<b>Sandeep Maheshwari</b>, Founder & CEO, ImagesBazaar

A photograph is not a commodity, photography is an art. Like any other form of art, there can’t be a price tag on the artist’s work. For ages, there have been artists who work for free and many others who take millions for their work. So, if you will look at www.imagesbazaar.com or www.shotindia.com, the two are not the same. Moreover, there is not even a single free resource for buying creative images with Indian faces. Even if someone sells the same for free, it’s illegal, as one needs to pay a person/ model in the picture and get an agreement signed by him/her for using his/her picture.

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Jul 22, 2010 12:00 AM Updated: Jul 22, 2010 12:00 AM
<b>Sandeep Maheshwari</b>, Founder & CEO, ImagesBazaar

A photograph is not a commodity, photography is an art. Like any other form of art, there can’t be a price tag on the artist’s work. For ages, there have been artists who work for free and many others who take millions for their work. So, if you will look at www.imagesbazaar.com or www.shotindia.com, the two are not the same. Moreover, there is not even a single free resource for buying creative images with Indian faces. Even if someone sells the same for free, it’s illegal, as one needs to pay a person/ model in the picture and get an agreement signed by him/her for using his/her picture.

At 29 years, Sandeep Maheshwari’s life reads like a fairy tale. A college dropout from a middle-class background, Maheshwari faced countless adversities to become one of the best known entrepreneurs of India. Not surprisingly, India’s leading business weekly, Business World, recently adjudged Maheshwari as one of the India’s Most Promising Entrepreneurs. 2010 – He has also bagged the ‘Star Youth Achiever Award 2010’ instituted by the Global Youth Marketing Forum 2010.

In 2004, Maheshwari had created a world record in photography by shooting 10,044 shots of 122 models in 10 hours and 46 minutes, which finds mention in the Limca Book of Records 2004.

In 2006, he founded ImagesBazaar.com with around 16,000 images. Today, ImagesBazaar claims to have the world’s largest collection of creative images with Indian faces. He launched ShotIndia in 2009 for the photographer’s community of India.

ImagesBazaar is a fully owned subsidiary of Mash Audio Visuals Pvt Ltd, an ISO 9001:2000 certified company. It provides creative professionals all over the globe with an imperative resource for searching, purchasing and downloading Indian images. At present, over 6,000 customers in more than 42 countries are using images from ImagesBazaar for their advertising and marketing communication.

In conversation with Ashish Pratap Singh, Maheshwari shares his vision for ImagesBazaar, its growth story and the use of stock photography in advertising.

Q. What is the idea behind ImagesBazaar.com and what made you think of it?

While running the modeling business, I used to get many queries from various advertising agencies, who wanted to use the portfolio pictures of models shot by me for their campaigns rather than getting a customised shoot done. That’s how this idea came to me of creating a website with thousands of portfolio pictures that I had already shot. Then I did a thorough research to find out whether someone else was doing the same. To my surprise, the research revealed that it is a well-established industry by the name of ‘Stock Photography’ with thousands of agencies doing the same. The market for ‘Stock Photography’ was over $1.5 billion at that time. The interesting thing was that there was not even a single agency providing creative images with Indian faces. This validated my belief that there was a dire need for such an agency in India as well. The work started on this project in March 2005 and the website, www.imagesbazaar.com, was launched in February 2006.

Q. What are your sources for the images? Who is your target audience?

ImagesBazaar.com was launched in February 2006 with just 8,000 images. In just four years, the total database increased to over 800,000 images. There were numerous steps that were taken to ensure the rapid pace of content development, which includes the following:

• Recruitment of in-house photographers, production managers, model co-coordinators, stylists, make-up artists, hair stylists, art directors, creative researchers, etc.
• Ongoing training through various workshops and seminars for enhancing the skills of entire creative team.
• Setting up a full-fletched in-house photography studio equipped with high-end equipment, cameras, lighting, backdrops, power back-up solutions for indoor/ outdoor shoots, computers, etc.
• Creating necessary infrastructure for storage of props, garments, accessories, furniture and thousands of other items that are used in our shoots on a day-to-day basis.
• Doing shoots at exotic locations, both nationally and internationally, with Indian models.
• Setting-up of a complete post-production studio capable of editing, retouching, masking, keywording and creating digitally generated animations, illustrations and 3D/2D graphics.

Thousands of leading advertising agencies, corporates, publication houses and SMEs have been using our images for their advertising, marketing and publishing needs. To name a few end-user brands: Sony, Microsoft, Reliance, Philips, Airtel, ICICI, Apollo, HP, Toyota, The Times of India, Yahoo, Emaar MGF, TATA, Epson, HCL, and so on.

Q. Who is your competition and what are you doing extra or differently to stay ahead of them?

There are thousands of stock photo agencies worldwide, who are our competitors, such as Getty Images, Corbis, etc. But the key difference lies in the following factors:

Relevance: We have only those images that are relevant to the Indian context. Others have all kinds of images, including foreign faces, which are not relevant in India.

Quantity of Content: With over 800,000 images on ImagesBazaar and more than 100,000 images on ShotIndia, Mash Audio Visuals Pvt Ltd is the world’s largest collection of Indian images. Others have just 10-20 per cent of the size of our collection.

Quality of Content: Quality speaks for itself. One needs to experience it by logging on to other sites and then comparing it with ours.

Q. What categories of photos are most in demand? Which categories are your fortes? Any new categories that you plan to introduce?

There are hundreds of categories with thousands of images in each section on our websites. So, anything to do with Indian people, places, lifestyle, business, education, rural development, etc., are in demand. Soon, we will be launching 3D photography, which will redefine the advertising and marketing communication industry in India.

Q. How did the economic slowdown of last year impact ImagesBazaar.com? What are the revenue targets that you have set for 2010?

During the slowdown, we had increased our advertising and marketing spends by over three-fold. And because of that, our revenues increased by nearly 100 per cent during that year. We aim to grow by 70-80 per cent in this financial year.

Q. What are the various marketing campaigns, promotional activities that you have undertaken for ImagesBazaar.com?

Substantial investments have been made in promoting ImagesBazaar through various online and offline mediums for reaching the target segment. It includes the following:

• Advertising on leading portals like Afaqs.com, exchange4media.com, DesignYatra.com, etc.
• Using Google Ad Words & Ad Sense extensively.
• Print campaigns in magazines like Brand Reporter, Impact, Business Today, Business World, USP Age, etc.
• Print ads in The Economic Times and The Times of India.
• TV ads on NDTV Profit and sponsorship of a show titled ‘All About Ads’.

Our marketing campaigns are not restricted to these portals; we are continuously exploring more lucrative avenues to expand our reach and business.

Q. What are your plans to improve the website? What are the new things that you are planning to introduce?

Since inception, ImagesBazaar has worked towards the objective of becoming the world’s largest provider of high quality creative images with Indian faces. This focus on supplying only those images that are relevant to the Indian context has created a one-of-its-kind position for ImagesBazaar in the minds of the user. As a result, ImagesBazaar has become the first choice all over the globe for procuring Indian images. Being a 100 per cent online business model, the scope for expanding globally becomes limitless. In future, we will supply not just images, but videos, audios, flash animations, art prints, website templates and 3D graphics as well.

Having established ourselves as an undisputed leader in the stock photography industry, we have diversified by launching another website (www.shotindia.com). Unlike ImagesBazaar, which primarily caters to the advertising and marketing industry, ShotIndia is aimed at gaining a significant share of the editorial and publishing industry worldwide. ShotIndia works on a business model of user generated content on a revenue sharing basis. The target for ShotIndia is to have 2 million images with over 50,000 contributors by the end of 2011.

Q. How big a threat do free online sources prove to be to ImagesBazaar.com? How did you sell the idea of paying for photos when photo poaching is rampant, especially in the unorganised sector?

A photograph is not a commodity, photography is an art. Like any other form of art, there can’t be a price tag on the artist’s work. For ages, there have been artists who work for free and many others who take millions for their work. So, if you will look at www.imagesbazaar.com or www.shotindia.com, the two are not the same. Moreover, there is not even a single free resource for buying creative images with Indian faces. Even if someone sells the same for free, it’s illegal, as one needs to pay a person/ model in the picture and get an agreement signed by him/her for using his/her picture. And the user of such picture can get into a big trouble if the person/ model in the picture comes to know about it.

That’s not all, we have a legal surveillance team at our company that send legal notices and takes care of the copyright infringement cases in criminal as well as civil courts.

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