Engraving memories

Engraving memories

Photographs help keep your memories alive. But sadly, most of them are stashed away in a folder on your computer. This is where Ahmedabad-based Engrave.in (Engrave) steps in – to help you relive life’s  moments by etching  pictures onto various mediums such as wood, acrylic, aluminium foil and crystal using laser techniques. “We do different types of laser engraving; surface engraving on materials like wood and acrylic and sub-surface engraving on crystals,” says 31-year-old Nimish Adani, who co-founded Engrave along with Kartik Iyer. At present, the company receives over 500 orders per month and up to 45 per cent of their orders come from Tier-II cities in India.

“People are tired of the usual gifts, which often end up being recycled. The space for personalised gifts will continue to grow.”

Customers who are interested in having their pictures etched need to follow a simple three-step process of uploading their picture onto the website, choosing the material for etching and finally, personalising it. And the company takes its promise of delivering in a week seriously. Besides online payment and demand drafts, Engrave also accepts cash-on-delivery. “About 80 per cent of our payment does not happen online. We added cash-on-delivery as a mode of payment a month after we started operations in November 2010 since we got many enquiries about it,” says Adani.

Interestingly, the founding duo who were simultaneously dabbling in other Internet ventures went full-time with Engrave only in June this year. But even in the initial stages, they always had their responsibilities defined: Iyer (28) handles operations and sales as he oversees the rented workshop in Ahmedabad. Adani takes care of the technology and marketing aspects in Mumbai, sharing office space with his mother. With a team of six that includes a designer and operators, Iyer’s wife, Mala Iyer, also pitches in to handle customer service.

Engrave has not made an active effort to target a particular audience, but Iyer notes that a majority of its current customers are women. “A Facebook campaign that we had started saw more responses from women. Many of them like the idea of gifting a personalised memento for special occasions,” says Iyer, while adding that wood and crystal are favourite materials. Much of the company’s publicity has been through word-of-mouth. Additionally, the founders do engage in a variety of promotional activities. As part of its marketing, Engrave reaches out to bloggers, sends them a souvenir plaque and lets them critique it. “We want to create more awareness about our products. Besides social media, we are looking into traditional forms of marketing as well,” adds Adani.

The focus on reaching out to a larger audience has helped Engrave land bulk orders from corporate and institutions. And according to them, it also gets its share of orders from the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force on a regular basis.

The e-commerce way

With the Internet penetrating more places in India than ever before, Adani and Iyer knew online retail was the best way to move forward. “We were very clear that we did not want to establish brick and mortar retail franchisees. By not setting up offline retail, we do not incur additional expenses like rent, hiring, housing machines and more. The benefit we gain from this is what we would like to pass onto our customers by offering products worth their money. We intend to stay online for the time-being,” says Adani.  “Indian e-commerce is all set for a boom, but what matters is whether we drive value through it especially when it comes to long tail retailing. Though we are based in Ahmedabad, we can reach out to a much wider audience,” he adds. Most of Engrave’s products cost between Rs. 400 and Rs. 1,600 with the shipping charges being borne by it.

Learning curve

Prior to Engrave, both Adani and Iyer worked with various web companies and worked on technology innovation and marketing. The duo met when an online startup forum had hosted an event in Mumbai. “We had a few common friends so we got to know each other well,” says Iyer. The idea for Engrave came about when a friend was getting married, so they decided to make personalised invites for the bachelors’ party and subsequently, for the wedding. “Soon after, enquiries started pouring in. That’s when we decided to experiment and find out if this idea had scope,” says Adani.

With seed money of five lakh rupees, the duo went about investing in an open source technology platform, renting machinery and stocking materials. “For a couple of months, we spent time and money researching various materials. We would try out 50 different iterations on wood to analyse the optimum depth of engraving, the process etc. In the early days, we often ended up with excessive stock or were short on supply. We also faced supply chain problems to set up a systematic procedure with our suppliers, storage and machine vendors, and struggled to get the correct rental model and logistics in place,” they add. In its first month of operation, Engrave received about 100 orders. Through trial and error, they were able to crack their initial problems. “We’ve now tied up with different logistic companies based on the urgency of the order or the payment mode,” says Adani.

Snap Shot

Engrave.in
Founders: Nimish Adani and Kartik Iyer
Year: November 2010
Industry: Personalised gifts
USP: Engraving photographs onto wood, crystal, acrylic etc.

What next?

The duo has joined a four-month accelerator programme headed by The Morpheus, a business incubator based in Mumbai. “They are a very balanced team – while Adani is good with creativity, Iyer is adept with the operations and sales. We saw potential in their concept with each of their products being produced with immense care,” says Sameer Guglani of The Morpheus. With an additional investment of five lakh rupees, The Morpheus would be playing a crucial role to help Engrave strategise its business. “Hopefully, we would be able to take it to the level where venture capitalists show interest,” says Adani. The team also hopes to ramp up their capacity to 1,000 orders per month and continue to innovate with newer products like wine and cigar boxes, gift boxes, chocolate and dry fruit boxes, and laptop cases. The company is currently experimenting with leather as a material.

Considering that the personalised gifts segment mostly remains untapped, Adani and Iyer are confident that they would be to able to grow Engrave into a sustainable business in the long run. “People are tired of the usual gifts, which often end up being recycled. The space for personalised gifts will continue to grow,” concludes Adani.