Prime Collector to change India’s art ecosystem from an ‘old-boys network’ to a more transparent ecosystem
In India, most people look to invest their savings in either real estate or gold. But it is always advantageous to have your finger in every pie, and diversify your investments. While there are advisors for real estate and precious metals like gold and silver, there are sectors like art and wine that India and other emerging countries are not aware of. Sandip Malik aims to change this with his venture.
Prime Art Capital is a Singapore-registered art advisory and investment management firm for individuals, organisations, cities and governments interested in art as an asset class. They plan to leverage technology to bring value-added services to art aficionados and other treasure asset collectors.
Sandip is the Founder and CEO of Prime Art Capital. A few months ago, they launched an iOS app called Prime Collector, a luxury lifestyle app that enables users to digitise their art, jewellery, wine, watches and other collectibles, and schedule a suite of services like insurance, storage or valuations.
Sandip has over 25 years of management and leadership experience in multinational corporations like GE, Aviva, Emerson and ICI in multiple geographies. His core expertise areas include succession planning, project management and execution and capital growth. Sandip says:
As a leading prognosticator of the global art and collector services industry, my biggest challenge was how I could scale my expertise for the wider good of collectors in emerging markets. There is a huge knowledge gap between collectors in, say, New York and New Delhi.
So Sandip decided to leave a cushy financial services job in London in 2013 to start ideating and building the framework for this venture. It took several pivots before he was sure of the shape and size of the final product. Prime Collector enables collectors to digitise their assets and helps them with estate and succession planning, and to plan for services like insurance, storage, auctions, packing and moving.
The tech team consists of four to five people depending on the problem being solved. Their focus is on market/services development and user experience. The app works in English and simplified Mandarin. The plan is to introduce Arabic, Brazilian and Portuguese versions soon. About challenges faced, he adds:
There were multiple challenges as the art industry is an extremely opaque place, and runs like an old-boys-school network. Fortunately, for me, my periodic presence in London and New York helped me break the ice with leading players in this market. I also had access to the public library system in New York, which got me up-to-speed with all aspects of the industry, its players and the problems that needed to be solved.
Prime Collector’s business model has been structured to work both vertically and horizontally.They have 22+ verticals with collector categories like art, wine, fashion and vintage jewellery. They have integrated multiple revenue streams (horizontals) within each vertical. These include subscription fees, advertising revenue, lead generation and conversion fees from various service providers like insurance, storage, packing, moving, framing, auctions.The app works on the freemium model, so users can download it for free to get the experience, and then buy subscription as needed. From their research, Prime Collector found that almost all good collector productivity software available in the West are desktop-based systems, limited mobile access and comparatively high prices (up to $40). With the popularity of smartphones in emerging market like India and China, Sandip decided to focus on a functional app for smartphones and tablets. Prime Collector’s limited subscription starts at $10 a month, and their unlimited subscription retails at $15 a month.
From his experience in the sector, Sandip estimates that collector services industry revenue is at USD 100 billion per year. This figure does not include China, which is one of the biggest and fastest growing collector markets. Through Prime Collector, he plans to bring collector services to emerging markets. He adds:
There are more collectors of jewellery, vintage cars and furniture in India than modern or contemporary art. The art market is fraught with structural problems like inadequate valuation and appraisal services, fly-by-night galleries, widespread forgery and a near-complete lack of interest in art from other markets.
Sandip found that the number of art fairs in India is too few in number, and people rarely see any art from the West or China. Even if some foreign galleries do show up, there are no takers. So he feels that until the Indian art collector’s mind set matures, India will continue to see a downward demand for art. On the other hand, jewellery has high aesthetic and intrinsic value. Thus, commands more interest amongst Indians. He predicts rapid maturity of the Indian market in five to seven years as more and more people come into wealth, and financial advisers continue to advise diversification from real estate into alternate assets like wine, art, jewellery and classic cars.Prime Collectors’ focus, at this point, is to develop New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Their user base includes high net worth individuals, and they expect to reach 5,000 active users in India soon. They’re currently working with private banks and wealth managers to create awareness about their product.
Prime Collector considers Collectrium, which has recently been bought by Christie's for USD 16 million, as one of their competitors. Collectrium offers an app and desktop-based system, but is limited only to art and jewellery. Sandip says
There are other platforms like Art Systems, which cost $5,000 onetime plus $660 per month. Then there is Collectify, which is a Windows-based system, and sells for $150. Our other competitors are Art Vault Software ($2,890 per annum) and Art Stacks ($2,400 onetime plus $960 every year). None of our competitors offer multiple collection categories or estate and collector services planning. Also, Prime Collector is the only one that works in English and simplified Mandarin.
An Indian startup also in this segment is ArtZolo, which is an online art gallery where artists put their work for display, and users can directly buy or bid on them through the website.
Related read: Want to be an art patron? ArtZolo is here to help
Marketing and future plans
To spread the word about the product, Sandip and his team run social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for English-speaking audiences, and on Sina and Weibo for the Chinese market. They also rely on their PR team to spread the word about Prime Collector in India, Singapore and China.
The startup is entirely self-funded at this point. The plan is to raise funding as soon as they hit their targeted metrics. Based on their current run rate, they are targeting a USD 2 million Series A round in the next six to nine months. With it, they aim to scale rapidly and accelerate their services development program, and penetrate untapped markets like Brazil. The app is available on iOS, and they plan to launch Android and Windows apps in future.
Related read: Husband-wife duo brings fresco art to Indian homes