A picture is worth a thousand words and yet many digital marketers find it difficult to discover the right image to convey what they want to say. It was this problem that Rahul Regulapati faced while working on some digital marketing campaigns in 2014. He realised that there was a major gap in finding the photos for specific topics, even though users were uploading billions of photos on social media every single day.
On the other hand, while he was travelling in Argentina on a holiday with his wife, they faced difficulty in finding offbeat places. These two experiences convinced him that there was a need for a platform that allows discovery through photos and other visual content created by everyday people. This led to the creation of galleri5.
galleri5 is a user-generated, content-based visual discovery platform that helps users find interesting things to do, inspiring places to travel, and unique activities to try out, among many other things. It is available both as an app and a web platform wherein users can discover interesting stuff by following galleries such as travel, food, sports, fashion and décor, among others.
The galleri5 app includes a search feature to find visual content on a specific topic that a user might be looking for. Besides this, it allows users to upload photos from their phones, or via their Facebook or Instagram accounts. Thus, galleri5 acts as an aggregator of photos from all these existing platforms, thereby harnessing the full potential of user-generated visual content. It then leverages its in-house crowdsourcing and learning engine to tag all these photos to the relevant topics, thus making visual discovery much easier.
Currently, the platform makes use of the metadata, location, and caption of the image while the plan to add image recognition capability is also in the pipeline. The galleri5 team has also gamified their platform by introducing 'karma' points, which the users can get by 'high fiving' the pictures in their feed. The more the karma points, the more is the recognition a user is likely to get.
Roping in the co-founder
When Rahul came up with the idea, he approached and roped in his friend from the IIM days, Movin Jain, who too was looking for opportunities to launch a startup. Movin is an IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad graduate, who has worked as a trader at Barclays Capital London and later, as a product manager at InMobi before starting up.
Rahul, on the other hand, is an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad graduate, and has worked as a strategy consultant with Booz & Company, before taking on a senior strategy role with Adani Group.
“With over two billion photos being uploaded to the internet every day by people from all over the world, discovery through visual content is emerging as a preferred way to discover interesting activities and experiences,” adds 31- year-old Rahul.
He believes that internet-based visual discovery is a big opportunity and companies such as Pinterest have demonstrated the huge size of this opportunity. While Pinterest mainly allows the discovery of content that is already posted on business websites and blogs, Rahul claims that the content on galleri5, which is created by everyday people, is 100 percent original and authentic.
Do people want this?
Rahul and Movin followed a hands-on approach from day one. Movin built the entire back-end for the first version while Rahul designed the first UX prototype. To validate their idea before putting in the development efforts, the duo floated an interest survey to approximately 1000 people. Their primary intent was to assess two things: a) if people really wanted to share their photos with those outside their social networks, and b) if people wanted to discover beautiful photos on the topics of their interest, even if the photos were taken by people outside their network.
Several people expressed their interest in viewing photographs outside their existing social networks, provided these photos were as per their interests. “The clincher came when we asked the respondents to also send across the best photograph they had ever taken. We received 300 high quality photos, which was made into a coffee table book. The response convinced us of the power of user generated content (UGC),” says Rahul.
Challenges along the way
However, since galleri5 is all about discovery via UGC, they needed to have enough content from users before they could enable discovery. But the users didn’t have enough incentive to add content to a new platform. To overcome this chicken-and-egg problem, they ran an offline marketing campaigns to reach out to users who are more likely to contribute content. “We released a coffee table book consisting of photos of our early adopters; and conducted photo contests at NIFT and IIMB, which in turn helped us gather more content,” says 28-year-old Movin.
The team also found it difficult to initially convince investors to invest in them. As they were operating in a new space in India, Rahul adds that most investors were sceptical of the idea. “We ensured that we were able to get user-validation at every stage of product roadmap without having to spend much on user acquisition,” says Movin. The team has now raised an undisclosed seed amount from Raghunandan G, Founder of TaxiForSure and Phanindra Sama, Founder of redBus.
Building the team
To build the core team, Rahul and Movin roped in people they already knew and were comfortable working with. Their junior from IIM Ahmedabad, Divya Suresh, joined in to handle marketing. Post that, they roped in Avismara Hugoppalu, Sagnik Sinha, Maruti Nanda, and Amit Tiwari as a part of the technology team. In addition, the duo quickly got a few other members to join in their design, marketing, and content development team.
Natasha Aggarwal works both in the design and marketing team. Radhika Chitalia, a design grad works in the design team, Shruti Sud is part of the marketing team and Ishawari Basu a graduate of sociology is a part of the marketing and content development team.
The photo-sharing market
The market for UGC-based visuals is growing fast, with the likes of Instagram receiving close to 80 million photos in a day. Apart from that, there are several other platforms such as Canada-based 500px, Sweden-based Bayimg, Flickr, Fotolog, and TinyPic.
Brands today are looking at UGC as an alternative source of advertising, as the reports suggest that 66 percent consumers end up trusting people generated content than brand content.
For monetisation, the team aims to engage with brands to promote and sponsor content on the galleri5 app that is in line with their brand. In addition, they intend to charge businesses for using galleri5 content APIs.
The platform currently has about 1500 users and over 5000 high quality photographs. Their users are growing at 30 percent month-on-month. “The engagement rates are significantly high, with 50 percent of MAUs (monthly-active) converting to WAUs (weekly-active),” says Movin.
Recently, galleri5 introduced a feature update which helps users discover interesting places to travel around Bangalore, by organising the existing user photographs on the basis of their location. They plan to introduce similar updates to make the discovery experience even more immersive. In addition, galleri5 plans to tie up with travel and food start-ups, home based chefs and smaller craft and fashion businesses, by providing them a platform to showcase their work to a captive audience which has an interest in their products.
- Phanindra Sama
- Photo sharing
- Rahul Regulapati
- Radhika Chitalia
- Amit Tiwari
- Natasha Aggarwal
- Sagnik Sinha