How Kolkata-based Amar Canvas is helping artists across India paint entrepreneurial dreams
Keeping the inner artist alive isn’t easy. More so for those who need to achieve the fine balance between art and money. Many artists forget their passion and make their peace with a regular job to keep the home fires burning.
But Rahul Basak (25) and Amit Kumar Mahishya Das (27) want to change this with Amar Canvas, an online platform that helps artists and handicraft makers sell their work online.
Their aim is one: to make every artist in the country an entrepreneur.
“We believe that the loss of an artist’s skills can have a huge impact on a bigger cultural frame. There are umpteen artists, but not all are successful in making art their living. The market is full of brokers, who sell artworks at a high price but give very little to the artist,” Rahul says.
“We provide an online platform where artists get a direct opportunity to sell their work globally and receive 100 percent profit.”
Rahul was doing a master’s course in computer science at Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology, Kolkata, when he happened to travel to Hong Kong. It was a time when the Hong Kong International Film Festival was on and the entire city was celebrating art. An artist himself, Rahul really enjoyed his time in the city.
“I met so many new artists from different corners of the world, and I saw how confidently they called themselves an ‘artist’. However, In India the picture is different,” he says.
“If you tell someone that you are or want to be an artist, the first question is ‘how will you earn money?’ It happened with me too. So, my first idea was to create a platform that lets artists be their own boss. It would let them proudly say that they were artists and could sell works globally, from home,” Rahul recalls.
The idea of Amar Canvas was conceived in Hong Kong, and Rahul soon connected with Amit, a friend from his engineering days. The duo bootstrapped the company with Rs 3 lakh in November 2018.
Rahul is the CEO while Amit currently holds the COO position at Amar Canvas. The company presently has 10 employees.
The founders claim that around 60 artists had registered in the first month of their website’s launch. Today, close to 150 artists are registered on its platform. Amar Canvas manages to sell around three artworks a month. Though it is a slow start, the founders believe that this number will increase in the future.
Giving artists a large canvas
Rahul explains the workings of the platform. An artist needs to submit ID proof and certain data to get started. Once a painter or handicraft maker signs up as a seller on the Amar Canvas website, the team verifies his or her identity.
Once approved, the artist gets a personalised dashboard where s/he can upload artworks along with expected prices. The artworks are verified by the team, and - after approval - are displayed on the Amar Canvas website for buyers, with the addition of a small percentage to the price the artist expects.
If the artwork interests a buyer, Amar Canvas picks it up from the artist’s home and delivers it. The company has tied up with the payment gateway company CC Avenue which allow the buyers to pay online.
The team believes its USP lies in being completely honest with the artists.
“Suppose someone is looking for Rs 5,000 for a painting, we hand over the exact amount after the sale of the product. We also ship the artwork directly from the artist’s home to the buyer’s home. Others take paintings from the artist at low prices and sell it at inflated rates,” Rahul says.
“Our motivation is to uplift India’s art economy and support artists. We believe that is where we are different,” he adds.
Amar Canvas adds its percentage share of the price, depending on the services and products. This usually falls between 10-20 percent, and includes the packing and shipping charges.
Both founders refused to disclose revenue numbers at this stage.
Market overview and future plans
According to a FICCI-KPMG report, the Indian art market was estimated at around Rs 14.6 billion in 2017. Amar Canvas competes with the likes of startups such as Fizdi, Artzolo.com, and Mojarto.
Going ahead, the team plans to reach out to artists from across the world.
“We aim to make our platform the biggest art hub in the world. We also want to start educational programmes to give people an understanding of art and creativity,” Rahul says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)