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Is India’s creative economy headed in the right direction?

Establishment of the cultural centres and infusion of digital technologies in the arts are all proof that the sector is taking the steps in the right direction

The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre hosted an immersive exhibition, titled 'Run As Slow As You Can', in August 2023. Photo: PTI
The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre hosted an immersive exhibition, titled 'Run As Slow As You Can', in August 2023. Photo: PTI

What do California, Veneto and Maharashtra have in common? Each of these has served as a platform for Indian artists to be applauded for their work. The past few months have seen a tidal wave of global acknowledgement for Indian performers and creative professionals. It all started with Naatu Naatu from RRR (original soundtrack) and The Elephant Whisperer (short film) winning at the Academy Awards 2023. A few weeks later, Diljit Dosanjh became the first-ever Punjabi musician to perform at the iconic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, while also making it to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s speech for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently. In Europe, Kerala-born architect Madhav Kidao showcased at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale—the first-ever artist of Asian origin to do so—giving his Buddhist-and-Hindu-philosophy-inspired exhibit at the British Pavilion a global audience.

India has given the world some of the most admired masters of their craft--such as AR Rahman, Rabindranath Tagore, Zakir Hussain, Lata Mangeshkar and M.F. Husain. However, the recognition had largely resided in pockets. Today social media has made Indian performers and their work household names worldwide. The world is looking at Indian artists and performers for their uniqueness and innovation, which is still rooted in the local culture but has a far more mainstream vibe to it. 

India’s prominence in the international creative sector has recently been marked by global events and artists coming to the country. Be it the first-ever Dior show in India, artists such as Dee Moxon bringing their famous Lantern Parade to Mumbai’s suburbs as part of the British Council’s India/UK Together, Season of Culture, or the congregation of global celebrities flocking to experience the ‘India in Fashion’ exhibition at the new Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai. Everything points to India’s growing stature as a global destination for artists and creative professionals.

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According to the Taking The Temperature reports, which measured the impact of the pandemic on India’s creative economy, the country’s creative sector shrunk by 39% during the covid-19 pandemic. The impact was felt even more by the self-employed professionals, who made up 44% of the creative economy. To prevent such losses in the future, India needs a more organised and inter-connected creative arts infrastructure that spans creative artforms. Sector stakeholders and policymakers should take a long-term view to do both— maximise revenue by creating more global opportunities for well-known artists, as well as create platforms for discovering, upskilling, and supporting income-generation opportunities for new and emerging artists. 

Establishment of the NMACC, the growing popularity of OTT platforms, and the infusion of digital technologies in the arts are all proof that the sector is taking the necessary steps in the right direction. All this, combined with social media, will result in greater appreciation and recognition for Indian artists beyond national boundaries. However, there must be a concrete plan to make the sector more robust, connected, and ready for the future. A creative economy taskforce, establishment of a cross-government department from the fourteen ministries that have a mandate for arts and culture in India, regulatory framework and financial investment, and innovation are just some of the ways that the sector can become more unified, represent the artists more inclusively and make them more self-reliant.

The India-UK Roadmap 2030 underlines the importance of arts and culture for mutual exchange and prosperity, strengthening cultural and political bonds. Aligned to the Roadmap 2030, the British Council’s India/UK Season of Culture during 22-23 saw nearly 2,000 undiscovered and established Indian artists showcase their arts to Indian and global audiences while also developing sustained income opportunities through accessing international networks.

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The UK’s recently-announced Creative Industries strategy includes stimulating 1 million more jobs and GBP 50 bn in GVA (gross value added). The culture strategy confirms that the growth of the UK creative industries strengthened as a result of international collaborative exchange in the arts and trade. 

The UK Culture sector representatives recently met with Indian counterparts at India’s G20 culture track events, and exchanged ideas on how to strengthen the creative economy and culture industries in both nations. With two great nations coming together on this shared goal for artists, the stage is set for Indian artists and creative professionals to shine brighter than ever before.

Alison Barrett is director India, British Council



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