Who doesn’t love chocolate? But to see one’s face on it, or that of a loved one, or even that of a cartoon character, sounds nearly impossible. Bengaluru-based Picsquare, an online personalised gifting company has challenged that notion and made the seemingly impossible idea, reality.
The estimated market for personalisation of gifts, both offline and online, is at around Rs. 5,000 crore, according to Kartik Jain, co-founder, Picsquare. Of this, the online market has barely five percent, since in India it is only in the metros people are net savvy. But, he believes that as mobile devices shrink the globe and compress technologies, the ease in photo sharing online and ordering on the move will improve, and the online share can only grow further. Meanwhile, Picsquare is gearing up to corner this growing market by offering new mediums on which photographs can be printed.
“Lot of research goes into the packaging and shipping operations to minimise damage to the goods while delivering. Most of these ideas are patented.”
From the most popular medium of paper, in the form of calendars and greeting cards, soon, the company will offer photobooks with magazine-like quality and feel. While photos on cakes have been possible for quiet sometime now, chocolates (photo chocolates, as it is called at Picsquare) are a new addition and already becoming quite popular (edible colour is used to print on a chocolate). The next target is to expand the material base to include marble, wood, and glass and allow three-dimensional modelling.
The company’s attention to detail is visible. “Lot of research goes into the packaging and shipping operations to minimise damage to the goods while delivering. Most of these ideas are patented,” says Jain, and the entire process – from ordering to delivery – is automated to ensure quick turnarounds with minimum damage.
Filling a gap
Picsquare was started in 2005 when Manish Aggarwal, the other co-founder at Picsqaure, felt a need for cheap online solutions to reach photographs to his friends and relatives in India. He was abroad and though it was possible within the U.S., there was no such service available in India. Jain and he were classmates at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and after some work experience, sensing the need for a photo service for non-residential Indians (NRIs), started Picsquare. Both had entrepreneurial dreams and this personalised gifting solution seemed to be the right choice.
“It was started for NRIs, but there was a demand from Indian customers as well,” explains Jain. Word of mouth was a powerful tool to spread the word about Picsquare and within six months, the services were available for Indian customers as well. “It remains our best means of publicity,” he adds.
The delivery is primarily in India and the company has tie ups with leading logistics companies to ensure a 24-hour turnaround on orders. It set up a warehouse to stock blanks – that is, the product on which customers want the photos printed with nothing on it. Customers online can select the product type, the picture they want printed and place an order. An automated system ensures correct execution and despatch. The stocking is based on forecasting and experience gained over the years. “For instance, from December-February, there is great demand for calendars. During special occasions, greeting cards get picked up,” says Jain. Some products are popular throughout the year and the stocking is done in bulk or in small amounts depending on the product line.
Corporates also use Picsquare for their gifting solutions. “However, we do not specialise in this. This requires a different approach,” adds Jain.
As a startup, the foremost challenges are those related to people and finances. The company was started with seed funding from angel investors – mostly charter TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) members in Bengaluru. The members also provided help and guidance in establishing a business that was scalable. In 2008, Bengaluru-based Bhola Digital became a strategic partner and henceforth, all printing happened in Bhola’s labs. This tie up has helped the company scale up quickly.
That year, Picsquare was also acquired by Ahmedabad-based Infibeam, a retail portal and a technology infrastructure solutions provider. “There was a lot of synergy between the two companies. Infibeam wanted to make retail a personalised experience, and we were into personalised gifting,” points out Jain. However, the two units function separately as they are also into different domains. The merger has helped with strengthening the company’s technology and operations, and overall, help in the scaling up process.
On a parting note, Jain says, “Our focus is on enhancing customer experience. The key will be to come up with newer, interesting ideas and expand the range of products that can be personalised.”