If information technology has enabled emerging economies such as India to change the commercial equations with the developed world, another speciality is being recognised for its potential: the ‘creative economy'. This segment, according to a classification by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), comprises goods and services produced by the ‘creative industries' such as art-crafts, audio visuals, design, new media, performing arts, publishing and visual arts, the ‘creative services' (including advertising and architectural services), and their ‘related industries'. For nearly a decade, UNCTAD has been attempting to turn the spotlight on the promise the creative economy holds for domestic development and international trade. Going by the evidence available, this segment emerges as one of the better performers even during a recession. In 2008, despite a contraction of 12 per cent in international trade, the creative economy did well: global exports in this sector, at $592 billion, were more than double of what they were in 2002.

The UNCTAD report, Creative Economy: A feasible development option, released in December 2010, has done well to urge developing countries to enhance their creative capacities. For, this sector's exports grew faster in developing economies between 2003 and 2008 (at 13.55 per cent a year) than in developed countries (10.02 per cent), and were above the world average (11.53 per cent). There is a difference, however, in the composition of exports. While music and audiovisuals, publishing/printed media, and new media and design topped the list of exports from the developed world, art-crafts and design products dominated the list from developing countries. Although India — unranked in 2002 — registered the fastest growth in such exports between 2003 and 2008 (15.7 per cent) to reach the 10th position in 2008, its market share of 2.3 per cent is way behind that of world-leader China at 20.8 per cent. China's rise in this dynamic sector can be traced to two policy actions: identifying this as one of the pillars of its future economic development and integrating it to its planning process. India, on the other hand, is yet to have a clear focus. Given the vast potential the country has to gain from its creative industries — be they films or crafts — a well-conceived policy that coordinates issues at the national level will go a long way in elevating its global position in this dynamic sector.

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