The media and entertainment industry is often considered a sunrise sector for the economy and has always contributed significantly. In 2019, the M&E industry outperformed expectations and was among the fastest growing sectors with a growth rate of 13%.
As India continues to make the most number of films worldwide each year, it is surprising that the country has failed to get Government recognition at a desirable level.
The film industry is categorized under the luxury segment and a tax rate of 18% is imposed on films. GST poses another set of challenges because if a movie is declared tax-free by a state government, it still has to pay CGST.
Many critics studying the film industry for years say that adding the luxury tag to films, undermines its soft power. Hollywood and the American dream is a case in point. The spread of American content and media helped create the desire for the American dream and way of life.
We have already witnessed the soft power of Indian film industry in many of the public service campaigns, ads and political canvassing that leverages movie stars to drive home the message.
Yet, when it comes to reaping benefits from this soft power, the film industry is far behind.
For a country the size of India with a population of 1.8 billion, India has far too few screens. The entire nation has less than 10,000 screens of which 6,700 are single screens.
Even the process of converting a single screen cinema to multiplex is expensive and cumbersome. There are lots of licensing issues and regulations that may take months to get the green signal.
Compare this to China where they have 60,000 screens for a population of 1.4 billion. A large part of these were created in the last decade with the help of the government. China has a successful public-private partnership model that makes the country a viable market of foreign film industries.
This has also helped generate revenue for their Government as foreign films share a considerable sum of their profit with the state.
Ironically, many interior and remote parts of the country have no access to their own content.
What the film industry also lacks is a formal structure. While Bollywood and many other regional film industries employ a large number of technicians and creative professionals, there are no official guidelines for formal education in the film industry. There are institutes like Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) but the curriculum is not binding on other private film schools. Elsewhere in Europe or the United States, film education is a very serious business and accorded the same importance as political science or journalism.
The Indian Film Industry could be our biggest export
Our film industry deserves better in terms of support from the Government. Our unique brand of content has high expert potential apart from being an ambassador for India’s culture.
Many countries have realised this and are working to enhance their content creation industries or encourage international shoots.
We have barely scratched the surface of what the film industry can achieve both to create employment opportunities and also to bring international recognition.