How Anshum Mandore of AM Photography took the leap from big sells to pixels. Read his inspiring #PassionToPaycheck story below.
From sales graphs to photographs, it has been a thrilling ride for Anshum Mandore. Even as a child, he was entranced by the magic of a roll of film that had the power to capture enduring images. He would click away with his modest camera and wait impatiently to put together enough pocket money to hand over the precious rolls to the lab next door.
But then, in 1998, when he was in high school, he saw a device that would change his life. It was his friend’s birthday party and the latter’s father, who was with the Merchant Navy, had picked up a digital camera while on duty abroad. Mesmerised by its convenience and the quality of the images at virtually no cost, Anshum decided it was his object of desire. He badgered his mother into getting a SONY DSC - 1.3 mega pixel camera when she went to the US.
“My first point-and-shoot was responsible for [igniting] my passion for photography and transforming my life. I took no less than 20,000 to 30,000 [images] with it, most of which I still have. I still have the camera, although it has served its purpose and died a long time ago.”
Still, the thought of making a living with his camera never occurred to Anshum and he did his B.Com., specialising in Business Administration and Marketing in 2002, before pursuing his PGDM programme at Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune. The two-year course helped him refine his attitude and temperament, turning him into a confident and independent individual. He credits his entrepreneurial success, when he eventually connected his passion and business, to these years of management education.
He says, “People tend to think that by taking up a career in photography, I’ve wasted my degree. What everyone forgets is that photography is a business for me. And in the business of photography, I [am] thankful each day for my years of studying management and the innumerable ways in it shaped my thought process and approach.”
But before all that, through campus placement in 2004, Anshum was hired as an executive trainee in Fritos Lays. His job entailed extensive travels in Tier 2 and 3 cities of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh to conduct roads shows and similar ground-level campaigns. At the end of every marketing stint, the visible increase in average sales figures boosted his confidence, as he graduated from a ‘I-don’t-know-what I’m-doing’ mindset to ‘I-can-do-it’.
After spending a fruitful year with Frito Lays, he was hired as Assistant Manager – Marketing in Dubai in the Gulf’s largest retail conglomerate. A prime attraction was that he had access to the office DSLR camera, which was far superior to his personal one. Volunteering for product shoots that produced spectacular results, he learnt a lot about digital photography in the two years he was there.
In 2007, he packed his bags and left for India where Indiacom offered him the post of Manager, Marketing. His father was Managing Director there but Anshum insists his recruitment entailed strict protocol. His three-year stint finally afforded him his own DSLR and he knew the time had come for him to pursue a full-time career in photography.
He already had a clear plan in his head. He had his family’s backing and gave himself a year. If he failed, he would treat it as a sabbatical and get back to a corporate career.
Things did not work out initially. Three months went by without a single assignment: no one wanted to risk handing their wedding or special occasion to a novice. But his business sense kicked in and he held photography workshops, which turned out to be a big hit. The money he made equalled his last salary.
And then came his first break, courtesy the wedding of a friend who had been observing his passion. Needless to say, he did a first-class job, with enough finesse to build a portfolio. The floodgates opened and within a year, he was making almost 2.5 times his last salary.
Initially, Anshum offered his services as an individual candid photographer, but clients also wanted additional services like video and traditional photography. They did not want to outsource piecemeal services by seeking other vendors. When he demurred, Anshum realised he was losing business to competitors offering a holistic bouquet of services. He then hired a team of photographers and videographers. From then on, his own role became more managerial, focusing on marketing, client servicing, quality control and brand building. His management education came in handy in setting up AM Photography, now providing the entire range of imaging services for a host of occasions, including candid and traditional photography, customised wedding films, documentary coverage, photo booths and other tech solutions. The one-man operation had become one that employs 30 professionals, consisting of full-timers, associates and freelancers.
Anshum says no two weddings are the same. People are different, venues change, rituals are distinct, leading to myriad experiences. “I still love what I do as much as I did the first day and not many careers can have you saying that six years on. I honestly did not imagine [then] that I would be where I am today.”
The wedding photography market is highly competitive and any growth of turnover, no matter how small, is a positive indicator. As for the future, AM Photography is now looking at overseas projects.