Cosmos-Maya’s strategy for global animation

Co-production with European and Latin American companies has already commenced.

MUMBAI: Producing animation series isn’t a low-hanging fruit. Considering that a huge amount of money is spent on the production of animated shows than general entertainment channels (GECs) in the Indian television segment, it takes a big heart to risk Rs 20-60 lakh for an animated show’s 11-22 minute episode as against investing Rs 7-8 lakh to produce a daily soap.  But one man decided to don the hat of a filmmaker and launched an animation studio named Cosmos-Maya, realising the need to create more home-grown content rather than depending on overseas programmes on TV.  

Cosmos-Maya, founded by Ketan Mehta, commenced its journey 20 years ago when he faced certain issues during 1993 in infusing some visual effects for a scene in his movie Maya Memsaab.

Ketan said, “There was a shot required in the climax where we had to use special effects. Maya drinks a magic potion and disappears in the flame of light. I tried to shoot it in 10 different ways and it was still not satisfied because the technology was just not available in India at that point in time.” In search of the right equipment and expertise, he travelled to Hong Kong but to no avail.

“I felt that it was a shame that India, which claims to be the largest film industry in the world, didn’t have the basic technology that a filmmaker wants. But fortunately, around the same time, visual technology was taking off, so we decided to take a leap of faith and start a studio,” he added.

The journey was tough. Cosmos-Maya CEO Anish Mehta said that scaling up from 40 to 1200 employees was a major challenge. “It was a challenge in the beginning and it is a challenge now that it has been achieved. There have been a lot of ongoing hurdles. Ensuring that there is no repetition and bringing out this mirrored range of variety from a creative standpoint is also an ongoing challenge that is dealt with on a fairly regular basis.”

Now, the company is filled with 1000 techno artists, 20 full-time writers and many other freelance writers and the plan is to double the employee count. 

Albeit coming from a filmmaking background, his strong belief in launching a studio and training the employees in animation production resulted in a seamless production pipeline. “We produce 30 episodes per month and no other production house is able to produce the number of episodes that we make per month,” said Ketan. Filmmaking experience helped him create his own IPs.

Bullish about India’s animation scenario today, like every other player in the market, Ketan also feels that it is growing rapidly. According to him, the industry will grow at least 17-20 per cent y-o-y. He believes that so far the growth in the industry has been television driven, but gradually feature films will also come into play.

A major industry challenge was to evolve the IP rights system. Anish said, “The creation of successful IPs through partnerships is the way forward now because retention of IP has been a major focus area across all the key partners in the value chain. So we need to align with the partners who have a similar vision and share our philosophy. There has to be a complimenting set of goals that both teams are working towards and hence IP partnerships can work out.”

The animation industry also sees digital being a major future area. According to Ketan, in the next 5-10 years, TV and digital segments will be complementing each other. 

To take Cosmos-Maya global, the company is already working on developing a global idea. With the Emerald investment, co-production with European and Latin American companies has already commenced. “Now the growth strategy is, how to grow beyond the Indian domestic market,” Ketan added.

Over the past five years, the company has produced a record 1,400+ half-hours of animated content for major TV and digital platforms, including Viacom18, Disney, Turner, Sony Pictures, Discovery, Netflix, and ALT Balaji. In addition to its hit series Motu Patlu, Cosmos Maya has an impressive twelve titles on TV now, including Shiva, Eena Meena Deeka, Kisna, Vir - The Robot Boy, Guru Aur Bhole, Chacha Bhatija, Tik Tak Tail and Selfie with Bajrangi.

Pakistan is another major territory for Cosmos-Maya, as the Urdu version of the show Motu Patlu works well with the audience. The show is also dubbed for countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Mauritius.

Ketan feels that the Indian share in the global market still remains at 1 per cent. He said, “It has phenomenal scope to grow as we have skilled manpower and there’s no reason that we can’t do better in the animation sector.”

With a bright future, Cosmos Maya is venturing into an unknown but hopeful future.

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