Canvera brings high-tech and safe solutions to help professional photographers
Six years ago, when Canvera was set up, Dhiraj Kacker and Peeyush Rai started out convincing professional photographers across India that they would not only print their portfolios and coffee table books professionally, but also design, manage stock photos and deliver the coffee table books to the customer. The duo has a come a long way since. Canvera now covers 400 cities and towns, and has 15,000 photographers as clients, with a focus on weddings.
"You have to be photographing weddings in this country," says Kacker, adding that almost every photographer was making his living out of wedding photo shoots. But when they shared their work with printers, there was no professionalism. Besides, there was no data protection and the print quality was suspect.
The duo estimates that 15-20 million weddings take place in India every year, and even if 10 per cent want wedding albums printed, the scale is enormous. "This is the size of our business; it's only growing," says Rai.
"Printing and designing personal photos are a commoditised business. The world over, weddings and important family occasions are the only events that are outsourced to professional photographers," says Kacker. But getting 15,000 photographers on board could not have been easy. The work Kacker and Rai had put in a decade earlier helped.
They first met in IIT Bombay, where their passion for cricket brought them together. Both moved to the US to work and since they lived in the San Francisco Bay area, they met frequently and discussed businesses that would work back home. While Rai worked in the R&D departments of various software firms, Kacker worked at Shutterfly, an Internet-based photobook printing and imaging technology company. But before that, he had completed his PhD in electrical engineering.
He created an imaging algorithm for printing on desktop printers. At Shutterfly, Kacker, along with a colleague, was granted seven patents in imaging.
The idea of starting a business took shape during weekend interactions. Both were interested in photography and often spoke about online photography solutions. "Digital photography solutions in India lacked technology and innovation. We saw a huge opportunity both in professional and consumer photography," says Rai, who returned to India in 2004 to manage globally distributed engineering teams for various IT companies. Kacker came back in 2006, and the two started Canvera towards the end of 2007. They spent the first few months of 2008 meeting photographers and understanding how the photography business worked.
It was a tough time as the two had no income for months. This made the requirement for funds even more crucial. The first round came from Draper Fischer Jurvetson, Footprint Ventures and a few others in 2008, to the tune of Rs 35 crore. The money was used to build an online platform for professional photographers to upload images, on printing machines and a manufacturing facility.
Their champions were the photographers. In 2010, William Chang, a professional photographer in Delhi, decided to try Canvera as all his friends were talking about it. "My friends were saying that these folks from Canvera offered different textures to photo albums," says Chang, of William Chang Images. He has been a regular user of Canvera's services for coffee table books and wedding albums. "It is the transparency that is to be noted. Our clients ask us to get the books printed from 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 (www.footprintventures.com), DFJ (www.dfj.com), Info Edge (www.infoedge.in) and Mumbai Angels (www.mumbaiangels.com).