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No income for nearly a year: Dhiraj Kacker - Jan 10th 2011
Canvera Wins Asia Pacific & Japan Award

Dhiraj Kacker | 38 years
Age at starting business: 35 years
Company Name: Canvera Digital Technologies
Seed capital: Rs 7 Crore
Source of money: Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Footprint Ventures
(venture capital firms)

More than 19 years of working with start-ups in digital imaging and photography. Seven US patents to show for the effort. I decided in 2007 it was time to use the experience and expertise to turn decision-maker.

Around the same time, my friend and IIT batchmate Peeyush Rai presented the idea of establishing our own business. I needed little persuasion. In no time, my wife and I quit our jobs in the US to move to Bangalore, where Peeyush and I founded Canvera.
India was a new market. We took nearly nine months to study it. We found that professional photographers are a constant feature of most ceremonies, notably weddings, in India. Weddings spawn around 60% of their business. We had to find our niche in this vast business. We tossed around concepts like mobile photography.

As our research progressed, we zeroed in on producing coffee-table books, or a digest of the work of photographers, after seeing a billion-dollar business potential.

There was no need for research in a small but important aspect of the business: The company's name. I randomly produced the name by combining canvas and camera.
The early days were difficult. There was no source of income for nearly a year. We dug into our savings to meet expenses. My family was supportive, perhaps because the experience was hardly new. I had spent a lifetime with start-ups even during the dotcom bubble. Here I was with another, albeit my own.

The hunt for funds began in earnest, but was tough. There were many meetings with angel investors and venture capitalists to present the business model. After a tide of rejections, we finally managed to gather funds from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Footprint Ventures.

Not every rejection was futile. I decided to lower the demand for seed capital to Rs 2 crore as Rs 7 crore was beginning to look improbable. But one potential investor talked me out of it. Lower capital would mean entering the unorganised Indian photography market with a sub-standard product. He did not invest, but the advice was valuable.I made a fair share of mistakes in the first year.

I bought equipment for making ancillary products and invested in inventory designs that were European in taste. The inventory drained our resources. The equipment is thankfully of use as we are increasingly developing products.

We advertised mainly through trade shows, but decided against giving free samples. This led to a few embarrassing moments. People would scoff when asked to pay for samples.

Our first customer was a fashion photographer. As I said earlier, I took back home the first pay cheque after nearly a year. Revenues began to trickle in slowly but steadily. As we expected, weddings seed most of the business. We charge nearly Rs 7,000 for a coffee table book. The price can rise depending on the size of the book, number of copies and paper used. I have survived the journey thanks to perseverance. Did I have a Plan B? No. Entrepreneurs cannot afford to have one.

Link to the original article:

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 (, DFJ ( and Mumbai Angels (

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