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Digital Focus: Canvera – A tale of digital that inspires: PrintWeek - April 5th 2011
The Bengaluru-based firm is revolutionising the photo album market, says Deepika Arwind

Dhiraj Kacker, the CEO of Canvera, was 35 when he began Canvera with his friend and IIT batchmate Peeyush Rai. As they made the decision to establish their own business, Kacker and his wife quit their jobs in the United States and moved to Bengaluru to begin the venture they were going to call Canvera. Kacker had worked in the digital imaging and photography industry for 19 years. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering with specialisation in Image and Signal Processing, and had worked in one of the United States' leading digital imaging services: Shutterfly.com.
Looking back, he says, "India was a new market, and it took about nine months to study and understand it. We found that professional photographers are a constant feature of most ceremonies, notably weddings, in India. Weddings spawn around 60% of a photographer's business. We had to find our niche in it. We tossed around concepts like mobile photography."
As their research progressed, Canvera zeroed in on producing coffee-table books that showcased the body of photographer's work because there was "a billion-dollar potential".
How to finance digital
Besides technology and marketing, a business requires funding. It was hard for Kacker to find Indian banks, which were interested in backing his business, despite the backing of venture capitalists DFJ, Footprint Ventures and Mumbai Angels. Kacker says, "Getting credit in India is virtually impossible for companies that have not been in business for at least three years." He added that he wanted to allocate his capital to sales and marketing and not on equipment.
But it was Kacker's good fortune to find HP Financial Services. Kacker has coded imaging algorithms and colour management software for them in his previous job and wanted to use HP equipment as Canvera's imaging output devices. That’s when he was told about HP Financial Services.
All of the company's HP equipment has been funded by HP Financial Services, including two HP Indigo Press 3500s; three HP Designjet 3500s; three HP Designjet Z6100 printers; a large number of HP ProLiant servers (including DL380 G6 and G5, DL180 G5, ML110 and ML150) that run the company's website and business infrastructure; and HP desktops PCs and notebook PCs for use by Canvera's 500-plus employees. It was because HP was able to determine that extending credit to Canvera that their relationship worked perfectly. "HP Financial Services allowed Canvera to execute on its business plan in two ways. We could acquire the equipment we need to deliver consistent, high-quality printing services. And we were able to allocate our venture capital money more strategically," adds Kacker.
The great Indian wedding market
Canvera tapped into the wedding photography market. According to Financial Chronicle on 3 February, 2011 an average of 10-12 million weddings take place in India annually. Among these, 6-7 million use the services of professional photographers. The report adds that the Indian wedding industry is worth Rs 80,000 crore and will grow by 25% every year.
Close to 60% of Canvera's income is from the wedding market, and 75% of this is in cash. The firm began slowly, by building relations with photographers. Now Canvera provides a client software called Canvera Pro Designer, that allows Professional Photographers to manage their pictures, create different types of photo products, and order online. They also have an organisation called 120+ design services that provide design services to professional photographers. Says Kacker, "So if they do not have the time to spend on tools, we can take care of their image management requirements."
He added,"We provide a variety of print and online products that not only allow professional photographers to provide excellent services to their end clients, but also allows them to market themselves better."
Award-winning achievements
Canvera.com was given the Best Photobook prize for the second year in a row at the Asia-Pacific & Japan HP Digital Print Award 2009 in Beijing, China.
In 2010, the website was awarded the "Best Innovation in Technology", recognising their professionalism and innovation that it was bringing to a "highly fragmented market."
Later last year in December, canvera.com won the 3rd TiE-Lumis Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards 2010 at the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit 2010, one of the largest entrepreneurship symposium in Asia.
But the best rewards come from users like Sriyansa who say, "I got Canvera albums during my wedding. While they are significantly more expensive, it is an insignificant part of the wedding expenses. And yes, the quality is well above anything else in the marketplace." Now it remains to be seen if Canvera can retain its early mover advantage.

By Deepika Arwind
Link to the original article: http://www.printweek.com/Digital/article/1064046/digital-focus-canvera-tale-digital-inspires/

Canvera is an online photography company providing mass customized printed products and e-commerce 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" and the Tie-Lumis Award for "Entrepreneurial Excellence" in 2010. As on date Canvera has serviced the needs of professional photographers in more than 300 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).

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