As the recently concluded Cannes film festival in Paris celebrated India as the Country of Honour, it offered a great opportunity for us to display our potential to be the future content hub for the world.

India’s red-carpet presence was a great recognition of its rich culture and heritage of movie-making. While this was the first time that India got recognised as a country of great storytellers and movie-makers at such global platform, its creative economy — which is much more than that, has always been a torch-bearing sector.

Estimates suggest that India’s creative economy accounts for an overall market size of about $36.2 billion. While media and entertainment undoubtedly represent India’s largest cultural exports, there are other sectors of its creative economy such as yoga, wellness and spirituality, architecture, research and development, IT and textiles that offer a great opportunity for it to expand its global footprint.

Pandemic hit

Unfortunately, the pandemic-induced lockdowns left the sector in tatters. The people engaged in the cultural and creative occupations, particularly those in the media and entertainment and performing arts industry were amongst the worst hit as they were the first to shut their doors in response to the pandemic and were also among the last to reopen. However, as people are slowly beginning to accept the ‘new normal’, it is expected that it will be these creative industries which will in fact drive the next wave of growth.

There has been pandemic -induced emergence of technology and innovation within the creative industries through rise of OTT and social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram, live-streaming of events, growth of virtual tourism etc. Digital technologies have turned consumers into producers via platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. This has led to an emergence of a large number of creators with a strong following base in India.

India’s creative sector, undoubtedly, has the potential to be a big jobs generator in the post-Covid world. Our ongoing work on creative economy as a part of ICRIER-ADBI collaborative research programme finds that it accounts for as much as 8.3 per cent of country’s overall employment, which is much higher than the corresponding share in Turkey (1 per cent), Mexico (1.5 per cent), South Korea (1.9 per cent) and even Australia (2.1 per cent).

Further, at a time when there are record youth unemployment and low female employment levels in India, we find that the creative sector employs more people aged 15-29 years (30 per cent) as well as more females (28 per cent) than the non-creative sectors (24.1 per cent and 24.3 per cent respectively).

So, could creative sector be the game changer for India in the wake of the pandemic? The answer to this depends on how well the policies are targeted towards supporting creative employment in the country. In order to bolster the growth process in the sector, it is imperative that policies are aimed towards strengthening partnerships between creative actors.

One good example is the recent collaborative effort between British Council and ArtBrahma to showcase Indian arts and culture festivals to culture seekers worldwide, with an aim to strengthen cultural relations and creating jobs. The growth of creative industries necessitates a flexible and accommodative policy that offers them the mandatory legal framework needed to survive. A strategic framework of intellectual property rights that protects the creative entrepreneurs from copyright infringement is needed.

Further, the programmes should aim to build the capabilities of these firms enabling them to meet with the advanced legal frameworks of the government, specifically by working on building skills and providing technical assistance to the firms in the creative industry.

Unfortunately, public investment so far has remained abysmally low, despite the fact that the sector has played a pivotal role in employment generation. Therefore, to harness the immense potential that the sector offers and to enable the sector in driving the next wave of growth, a much more active and focussed public intervention will be critical.

Kukreja is a Consultant and Puri is a Research Assistant, ICRIER. Views expressed are personal