Gouri Agtey Athale has an interesting article in the Pune Mirror pointing out that following the success of the “animation and gaming” niche sector, the IT industry in Pune should start focusing on other niche sectors – for example electronic design.
[The] niche area of animation and gaming has worked out for Pune the way the software industry worked on the existing industrial base: combining the existing dormant and untapped potential and build a whole new business out of it.
Pune’s arrival on the animation and gaming scene has received recognition at the international level: two animation films made by companies based in Pune have made it to the list of Oscar nominations, Krayon’s Delhi Safari and Reliance Big’s Krishna and Kaunsa.
That was in the past: the move now is to move on and the next wave could be a convergence of the hardware and software sectors to create ESDM, or Electronic System Design and Manufacturing. Cmde (retd) Anand Khandekar, former member of the IT committee of the MCCIA, who helped draft the state’s IT policy over a decade ago, suggested that existing expertise in embedded software and the presence of the hardware sector in the city could be married to the city’s industrial culture and the educational base to create an industry around ESDM.
The blue print that ESDM is looking at is that of the automotive sector, where there are vendors who supply to the original equipment manufacturer, the OEM. On these lines, local entities could become vendors to global companies, the example usually cited being that of Taiwanbased companies who work on projects for global majors like Apple, Oracle-Sun Micro and Google- Motorola.
And the sector needs a champion, a strong, non-partisan platform, which in the case of Pune’s software industry was the MCCIA.
Delhi Safari, a 3D Animation movie made by Pune startup Krayon Pictures, is seeing a worldwide release tomorrow (19th October). Attached to the move, are some big names from Bollywood (Director Nikhil Advani, voices by Govinda, Sunil Shetty, Boman Irani, Akshaye Khanna, Urmila Matondkar, music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) and Hollywood (Vanessa Williams, Christopher Lloyd, Jason Alexander, Cary Elwes), and one look at its preview will convince anyone that it is a quality product. Considering that it was conceived and fully executed by a company in Pune, PuneTech decided to have a chat with Anand Bhanushali, the Technical Director of Krayon Pictures, to talk about the technology that went into making Delhi Safari. The following article is based on our conversation with Anand.
About Krayon Pictures
Krayon Pictures was founded in 2007 by Kishor Patil, co-founder and CEO of KPIT Cummins, Nishith Takia, a Masters in CS from University of Maryland, USA, and Namrata Sharma, who had 14 years of experience in Animation and Software in Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Mumbai. Unlike other animation studios in India who were simply outsourcing animation work from studios abroad, Krayon Pictures was started with the intention of producing their own movies – i.e. creating their own IP. They got an idea for a movie, roped in Nikhil Advani, and Delhi Safari was born.
Anand is the Technical Director at Krayon. He has been with Krayon since day 1 of Delhi Safari. Before joining Krayon, he had worked national and international animation projects, including character effects in feature films like Hoodwinked, Fight Club Gaming Cinematic and Tinker Bell.
He was also responsible for implementing Krayon’s proprietary pipeline and asset management tool for workflow automation and enhanced artist efficiency.
About the Infrastructure Used by Krayon
Krayon has a data-center at their office in the center of Pune, behind Le Meridien Hotel. The movies are rendered using their render farm which is a densely packed cluster of 100 nodes, each of which has two Intel Xeon quad-core processors with 8GB or RAM, running the Red Hat Linux operating system.
The Storage is based on SOFS – scale out file system – a high availability file system with a total capacity of 48 TB, operating at Raid Level 5 and having a HDD Interface that’s a combination of SAS and SATA with a bandwidth throughput of 500 MBPS.
The network is two-tier architecture made up of Cisco 6509E switch with Dual Sup720 3C 10G as a Core Switch with 8 10G ports, 96 Fabric enabled 1GigE Copper ports and 48 1Gige normal ports and Cisco 3750-E 48 port switch connected to Core Switch by 4 GigE copper uplink.
Challenges Faced while settings up the Infrastructure
Krayon was initially based in Kothrud (in KPIT offices), but soon moved to Hinjewadi once they realized the scale of the infrastructure that would have to be set up. Unfortunately, Hinjewadi did not work out as a location for them. The basic infrastructure (e.g. electricity) was not entirely ready when they moved in, and in spite of having mammoth UPS backups, they kept running into huge problems with electricity fluctuations that the UPS was unable to handle. This led to blowouts, server shutdowns, and artists having to sit idle while the electricity problems were fixed. Finally, they moved to their current location near Pune Station.
Softwares and hardware are definitely important and form the core of the studio pipeline. You have to be extremely careful and have all the statistics, data , research ready before you choose any software and hardware as its going to be with you for quite sometime. If you do a mistake, then its a very expensive mistake, and can take the studio and the project down. Stability, flexibility and support form the basis of choosing softwares and hardware for a studio. We knew with the kind of quality, we are aiming with Delhi Safari, we would need robust hardware, definitely a huge Renderfarm of our own. Mr Parag Patil – our technology director , all the credit goes to him as he is the brains behind all the hardware in Krayon. Parag and me along with the IT and R&D team worked non stop for 4 months, sketching, workflow diagrams, network diagrams, configuration of workstations, to servers.. Everything.. We partnered with IBM and took their expertise and they did the set up of the entire backend infrastructure of our studio.
About the team at Krayon Pictures
They have a team of about 120 people, most of whom are artists. The artists are divided up into various departments, including about 40 people working on the animation, another 30 on asset creation (i.e. creating the building blocks and characters that will be used by the other departments), 10 on lighting, and 10 on compositing.
Most of the work is done using Autodesk’s Maya Software, and the scripting is done using Maya’s MEL, or Python.
We started Delhi Safari with 8 artist including me and a small management team. So we had to build the entire studio, lay down the pipeline and parallely start pre-production, recruit a team, and train them. It was the most challenging task i had ever done, my approach was simple, i was very clear right from the start that the way pre production, characters, backgrounds were being designed with lot of detail and vast extensive sets, there had to be a pipeline which artist could very quickly adapt to and not worry about file management.
So we formed a small research and development team , basically MEL and Python programmers and we started brain storming, bouncing ideas, discussion about what was the most disliked part in our jobs earlier, and since we all came from various departments like fur, animation, lighting etc., atlas most of us knew what we didn’t want in the workflow. We spent almost a year making a simple workflow for every department. Basically ‘clean in and clean out’ , it means whatever comes in the department needs to be a clean file and whatever goes out needs to be a clean file, so every department needs to optimize file and remove unwanted data.
Challenges Faced with Building a World-Class Animation Team in Pune
India is not known for producing high quality animation movies, but from the beginning the Krayon Pictures team was sure that they wanted to build something that was not just “good enough for Indian audiences”, but was truly world class. In doing this, they faced an uphill battle, because it was not easy to get people who have experience of working on that kind of projects.
In addition, things were difficult because Pune did not have too many experienced animation artists. Except for BIG Animation, there are no other big animation production houses in Pune, which meant that hiring was a challenge. Thus, they had to go all over the country, including Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, to find good animators.
One thing they never compromised on, was the quality of the people they hired. Thus, their hiring took longer than expected, but they decided that delays were preferable, but having the right kind of team was more important. They focused on trying to find people who were truly passionate about animation – because the other things can be taught via in-house training programs, but passion cannot.
Advice for Pune based entrepreneurs
Delhi Safari has proved that truly world-class intellectual property can be built out of Pune. However, the whole process was not easy. In addition to all the problems they had to solve in getting the movie made, there were a further set of issues to be faced after the movie was complete. Initially the movie was made in 2D, and then ran into some issues with the international distributors. At this late stage it was decided that the movie needed to be in stereoscopic 3D, so a lot of work had to be done to re-do the movie in 3D.
As a result of this experience, Anand has this important piece of advice for entrepreneurs: Do not start work on developing your IP, before you have sold the product. What he means is that you should validate the market, figure out your distribution channels, and only then develop your product. This is advice for any product entrepreneur, not just movies and animation. It’s interesting to note that this is exactly the same advice that serial entrepreneur Anand Soman gave Pune’s technology entrepreneurs 3 years ago. See “Don’t develop any software until you have a customer” for more details.
Specifically for those interested in building their own animation IP, Anand suggests that they should not start with a movie – that is difficult. Start with smaller things and slowly work you way up to a movie.
Delhi Safari is releasing in movie theatres tomorrow and we wish them the best.
Does not seem like something done in India, right?
And yet, it was created here in Pune.
The preview above is for a movie Delhi Safari, directed by famous Bollywood director Nikhil Advani (yes, the same guy who directed Kal Ho Na Ho). And the animation was done by Krayon Pictures, a Pune-based software animation company.
This Friday, you’ll get a chance to hear the founder of Krayon Pictures, Namrata Sharma, talk about their story, thanks to TiE Pune. The event, “TiE Pune’s My Story – with Namrata Sharma” is on Friday, 1st July, from 6pm to 8pm, at the Sumant Moolgaokar Auditorium at MCCIA Trade Towers, ICC, SB Road. This event is free for all to attend. Register here
AFTER EONS that it has spent on humans, bollywood is now expending some time and resources on animals and the environment via the animated feature film Delhi Safari. Directed by Bollywood director Nikhil Advani, the film owes its creation to pune-based Krayon Pictures.The company,therefore,seems to have taken India’s prowess in animation to a new high through the rich colours they have bestowed upon the film, thorough textures and realistic characters being the cherry on top.
Namrata Sharma, Co-founder and CEO of Krayon Pictures has over 14 years of experience in the Animation and Software Industry. Having traveled across Asia, she has worked with companies like Advedi Creations – Hong Kong, Disney – Hong Kong, Weta Digital – New Zealand, Maya Entertainment – Mumbai etc. She has worked in various roles right from hands on animation to assisting the management of full length animated feature films.
It was in 2006 that Sharma started Antariksh, a studio that developed video games. A year later, she got an opportunity to produce a full-fledged Bollywood animation film. And that’s how Krayon Pictures was born on 1st of April 2007 with a vision of creating a first of its kind 3D animation studio in India- based on the IP model. The studio’s first film, Delhi Safari, is due to release later this year.
Krayon was recently in news when the high profile investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala bought 30% stake in the company.
About TiE Pune My Story Sessions!
“My Story – Inspiring Journey of an Entrepreneur”
This program is created to celebrate entrepreneurship and bring stories from successful entrepreneurs in their own words. The invited speakers will share their entrepreneurial journeys and talk about lessons learned, mistakes they wish they avoided, and key decisions that helped make their venture successful.
Fees and Registration
This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here
Times Animage is a two-day exhibition and conference on animation, gaming, visual effects, design, and comics. It is organized by the Times Group in association with DSK Supinfocomm (the animation college in Pune). It is co-sponsored by the Government of Maharashtra and BIG Animation.
It is expected to feature latest trend and emerging opportunities in the Indian gaming and animation industry.
Some of the people expected at the event include:
Ashish S.Kulkarni, CEO BIG Animation (I) Pvt.Ltd,
Michael Zauner, graphic design and after effects trainer, in charge of visual communication studies, DSK Supinfocom International Campus Pune-India,
K Rajesh Rao, CEO Gametantra,
Dhimant Vyas, animation film designer, nga Games India,
Vaibhav Kumaresh, The Animation Society of India,
Anup Tapadia and Vivek Mehta from Touch Magix Media,
Nishith Takia, co-founder & director of Krayon Pictures Pvt. Ltd, Pune-India,
Chetan Sharma, Animagic India Pvt Ltd Mumbai-India,
Saraswathi Balgam director, Rhythm & Hues Studios India,
Dheeraj Verma and Anand Gurnani, Animation Xpress India Private Ltd
(In recent years, Pune is emerging as a hub for animation studios. Chetan Deshmukh, who was working in the top animation studios in Hollywood, returned to Pune a few years ago to set up his own studio, Toolbox Studios. PuneTech caught up with him at his lovely office on S.B. Road, which combines the old world charms of a Puneri wada with the latest technologies, in an attempt to provide workplace that inspires creativity. In this interview, we talk to him about what he’s hoping to achieve, and about Pune’s status as an animation hub)
Can you share with us your story, from the time that you landed up picking animation as a career choice, up to now that you’ve founded Toolbox Studios
Well…It all started of way back in 1993, when I was in my 10th standard. For me being in Animation and Visual Effects, credit goes to my Father, Anand Deshmukh, who is FTII Graduate and a film maker for last 20 years. I grew up around shooting, Editing, Dubbing, Music and post production. So the liking towards the industry was inevitable.
I was a decent student in school and as it used to happen that career was pretty much a group decision then – after 10th, Science and Engineering. It was decided – I would doing the same. However, after 2 years at MIT, Polymer Engineering, I was more than sure that the Animation is the career I want to go for. The hobby in earlier years had turned into profession. Without any guidance, I was getting pretty decent at animation and started contributing towards our studio activities.
I will not call myself a perfectionist, but I do believe in doing things in a best way possible. My dream of going to Hollywood to learn was taking shape. I got an admission at a film school at UCLA in 1999. After graduation, I had to work hard to get my foot in the industry. In my tenure of 4 years as a professional Visual effects artist and Animator, I worked at several studios in Hollywood. Chicago, Last Samurai, Daredevil, Shanghai Knights, torque, Timeline and few more are the feature films to my credit.
Hollywood is such place that you never get enough of, ever. I was learning everyday; but at the same time, my desire to start my own studio was growing bigger. Visual Effects and Animation was the topic in India 4-5 years ago and industry was about to take off. With this desire, I decided to come back and started off with my own small animation and visual effects shop called Toolbox Animation Studio.
What exactly does Toolbox studios do, and what are your future plans?
TOOLBOX is a Visual Effects house and Animation Studio, serving the Motion Picture, Animation and Interactive Industry from its home in Pune, India. With Creativity and Technical ability housed together, TOOLBOX offers a ONE-STOP facility for all their Animation and Visual effect needs.
Our work is the story or has to support the story. Sometimes our work is completely invisible and perfectly integrated, and sometimes simply defying reality. We believe in using science to create art which has particular a magic element to it, with certain appeal for both sides of the human brain.
Our Studio’s commitment to researching and mastering the latest digital imaging technologies allow us to create unique and creative visuals that uphold Toolboxâs reputation as cutting edge contributor to Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects Industry in India and Overseas.
We as in Toolbox, have been laying low till date. I have taken my own sweet time to ensure that work environment is right, work standards are at par with the world and we deliver quality on time. Animation and Visual effects is a collaborative business I feel. After 6 feature films to our credit along with several TV Commercials, we are branching out. We are hoping to hold hands with studios in Germany, Sweden, Paris and United Stated.
As far as animation is concerned, we have always imagined ourselves as content creators and not mere service provider. That’s in motion as well.
A company going Public, is a future to aim at.
Recently you acquired the rights to the cartoon character Chintoo. People from Pune or elsewhere in Maharashtra have grown up with Chintoo, but our other readers might not be familiar with the iconic status of Chintoo. Can you give us some idea of why you acquired the rights to Chintoo, and what you plan to do with the Chintoo character?
To me, Animation is just another medium to tell a story. And to do that convincingly, what you need is a very strong content. Along with that, what we look out for while designing or animating a character is that it should be emotionally believable. Only then people can relate and react to it.
Chintoo along with his family and friends certainly has that quality. With the history of last 20 Years, Chintoo has strong base as far as content is concerned. Chintoo is running in Kannada for last 4 years apart from Marathi. It’s been enjoying the same success in Kannada as it did and does in Marathi. That pretty much rules out the language barrier. Chintoo addressed common problems of kids along with parents which happens practically in every home in India. with certain Cultural differences that we have, a small tweak would keep the humor alive I hope.
Likability and emotional quotient are the factors which are way bigger than the language I feel. Also Chintoo does not have a surname. It is a very funny, smart, witty, humorous character which exists in all colors that we have in India. In a nutshell, I see lot of potential for Chintoo in animation.
To begin with, we would be developing 30-second Chintoo animation clips for TV, Mobile and Web. A social community portal along with games and many more interactive experiences is underway for chintoo at www.clubchintoo.com. Work for TV Episodes will start by next year. Final aim would be to produce an Animated feature Film of Chintoo.
In trying to do all that you would like to do here, what are your primary challenges?
It’s been 4 years that I have been back and started off with Toolbox. Awareness for animation has not grown as it should have. To find a talent is a major challenge. Education is absolutely no way near the mark.
Apart from that the Mindset is a huge primary challenge. Mindset of the employees or students and along with that of the investors. People have been looking at animation as an easy career or an opportunity to earn quick buck without much to do for. We might be in for a rude awakening.
I believe you are using a lot of open source tools in your work. Can you give some details of what technologies/software packages you’re working with? And, as far as I understand, you are not a software development shop, and you don’t really have developers. So how are you coping? And is there some way in which the open source community in Pune can help you?
I have been fortunate enough to work at best studios in the world to see, observe, and learn their pipeline closely. I Have been trying to implement the same here in Pune at Toolbox. We do say that technology can never replace craft but the kind of technology which is available today is taking the animation and visual effects to a different orbit all together. We look at software or hardware as a tool to create whatever we imagine.
We are using Side Effect Software’s Houdini, Autodesk Maya, Eyeon’s Digital Fusion as our primary animation and vfx tools. Real flow would be another example which we use for liquid dynamics. C, C ++ would be the initial skillset which is needed. but in recent past most of the above mentioned programs have adopted “Python” as a core scripting language.
We understand the power of using open source programs where we can customize and create our own tools to suit a particular requirement. But not being a software development shop, process becomes a bit tough. We are developing our own skills all the time. We are fortunate enough to have few artists with inclination towards programming, who are getting trained in this domain. But I would rather let them animate, which they are good at. Open Source community can certainly of great help here to find technologists – who are an integral part of any animation and visual effects studio.
In recent years, Pune has emerged as an “animation hub”. Can you give us a feel for why Pune is being called an animation hub, and what advantages Pune has over other places for animation companies.
It’s been more than 3 years that a committee was setup for Animation, Gaming, Visual effects and comics at MCCIA (Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture), Pune under the leadership of Commodore Anand Khandekar. He along with committee members have taken great efforts in helping companies to set up their operations in Pune. Big Animation, Ubi Soft, Jump Games are just a few examples. We have been running awareness programs thru seminars for students and professionals. Dialogue has initiated between various studios, which will help create more collaborative productions. This in turn will help create a better content.
For last couple of years, Studios in Pune have grown significantly for Animation, Visual Effects and Gaming, taking Pune to a level where it can be called Hub for Animation. To add to this, Education Institutes have also been mushrooming in the city. DSK’s Supinfocom would be amongst the best. MIT School of Design, Symbiosis media School along with many private Animation Institutes are contributing towards creating our own talent pool.
Another achievement of the committee is the AVGC (Animation, Vfx, Gaming and comics) policy which has been submitted to government of Maharashtra. So the Animation industry will not only enjoy the similar benefits which IT has but will help flourish and attract foreign studios.
Pune advantage: I will quote Commodore Khandekar’s words here which sum it all up:
Art and culture combined with IT is Animation. Pune has all the ingredients.
While Pune is still an emerging animation hub, there is still a lot more that could be done for making it a truly world class destination for animation. What should we, as a community be doing? And are you aware of any such initiatives that are already working towards it?
Absolutely there is lot that can be done. Some initiatives I have already mentioned above which are being carried out thru MCCIA. Funding, Infrastructure, Distribution Network for the Content are some of the issues which needs to be solved. Animation and Gaming SEZ could be another idea.
Awareness programs for students and quality of education is another serious concern. Which has to be fixed ASAP so as to have better resources and for industry to survive as well.
Do you think there is scope for software / IT professionals to consider animation as a career choice? What kinds of opportunities exist in this domain?
As discussed earlier about technologists and their importance in Animation and Visual Effects , IT surely can play major role in Entertainment Business. With Open source Softwares in our arsenal, opportunities are many.
Every Module in the process to create animated content will have opportunities for programming. Lighting, Rendering, Compositing, Rigging to name a few.
Students from BE Computers, BE IT, MCM with some inclination and passion towards creative industry can surely think of Animation industry as another domain to work for.
What: A half-day event organized by MCCIA to increase awareness about the gaming and animation industry
When: Saturday, 28th March, 2pm to 8pm
Where: ICC Towers, MCCIA Hall #4 and #5, Wing A, Senapati Bapat Marg, Map
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all. No registration required.
This is an event to promote awareness of the gaming industry. According to the event organizer: “We have organized sessions on the game industry and careers, game concept and content development, sound design and game testing, amongst others. We are targeting gaming enthusiasts, professionals and parents as well as these are going to help us in spreading the awareness about the career opportunities in the industry”
For the detailed schedule, see http://www.mcciapune.com/Gamestorm09.aspx
This event is targeted towards students and professionals interested in the gaming and animation software industry.
On the occassion of World Animation day yesterday, the Times of India reports that Pune is becoming the premier destination for animation and multimedia companies and educational institutes in the country.
The city has always been known for its creative talent, and its famous twin Mumbai for the media and entertainment industry. However,
NASSCOM’s Lavanya Jayaram feels the multimedia business is now shifting base from Mumbai to Pune, thanks to improved connectivity.
“It is now possible to provide better work environment to multimedia application
developers in Pune and reduce the overheads as against the situation in Mumbai,” she said speaking exclusively with the TOI.
“Pune is fast progressing as a multimedia hub. The talent here is backed by necessary social infrastructure and the right training facilities. The city has already taken the lead in developing and promoting itself as an animation and gaming hub,” Lavanya added.
And the facts confirm the trend. In last two years, 4-5 animation giants have shifted base from Mumbai and Bangalore to Pune. Chetan Deshmukh, committee member of the Marhatta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture’s (MCCIA) animation company said, “Big Animation, Anibrain, Krayon pictures, Jump Games are just a few of the many biggies that have shifted to Pune. Besides, experts from international animation giants like Dreamworks regularly visit the city to conduct workshops and seminars. The township of Nanded city on the outskirts of Pune is coming up with a gaming park too. The acceptance that animation industry has received in the city has laid the platform to make Pune an animation hub in the country over the next few years,” Deshmukh said.
Gujar, a graduate in engineering from VIT College came up with concept of developing an affordable film restoration software and studio when he was in college. “The requirement of film restoration was found out when we were studying imaging. We talked to people concerned, who endorsed the grave problem the industry was facing already. We went ahead built a few prototypes of what we thought could be done for the problem, and demonstrated it to various people in the film industry. And then we got down to the task of building the entire software required to put up a full fledged restoration studio, “elaborates Gujar.”
The technology allows tens or hundreds of computer-servers to work together, along with human assisted computers to remove damages from films. “It took us more than a year for the research and close to a year to build the technology. Pune, being a primary IT hub allowed us to find most of the required talent locally. We had IIT graduates and experts from imaging, computer vision, Linux and computer software coming together to make this first generation of the technology.
The unique venture, called Seamless Education Academy or SeamEdu, will be run by Saurabh Gadgil, a jeweller, and aims to cater to the fast growing animation industry’s huge demand for trained personnel.
“There is a huge demand for talented animators in the country – around 200,000 in a couple of years. So we thought this was a very good business idea,” said Gadgil, a major stakeholder in the venture.
To be launched Sep 30, the school has acquired two animation studios in the city, including Toolbox Animation Studio run by Chetan Deshmukh who worked for the Hollywood blockbuster “Chicago”. The academy expects to enrol about 2,000 students by next year.
I am live-blogging this conference so, 1) refresh on a regular basis if you’re reading this on Wednesday evening (Pune time), and 2) please excuse the terse and ungrammatical language.
I missed the morning sessions. There were two sessions on innovation (which I’m glad to have missed – I am bored of talks on innovation), one on biotech, and one that sounded very interesting – because it was case studies on animation (“Golden Compass”, “Tare Zameen Par”, “Little Krishna”) that was done out of Pune.
First up is P.S. Narayan, Head Sustainability Practice, Wipro, talking about “Does Green make business sense?” While a lot of the talk was general Al Gore-ish “you should help the environment” lecturing, there were a few points that I found interesting.
He is making the point that Green companies perform better. There are examples of businesses who focused on energy savings and managed to not just reduce energy costs, but also improved on a bunch of other measures. Also, he is showing that green companies do better on the stock market too. I’m not sure whether this is just correlation or there was some causation involved. (I mean it is possible that companies that think about going green, are also the same ones who are smart enough to reduce their costs, and the ones who are not going green are generally the companies that are not well run.)
What is Green IT? It’s not just designing your systems to consume less power. It is also about software solutions to reduce energy consumed in other parts of your company (e.g. did you think about re-designing your supply chain to minimize energy consumption?) Also, other things like green accounting (if your accounts department kept track of energy usage in addition to simply dollars spent, that would reduce consumption. Currently, most people don’t even know the details of their consumption.)
The next up is Dr. S. Ramakrishnan, Director General, C-DAC with a talk entitled “From Innovation to Deployment: Case Studies from C-DAC”. In their Language Computing initiative they have designed more than 3000 TrueType and Unicode fonts for Indian languages. In Speech Technologies, they not only have to worry about speech-to-text of Indian languages, but also speech-to-text of Indian English! C-DAC’s ATCS (Area Traffic Control System) brings advanced concepts in traffic control to Indian conditions. It uses vehicle detectors to optimize traffic signals. These kinds of signals are only present in two place in India – Delhi (63 signals, imported from UK) and Pune (34 signals, developed by C-DAC). The signals are controlled from a central location using wireless communication – which is really good because it reduces road digging. (Anyone driving around Pune these days will know how big a deal this is.) There is also a telemedicine project but he did not get time to go into that.
Dr. Anupam Saraph, CIO of Pune, making a case for having strong IT in government in Pune. To allow growth faster than the 7% that we are currently experiencing (it should be double digits), but also to ensure that we do not run into the problems that are caused by the growth when it happens. After the initial pitch, he is jumping ahead and talking about his vision for Pune in 2015, and then following it up with the specific projects that he has initiated. He mentioned how this is a partnership between government and businesses – he sees how it is sustainable when someone is making money off these cool services. He also mentioned the Design for Pune competition (which I am working on) and PuneTech. Cool.
In the plenary session, Rohit Srivastwa, head of IT for the Commonwealth Games, and Airtight Networks, gave a talk on how information security is very important these days. He talked about ClubHack (an online community for bringing security awareness to common people). He pointed out to Anupam Saraph how some government websites had security loopholes. This led to a nice back-and-forth between the two of them about the need to balance security vs. use of new technology – a refreshing change from the blandness that afflicts other presentations. But while the session was interesting, I was not entirely sure why it was a plenary session, instead of being a presentation in one of the regular sessions.
Vijay Kumar Gautam, COO, Commonwealth Games, Delhi 2010, gave a brilliant speech about the use of IT in sports, and brought out very nicely the huge difficulties involved in managing the IT for a sports event. Imagine a company that has 50,000 employees, and 1 billion customers. The company is built from scratch in 3 years, and is operational for only 3 weeks. Unlike most other IT projects, the deadline does not slip – the dates are fixed and remain fixed. Unlike most other software products, you don’t get a chance to do a bugfix or a patch release. You don’t get a chance to tune your system based on experience in the field. You don’t have an alpha or a beta release. And now imagine 10,000 journalists following your every move and ready to report on every gaffe.
He gave some idea of the complexity of the whole set up – hardware, software, processes. I’d love to get my hands on his presentation, not sure where I can get it from. They are planning on using the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune later this year as a Proof-of-Concept test ground for the system.
The most interesting thing he said was this – such games happen all the time. There are Olympics (summer/winter) every two year. There are Commonwealth or Asian games every two years. Take into account world championships and other events and you have games all the time. And, it is very difficult to find people who have the experience of building IT systems for such a requirement. And they charge astronomical rates. You should get into this business. That was the main thrust of his talk.