Prime focus of 800 Canvera employees: Preserving your memories: - March 15th 2013

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 PPs to deliver a quality experience to their clients and also to market themselves better. The company has grown tremendously since 2007 and is an 800 member team now. Here, we get in touch with co-founder Dhiraj Kacker to know their growth story...

Dhiraj Kacker and Peeyush Rai go back a long way. Studying together at IIT Bombay in the early 90's, Dhiraj and Peeyush became friends on the cricketing grounds of the college. They got close and came to know of the other common passion they had, photography. Graduating from college, they took different paths and went on to work at leading positions in some of the most reputed MNC's but they were always in touch. Dhiraj specialised in Signal & Image Processing while Peeyush went on to work in the software industry in US.

Peeyush returned to India in 2003 and this was the time when he started toying with the idea of starting up in photography. He consulted Dhiraj who readily agreed and the two set up base in India and started Canvera in 2007.

The Genesis

"We spent close to nine months researching and understanding the dynamics of the photography services in India. We found that 60 % - 70% of the revenue in the sector comes from weddings," says Dhiraj about the thorough research that went behind starting up.

Another observation was that most of the people in Tier 2, 3 cities hire a professional photographer. Even now, there are only 3-4 million digital cameras in India (100 million in US) and growing at a rate of around 35% annually.

This is where Canvera found its sweet spot. "We saw huge potential in the photobook market which till now was being serviced by the unorganized sector that offered poor quality products. There existed a great opportunity to provide high end, long lasting, branded photo books to the end consumer through the photographer," says Dhiraj. They started out on the ground by approaching individual photographers and were working with 15-20 photographers in the first month.

By the end of the first year, they had a client base of 150 photographers. Today, they serve over 14,000 photographers in 400+ cities in India.

Scaling Up

Building a business is never a cake walk. Starting out small, once the two of them had done their research, they didn't want to start up without a strong foundation. "After our study of the Indian Photography landscape Peeyush and I had concluded that we should either raise $1.5 Million (about 7.5 crore rupees) in our first round of funding or not do the business at all. We came to this conclusion by modeling the operations of the business to get to the next meaningful milestone. We factored in the cost of building our infrastructure (licenses, machines, etc.) and manpower to get there."

Then began the hunt!

Canvera had a tough time raising the initial round. They finally convinced Josh Bornstein of Footprint Ventures with their business idea; Mohanjit Jolly of Draper Fisher Jurvetson also saw the potential. In 2007, they received a seed funding from Footprint & DFJ and a few angels of Rs 8.7CR and this helped them kick start immediately. Growing significantly, on the basis of their performance, in 2012, they raised a series B worth INR 35 crores from Info Edge, the founders of

Canvera has widened its offering but the core value proposition is still - 'Preserving Memories'. Building a huge business on photography might seem a tad bit surprising but Dhiraj says that every bride and groom have one basic need during their marriage, they want good pictures clicked. And the marriages are huge in India. Canvera has empowered the photographer to such an extent that all he needs to do is click the pictures, everything else is taken care of by Canvera- including printing, editing, curating.

The series A funding helped them hire, and they now have a team size of 800 people. Canvera has 350 people in sales, 200 in design, 150 in manufacturing (unit in Bangalore) and the remaining 100 in engineering, support, etc. which goes on to the show the scale at which the company operates.

Once a photographer comes on board (job of the sales team), he just needs to hand over the photos and Canvera helps with designing, manufacturing the photobook and other items, etc.

Canvera also gives a website to a photographer as each of them has a desire to showcase their portfolio and they don't want to worry about managing the site. Canvera aims to be the one stop for professional photographers. This is done via their sub domain, Vivyo.

The Funding Business

Raising funds is a big feat in India, media outlets go abuzz as soon as the news is out and congratulatory notes fly. But one always wonders what goes on after the money is raised. Talking about the scenario, Dhiraj say, "I would not call it a Series A crunch, that, in my opinion, is a US phenomenon. But there is an overall funding crunch in India right now. There is a paucity of exits, only two Internet companies have had an IPO and M&A transactions have been few and far between. The doughnut hole in the funding environment in India is getting from Series A to Series D and this is where there is a lot of pain." (The buck stops here regarding enough funding in India).

But having raised north of INR 70 crores, how has Canvera used it? The focus has been on two areas: expanding sales & marketing and accelerating the pace of our product development. "Since we closed our last round of funding in Aug 2012 we have hired close to 250 people, 80% of them in sales; we have opened new offices in Lucknow, Jaipur, Indore and Surat; we launched our first TV commercial in four languages a few days ago; and we have started doing outdoor advertising by putting up approximately 500 signages on photo studios all over the country," says Dhiraj. On the product development side, Canvera has doubled the technology team and are rapidly working towards key milestones on their online platform and client software. "We have a strong leadership position in this space and we are using the capital to extend this lead by bringing in new and innovative products and services into the market," he adds.

Canvera believes the market has just picked up and the future is really big for photography. Watch out for the flashes!

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About Canvera

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 PPs 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 PPs 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 (, Info Edge ( and Mumbai Angels (