Chennai-based startup helps designers, brands and e-commerce firms reach their audience by printing, packing and shipping customised merchandise without the inventory hassle.
Anant Reddy is looking for a custom print on a mug he bought from an e-commerce store. He orders the design on the e-commerce store, but his order is sent to Printrove, a startup in Chennai. Printrove uses its printers and presses to add a race car to the plain surface of the mug and ships the product to Anant in a couple of days.
Inspired by Printful in the US, three engineers from Chennai have built a tech company that allows over 200 merchants to custom-print their products. Printrove has an annual revenue run rate of more than Rs 1 crore in less than 18 months of operations.
The three school friends, Madhur Chauhan, Akshay Dughar and Pankaj Bokdia, all 27 years old, grew interested in e-commerce, software and printing at a very early age. Madhur holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Panimalar Engineering College, Akshay is an IT engineer from SRM while Pankaj has an engineering degree in printing technology from College of Engineering, Guindy. After graduating, all three made placement lists, but the desire to set up a business remained. Whenever they met, they would discuss various opportunities in the B2B space.
Ultimately, they decided to start up. When the company was founded in late 2015, Madhur and Pankaj experimented with various technologies like 3D printing and additive manufacturing before finally deciding to enter the print-on-demand field. Akshay joined them later and Printrov began to take off.
The name Printrove is made up of two words – print, denoting all things related to the field of printing, and trove, which means a treasure chest.
“Thus Printrove means a treasure chest of printable items for everyone,” says Pankaj, Co-founder of Printrove. “The basic idea when we started Printrove was to create a marketplace for artists and designers where they could showcase their designs to customers and then the products could be made by Printrove,” he adds.
But things changed in three months. “Going down this path, we discovered there were companies already working on a similar model; they gave a commission to artists for their artwork,” Pankaj says.
The three founders decided that they had to build a technology company that could support several e-commerce brands with their white-labelled tech. They invested close to Rs 15 lakh on a few presses and machines that could handle 600 products a day.
Printrove’s Eureka moment
In 2016, they found that print-on-demand products had a huge startup cost and maintaining the machinery, managing logistics and packaging was a cumbersome process. That is when they thought of creating a service that facilitates an artist or designer in his or her journey of creating a brand.
“It is then that the print-on-demand drop-shipping concept struck us,” Pankaj says.
Printrove started building an inventory of mugs and notebooks, and mastered the art of printing on demand. They started contacting all budding brands, designers and artists, and pitched their print-on-demand drop-shipping services.
The startup began by offering printing services on mobile cases and covers, and went on to coffee mugs, mouse pads and notebooks. It plans to launch a new range of products soon.
The business model
Printrove’s APIs are integrated with e-commerce and other merchants. The tech is white-labelled and the company charges the e-commerce company a percentage of the product cost. The final item is shipped by Printrove on behalf of the e-commerce company.
“We simplify the print-on-demand field, making it easier for entrepreneurs, brands, artists and designers to start and run their own brand,” Pankaj says.
Everything, from manufacturing, inventory, packaging and logistics, is taken care of by Printrove. The merchant just has to collect orders and transfer them to Printrove.
Abhishek Parihar, Founder of SagarFab.com, says: “Printing services are very big for young brands and it is a big business in corporate circles.” SagarFab’s MyTee is also into selling and printing services, but only on T-shirts.
Printrove makes money on the sale value of the product. The business is very similar to Printful in the USA. There are other printing services, but there aren’t many that link digital orders to printing. Printvenue and Flexiprint are the closest competition to Printrove.
What’s up next for the founders? They are on the lookout for angel money and believe they can grow their customer base by going global and tying up with services in other regions.