Breaking a Limca record, these 23-year-olds are now trying to organise the photography market in India
This is what crosses your mind when you think of getting a photographer for any of your assignments. In an industry populated by thousands of freelancers, you are left depending on those who are mostly referred to you by acquaintances.
Now, a pair of 23-year-olds is trying to make sense of this chaos.
Being die-hard photography enthusiasts, Divya Agrawal, an alumnus of IIT Roorkee, and Anubhav Das from BITS Pilani were introduced to each other through a common Facebook group, while sharing their work. Their shared passion for and inclination towards photography led them to share ideas. And in 2014, they were suddenly struck by the idea of a collaboration.
And this wasn’t any simple collaboration. The idea was to join forces with the photography network of close to 14 engineering colleges across India. And they did just that. Under the campaign ‘India Unseen’, the duo collaborated with 1,200 photographers, producing 30,000 photographs.
This effort got recognised by the Limca Book of Records 2015 as the first and largest photographic collaboration ever.
And the interesting bit is that Divya and Anubhav never met in person while spearheading the collaboration. And work didn’t stop there. Post the campaign, the duo started running pilot tests, trying to create a network of freelancers to satiate the demand for photographers in the wedding market.
Earning Rs 12 lakh through the collaboration alone, the duo went on to incorporate AIE Services in May 2016. While starting up they were joined by Anubhav's friend Jaideep Sinh Jhala (23).
Being a playful pun on the word ‘eye’, AIE is essentially a network of photographers and videographers across India.
Providing photography services, the startup has an active lineup of more than 250 photographers across 30 cities in India. These essentially being freelancers, the startup is adding 50-60 photographers every month, while trying to organise the space. Anubhav says,
We had been semi-professional photography freelancers back in college and have also worked in marketing internships where we had to hire photographers, seeing both sides of the coin. We realised that the basic problem was that of organising a highly unorganised (over 90 percent) photography services industry with no quality standardisation and unregulated pricing. We planned to overcome these challenges by monitoring photograph quality centrally while providing fair and uniform pricing anchors for all the locations.
According to the founders, the startup is also streamlining the process by not just catering to the market demand, but also through allowing different freelancers to hone their skills.
Till now, the firm has done close to 150 shoots since inception, across categories of real estate, weddings, e-commerce and mom and pop stores. With a bulk of the revenue coming from real estate, the firm has worked with a total of 16 clients, including names such as FAB Hotels, ah! Ventures and Gold’s Gym.
According to Anubhav, 60 percent of their clients are repeat customers.
Offline as of now, the firm is also planning on taking their solution framework online. Building an ERP solution, the firm is looking to streamline operations on the cloud.
This means that all operations and processes, from uploading to editing, will be taken care of at the backend, reducing delivery time from 96 hours to just 48 hours.
AIE will also help to monitor every step of the process, bettering quality control. The firm is also looking to build a B2C app to handle ratings, appreciation and feedback. The app will comprise of a community of photographers showcasing their work.
The firm is aiming to reach Rs 1.5 crore in revenues by the end of August next year. They claim to have made a total revenue of Rs 18 lakh until now, excluding the pilot runs.
AIE is also pacing to finish more than 600 shoots by the end of this year, and have an active network of more than 1,000 photographers.
There might be rising market potential for businesses like AIE. While speaking to YourStory earlier, Udhay Shankar, Head of the Axilor accelerator programme, said that marketing and brand managers of corporates essentially may not have time to spend time with 100 creative ideas. Hence, this process should be handled by external platforms or agencies.
However, AIE is not the first entrant in this space. There are companies like Canvera and Flatpebble with similar business models. In fact, Bengaluru-based online photography startup Canvera raised fresh funding of $ 3 million in August.
There are also a host of other photography and videography startups focusing on specific market verticals such as weddings and events, among others.
But what really counts as the need of the hour is for these businesses to be noticed by the right audiences. Also, it is essential for photography startups to mark a strong differentiation for themselves in the market.