Canvera is an online photography company providing mass customized printed products and e-commerce solutions to professional photographers. Founded in 2007 by Dhiraj Kacker and Peeyush Rai, the company has raised more than $13 million till now and managed to scale considerably with more than a 1,000 employees across India. The company was also a part of YourStory's Startup Jobs Fair where we showcased the work culture at Canvera. Canvera has been able to reach out to more than 15,000 photographers even though the founders don't come from a photography background. How did they do it? Peeyush Rai takes us through the journey...
The initial days
When we started in 2007, Dhiraj and I personally went and visited more than 50 photographers and studios ourselves, across Bangalore, Baroda, Mumbai, etc. It was extremely important to get a firsthand feel of the market and the current pain points, the key players and dynamics. Not being from the photography industry, there was a lot of skepticism early on. However, we were very determined and continued to march forward. We quickly learnt that a purely online customer acquisition model will not scale in the short term - to close customers, we will need to engage with them more deeply and hence we decided to build a sales team. Today we have 300+ sales people covering 400+ cities and towns in India, and that has been the key for us to build traction and scale.
Traction and engaging the community
More than 15,000 photographers have worked with us so far, and that number keeps growing every month. We believe there is only one way to keep customers happy. Wow them with our products and service. So far we have done that year over year for the past 6 years, and hopefully continue doing that for many years to come.
We engage with photographers at multiple levels. On a monthly basis, we host events across our 15 branches where we invite photographers and discuss best practices or conduct workshops, brainstorming sessions etc. We periodically receive feedback and ideas from photographers and a lot of those make it into our products and services. Our sales team is also in regular touch with all our customers and that gives us valuable insights into the photographers’ business, issues etc.
We also regularly engage with photographers and consumers on social networks. We have 1.3 lakh people who follow us on Facebook. We conduct interesting contests, share industry insights from leading photographers, their success stories and showcase the beautiful work being done by photographers in India.
Staying in motion
We believe innovation is key for any business to stay relevant. We have inculcated a culture of innovation at all levels within our organization, be it in the design and manufacturing of Photobooks, operational processes, Creative Design Services or Technology.
Over the years, we have introduced new types of Photobooks with different cover and paper options. We launched Vivyo, an online platform for photographers that allows them to build a photography website and e-store within minutes. We have even introduced innovative ways for photographers to pay us online and using smartphone based payment solutions. And recently we introduced a very exciting feature for our Photobooks. Each Photobook we ship now comes with its own website and can be viewed online on any computer or mobile device from anywhere in the world. We have also just launched Photographer Profile pages. These profile pages allow photographers to get listed in our online Photographer Directory, that is searchable both from our website and also through internet search engines like Google and Bing. Our innovation on all fronts is driven by one guiding factor - how to make our products and services more valuable to the photographers and consumers.
The company is currently focused on growth. Canvera has recently opened 7 new branches (making it 15 overall) and has also significantly expanded their sales and design services organization. The team is working on building the requisite automation and processes that will help them grow without any compromise on product or service quality. While on the technology side, they are working on solutions that help photographers and consumers engage with photography via online and social platforms.