and the rest leaves and hunts for a job with a CV that includes both studies and work experience in a successful Animation studio. Not a bad way to start a career. For Rama, the success of the model is twofold: he earns from the tuition fees, but also gets to develop a large pool of trained animators who work for his studio, and from where he gets to pick the most talented.

Rama Krishna, CEO of 4D Animation..

Back to Cyberabad after lunch, to visit the Hyderabad offices of Rhythm & Hues Studio, the successful, Oscar-award winning American animation studio behind films like Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass, The Mummy, and Fast and Furious. The contrast with 4D is of course immense, but it gives us a good insight into the benefits (and challenges) of foreign operations working in India, and especially in Hyderabad.

Established 22 years ago in LA, Rhythm & Hues (RH) is an Animation and Visual Effects (VHX) studio that caters for the ultra high-end of the sector’s segment – i.e. Hollywood. Because of increasing global competition, RH started seeking for offshore outsourcing services, and chose India for the usual, obvious reasons: English-speaking, low cost IT skilled workforce, and a physical and political infrastructure attractive enough. EPZ zones, established after the liberalisation of the economy in the 90s, provide incentives for export-oriented companies (i.e. companies that export more than 70% of their production): 10 years income tax relief, and no custom tax on infrastructure costs (i.e. a reduction of about 30-40% in operations’ costs). In addition to these benefits, there’s the ‘rich artistic and cultural heritage’ of India, and the local film industry’s potential. Not that they have any major Indian clients, though. They have a minimum budget to achieve per year, and Indian clients require ‘special pricing’.

Rhythm & Hues Studio.

Rhythm & Hues Studio.

Rhythm & Hues Studio.

The main challenge these operations face is the lack of skilled animators, which is why the Indian team requires closer supervision than the team in LA. They usually hire people with a generic IT/Fine Arts/Engineering background and train them there – a bit like IACG but without the divide. They opened an office in Mumbai 8 years ago, and a new one in Hyderabad in 2007. Why Hyderabad? Because it’s less expensive than hyper-dense Mumbai, and has better transport and infrastructure. Mumbai’s infrastructure has started to ‘crumble down’ because of its frenetic growth. Also, Hyderabad is, unlike most of its other urban competitors, neither entirely Hindi nor entirely Muslim nor entirely South Indian. Its location right at the heart of India means it gets a bit of all these worlds, its markets, tastes and skills.

Back to the hotel, and then off to bed after a quick dinner and drinks with the finalists and with Chris Evans, one of the long-listed UKYIE applicants that has joined us for the Hyderabad tour. He lives half of the year there, developing his business, Blighty Arts. Shelley Page from Dreamworks, a keynote speaker at tomorrow NASSCOM’s conference, also joins us for a drink at the mosquito-ridden terrace of the hotel’s Mexican restaurant.

Severely jet-lagged over here, so need to make sure I sleep properly tonight before the NASSCOM Summit on Animation and Gaming starts tomorrow.

India Interactive Industry Tour – Day One. Is this Hyderabad?

Day One – Hyderabad
Is this Hyderabad?

Wednesday 4 November

Arrived in Hyderabad on the (very) early BA flight from Heathrow, to take over from Tasneem (Tas) the Hyderabad leg of the UK Young Interactive Entrepreneur (UKIYE) India’s study tour. Expecting to be awaken from my plane lethargy by India’s characteristic jolt, I was surprised to find myself being driven across an empty, pitch-black highway into an isolated hotel. Had I stolen some money from my boss and decided to run away, this could’ve well been the Hyderabadi version of Psycho (take note, Tollywood). As the sun rose though, and I sipped through my third cup of coffee, I realised this wasn’t exactly Andhra Pradesh’s Bates motel – and not only because one shouldn’t start comparing the Novotel Group with trashy American highway motels. In the distance, behind the Fort Lauderdale setting of the pool and the mini golf courts, loomed the gigantic lego-like structures of the HITEC Park, one of India’s most important IT parks.

Welcome to Cyberabad, Hyderabad’s IT alter ego – a conglomeration of IT and software companies’ offices, R&D centres, and Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) facilities. There are no rickshaws around, or raucous souks selling bangles, pearls and saris. The famous Charminar is nowhere in sight. We’re 10 miles away from the Hyderabadi historical centre, but minutes away from Microsoft’s biggest R&D centre outside the US. Here you take taxis, you wear suits and carry laptops in black briefcases, and above all, you talk IT over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Partly responsible for the city’s recent economic boom (India’s sixth largest city, Hyderabad has been re-classified as an A-1 city in terms of development priorities), Information Technology lies at the core of India’s economic development since the 1990s liberalisation of the economy. IT and all its related disciplines (engineering, science) are nowadays part of the Indian ethos and national identity just as much as rickshaws, Ganesh, and Bollywood are.

One can trace the sector’s development back to the early days of the Republic, with its policy élan to stimulate science and technology. The founding of the first world-famous Indian Institutes of Technology all took place at this time (Kharagpur, 1951; Mumbai in 1958). Since then, India has been producing an astonishing number of qualified technicians and engineers (in 2008, 400,000 per year), which have traditionally accounted for a significant proportion of Indian migrants, as the sector’s infrastructure is not big enough to cope with all of them. As early as the 1960s, India became a major world exporter of technicians – by the end of the 60s, for example, there were as much as 10,000 working in America, and were arguably partly responsible for germinating California’s digital revolution in the 80s.

The government’s development of the sector’s infrastructure started some time after, in the mid-70s, with the setting up of the National Information Centre and the Computer Maintenance Co. Indian IT mega companies like Tata Infotech, Pathi Computer Systems and WIPRO all date from this period. During the 80s, with the advent of microchip technology, Rajiv Gandhi’s government developed policies to foment further development in the sector, and set up computer network schemes as well. The big change came in the 90s with the liberalisation of the economy, as globalisation and Foreign Direct Investments finally entered the picture, and a renovated support from the government, centred around internet and its potentials, took place. The decade’s changes culminated with the New Telecommunications Policy, a set of policy measures stemmed from a sector-specific Task Force, which further liberalised the sector and allowed for foreign companies to set up operations in India.

By the mid noughties, India’s reputation as an offshore outsourcing destination was already cemented, partly due to the new economic measures, but especially because of the highly-skilled and English-speaking workforce. Today, IT is vital for the Indian economy. Technologically-enabled services (which include IT) account for about 40% of the GDP, for 34% of the entire services’ sector, and employs 25% of the Economic Active Population. IT services account for 7% of the GDP (2008) and for over 18% of all export activities (compared to 1% in 1990). From accounting to public call centres, and insurance and medical claims services to remote maintenance and back-office operations, India’s IT services are a vital part of the (digitalised) world’s backbone – and it in is places like the HITEC Park in Hyderabad, together with other IT Parks in Bangalore (India’s ‘Silicon Valley’) and Chennai, where most of this activity takes place.

Indian Publishing Tour – Day Eleven. College Street, Calcutta.

Day Twelve – Calcutta
College Street
Monday 2 February 2009

Last day of the tour!

Morning tour of College Street, the heart of Bengal’s intellectual life. Chhandak guides us through the streets, and shows us the University of Calcutta, where he graduated in journalism. Nearby is the Presidency College, where both Amartya Sena and Satyajit Ray studied when young. The main attraction of the area are though its bookshops and bookstalls, which make a striking contrast with the bookshops visited so far. This is by all means the biggest bookstore I’ve been to. Want some Virginia Woolf in Tamil? End of the street, turn left and it’s the third stall. Tintin in Nepalese, Sanskrit texts and Bengali classics are all in the street in front. Behind the stalls, old, traditional bookstores mainly selling STM. Nabaneeta Der Sen still proves hard to find though.

College Street.

College Street.

College Street.

We visit the old Indian Coffee House where the Bengali intelligentsia have been gathering since the 1940s to ‘discuss about everything’. Unfortunately, it’s closed, so we head off to the nearby paper market, in Baithak Kanha road. In an old printing shop, where they still work with the old block printing technique, Peter and I decide to have some cards made. The guy thinks we’re mad and keeps offering the offset choice. We can’t really choose the paper, nor the font, nor the colour, so God knows what’ll come out of it. (Peter: paid for the courier, so the order should be on its way. Nii, have your block with me).

Baithak Kanha road.

Baithak Kanha road.

Back to hotel, free time to wander around the Fair, and then off to the University of Jadavpur, where the guys meet briefly with students from their Diploma in Publishing. Chat about their work and the UK market, and then back to the hotel to pack and have a last dinner together. Tired, we all have an early one and promise to de-brief when back in London – the tour has been fascinating but intense, so much of it still needs to sink in. Can’t imagine the infernal moaning at 4am, when they had all to wake up and take the taxi to the airport to catch the London flight from Delhi. I’ll miss you guys! (guys!!). Safely in my room (double lock, do-not-disturb light on, I-am-out-of-the-office mindset on), I wake up and pack, as there’s an overnight train for the Bihar to catch.

The ITC.