With the increasing demand of animation technology in India, the animation industry is slated to clock a tremendous growth in the coming years. Sumeet Mehta, CEO, Zee Learn talks about Zee Institute of Creative Arts (ZICA) and its expansion plans.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share the origin and success of ZICA.
Sumeet Mehta (SM): ZICA was set up in Hyderabad in 1995 by Subhash Chandra, Chairman, Essel Group. The institute had expert faculties from Soyutz Mult Films, Russia who provided the students of the institute with industry relevant curriculum. Since ZICA's inception, the student work was acclaimed in National and International Film Festivals like Digicon Film Festival Asian Entry, Tokyo, Hiroshima Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival etc.
AG: In what way is ZICA different from other centres of its kind? What is its USP?
SM: At ZICA we believe that skill is permanent while software’s keep changing. We focus on building the core aesthetics and creative skill of students in 2D and 3D animation. All courses at ZICA have been developed by industry professionals. We use centrally developed curriculum that is administrated centrally for maintaining quality and compliance in all our centers. All the students studying at ZICA get hands on training on Smoke and Flame software at ZIMA (Zee Institute of Media Arts), Mumbai.
AG: How do you see the concept of 'ZICA' evolving in India?
SM: Currently the animation industry is in need for skilled animators rather than software based animators. The animation market has been divided in animation entertainment (US$ 120 million) and animation education (US$ 53 million). The education market is projected to have a maximum growth rate of about 40 per cent annually. It is estimated that around three lakh skilled animators will be required in the industry by 2012 and the industry currently employs around 30,000 people. ZICA with its unique curriculum and stringent quality control caters to the need of highly skilled professionals for the growing industry.
AG: How many centers do you have at present and in which all cities? What are the future target locations for your expansion?
SM: Since the last 14 years we have been a standalone institute catering to the industry needs. In order to meet the increasing demand, we started opening centers in other cities around six months back. Since ZICA is a well known name in animation training, a lot of people wanted to run the centers on our behalf and therefore we chose the franchising route. We have a total of 10 centers which are in Mumbai, Bhubaneswar, Pune, Lucknow, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Ahmednagar. We will be setting more institute in tier I and II cities in India and are already looking at south-east Asia for further expansion.
AG: You recently got two franchisees with the help of online advertising through FIHL. What are your future hopes from the medium and the company?
SM: The association between ZEE and FIHL is quite old. FIHL is a great platform to connect with successful brands with capable entrepreneurs.
AG: What kind of training and support a franchisee would get when partnering with you?
SM: ZICA has a reputation for housing the best academics team since last 14 years of operation. ZICA assists its business partners right from recruitment to training of the faculty. All our courseware is in the e-content form for ZICA. This not only helps standardise the delivery of courses, but also lessens the personnel dependency for the business partners. The franchisee gets promotional and PR support from ZICA on a regular basis. We also support our franchisees at the time of placement in the industry.
AG: What are the challenges that can be faced by a franchisee in this business? How can they overcome these challenges?
SM: One of the biggest challenges is to get well qualified and expert professionals as faculty. However, ZICA helps in recruiting and training the professionals for their business partners.
AG: What kind of background is necessary for securing a franchise of your company?
SM: A franchisee requires a minimum of 2,000 sq ft of space at educational/commercial location and an investment capability of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh. Domain knowledge in education/IT or media education is preferred. Having an already established business in the same field would be an advantage.