I guess it was about time that we blogged about all that is happening with Canvera so let me kick this off with a salute to Peeyush and my engineering roots with a “Hello World!” It has been a crazy fabulous journey for us so far and I hope to share news/learnings/thoughts with you on this blog. In this post let me give you a quick background on how we got started and some highlights since then.
We met Sun, agreed on Wed and started work Fri!
It all started with a call from Peeyush to me in July 2006. At the time Peeyush had moved back to India from the Silicon Valley and I was still living in the Bay Area working at a startup. Peeyush and I are from the ’93 batch of IIT Mumbai and we both got to know each other playing cricket for the IIT team (it was a team to reckon with: we were always in the top-5 of the inter-IIT tournaments!). Peeyush wanted to know if I was interested in moving back to India to start a company with him. We talked for a bit on the phone and 5-6 weeks later we met face to face in the US on a Sun morning and talked for 3-4 hours over brunch about where we were in our lives and careers and what we both wanted to do next. We decided to meet on the coming Wed and discuss again. I don’t know what all went through Peeyush’s mind on those 3 days but my mind could not stop thinking of the possibilities: working with Peeyush (whom I had know at the time for 17 years), doing a business focused on domestic consumption in India, in Photography – a field that both fit my background and passion; and last but not the least a spouse who was enthusiastic about moving back to India. We shook hands on Wed to go do the business and on Fri I let my company know that I was resigning [true story]! It really was not as rash as it sounds; sometimes everything just falls in place so perfectly that rather than micro-analyzing it is best to just take a leap. And now four years later I can tell you it was one of the best decisions I have taken.
Getting the initial funding
We started initially by doing some market research and talking to a few VCs. Our basic thesis on the Indian market were really two-fold: Internet/e-commerce was going to happen (maybe in ways that will be unique to India) and that Photography was fundamental to domestic consumption – the key was to find the business model that we thought would be unique to the Indian landscape. We started with some ideas and were turned down by every VC (par for the course) but we kept plugging away, sharing our market findings with the VCs and finally Footprint Ventures said yes and DFJ followed soon after. Sasha Mirchandani of Mumbai Angels was actually the first investor to say yes, but for various strategic reasons we decided to give institutional funding a go.
Getting started and status today
And so we were off to the races. And what a ride it has been since then. Our strategy from the get-go was to focus on Professional Photographers with high-end coffee-table-books/photobooks as the lead product line. We started building out the software and manufacturing infrastructure. And in July of 2008 after having tested early versions of our coffee-table-book in the market we were finally ready with what felt like a good product set and some understanding of what it might take to sell in to this market.
And since then we have grown rapidly. We are today over 500 people with about a 170+ sales and account management team spread across 8 offices all over the country; a 120+ person design services organization which too is spread across all our offices; and a 120 person manufacturing team all located in Bangalore. As on date we have serviced the needs of more than 6000 PPs spread across 300+ cities all over the country.
The joy of pictures!
All in all it has been a fabulous journey and at the end of the day what makes it all worth is that we get to participate in some of the happiest moments in people’s lives: weddings & related events (60% of our business is from weddings), birthday parties, naming ceremonies, school events, saree ceremonies, house warming functions, corporate functions. We also see fashion portfolios, sporting events, fine art photography, travel photography, wildlife photography etc. We recently started a closed beta program of e-commerce solutions for PPs and did an e-commerce site for an exhibition by Girish Vaze, a wildlife photographer (see: http://glimpsesofnature.canvera.com) and hope to make more announcements on this e-commerce platform soon.
Thanks very much for visiting this blog. Do let me know if there are any specific topics you’d want us to write about. Wish you all the very best in 2011!