One fine morning in 2006, Dhiraj Kacker received a phone call that changed his life as an employee with a successful start-up in the Silicon Valley. At the other end was his buddy Peeyush Rai coaxing him to come back to India to start their own business. And, Kacker didn’t think twice.
In 2007, Kacker and Rai, who used to play for the IIT Bombay cricket team, launched Canvera, an online digital photography company that offers solutions in imaging and photography to professionals.
Before zeroing in on the business model, they had the firm belief that photography was going to go digital and have a huge impact on the Indian photography industry. The key, however, for them was to figure out the opportunities, created by this transformation.
"After quitting our jobs in 2006, we spent months together talking to everyone connected with digital photography - from people who own digital cameras to those who hire professionals,” says Kacker. The duo found it amazing to see even Tier-II cites using SLR cameras and photoshop, considering that five years ago there were hardly any digital cameras in India.
Targeting the photography industry was natural given that Kacker had an 18-year experience in the imaging field.
"We realised that in India photography is primarily consumed by professionals, unlike in the US. Here it is common to hire a professional photographer for even a birthday party", quips Kacker.
However, the duo found that the Indian market was serviced by a completely fragmented set of "suppliers". "There was no standardisation of product and service quality, resulting in dissatisfied end-consumers", Kacker felt.
They also noticed that hand-made, unbranded albums were sold in nearly every Indian town. So they thought with their knowledge and technology, they could really raise the product and service levels of photobooks/coffee-table-books in the country.
After a thorough research, the two launched Canvera with the financial backing of Footprint Ventures and Mumbai Angels — the company raised $2 million in their series A financing. Canvera’s flagship products are high-end, customised coffee-table-books/photobooks that photographers use to service markets, including wedding, fine arts and corporate.
"We wanted to build a business that would have relevance in Tier-II, III towns", says Kacker.
Canvera has sales offices in six cities and expects to break even by the end of 2010. The company has already serviced 150 photographers across cities.
Canvera is an online photography company building solutions to help Professional Photographers run their business more effectively. Canvera offers high-end customized coffee-table-books, design services and hosting solutions to professional photographers. Canvera's products and services are used by professional photographers to both deliver a high quality experience to their clients and also to market themselves better. Canvera's coffee-table-books were twice awarded the Best Photobook in Asia Pacific & Japan at the annual HP Digital Print Awards in 2008 & 2009. Canvera was also given the Best Innovation in Technology award by Asian Photography magazine for "bringing professionalism and innovation to an unorganized market". As on date Canvera has serviced the needs of professional photographers in more than 250 cities across India. Canvera entered the market in July 2008 and was founded by Dr. Dhiraj Kacker (CEO) and Peeyush Rai (CTO) who have previously worked at numerous successful startups in Silicon Valley. Canvera is financially backed by Footprint Ventures (www.footprintventures.com), DFJ (www.dfj.com) and Mumbai Angels (www.mumbaiangels.com).