It is a story of a startup that has built an e-marketplace for art. Artists and creators flourish with the support of fans and patrons. While art and creativity are spread all over a country, patrons are largely restricted to urban centers. Folk art, though, does find its way to the market. But the remuneration to folk artists and creators is low. The price offered has little relation to the value of a product or the work that has gone into creating it. Artists and creators struggle to survive. And finding the right customers for artists and creators is often a huge challenge.
Bananabandy is an e-marketplace for artists. It was born out of the need to support artists. The venture’s current focus is on creators from India. Artists and creators can register themselves and place their portfolios online on the site. Connoisseurs and buyers of art, including those seeking creative work, visit the marketplace seeking suitable creators. Customers can see samples of creators’ work on the website and decide and offer a project. It is a win-win model for both buyer and seller. Bananabandy gets a small service charge from the buyer of the work.
Supporting artists and creators is a noble cause. It targets the creative community, which, to flourish, needs patronage. But this e-marketplace is not owned by the Department of Culture, business baron, society bigwig, movie star, art crit,ic or even a not-for-profit entity. It was conceptualized and implemented by two Mumbai-based entrepreneurs in the early twenties – Shashank Jogani and Kavan Antani. The e-marketplace – www.bananabandy.com concept came into being when the two were still in college.
The startup founded by Shashank Jogani announced in August 2016 that they have rebranded bananabandy and are now calling themselves indiefolio. The website now is www.indiefolio.com.
The website went live in 2015. Ever since artists from all over India have patronized the site. According to a Press note released by the Founders, over 30000 artworks have been uploaded onto the portal. Companies big and small are visiting the marketplace and offering projects to artists. This includes some marquee brands.
Speaking to Shashank over Skype for a formal interview after our brief interaction at the Surge 2016 startup event in Bengaluru, India, I was told that the e-marketplace is evoking good interest from customers based out of cities of Mumbai and Pune.
This is not surprising. Both cities are industrial and business hubs. The need for functional artwork is felt more by growing businesses. They use it for advertising, promoting brands, and fulfilling functional requirements for a service portfolio or a product display. As India grows, the need for creative work will inevitably grow.
The demand for visually expressing and presenting a product concept has always been there. Now the need is growing across the entire range of industrial, infrastructural, and social market segments. Bananabandy’s current portfolio is still largely restricted to traditional art, animation, and related areas.
Small-sized studios largely dominate the art and creative market in India. Only a couple of large studios, like DQ Entertainment, employ artists and creative people on the scale. Most business of the large players comes from developed markets. The share of revenues from the domestic customer in their overall portfolio is still quite small.
I see parallels between the state of this industry and the IT industry. Even a company of the size of Tata Consultancy Services, with a presence in the market since 1968, still gets under ten percent of its revenues from the domestic market. Margins from domestic projects are small. It is widely agreed that the Indian market for IT is not profitable. There is little incentive for the industry to invest and grow business in the Indian market.
The opportunity in the Indian market for artwork is still dispersed. The market is still not deep. It is a price-sensitive market. Innovative marketing, brand building, management, and low-cost execution capability are required to leverage the Indian market effectively. This reality will be as much there for Bananabandy too.
Theoretically, the focus on domestic business looks good on paper. The facts on the graph do not appear to support this expectation. Bananabandy will need to overcome its reluctance to go global if it has to take the high road to fast growth. The online business space inherently does not recognize geographical bo; Shashank and Kavin should consider these facts and make appropriate business decisions.
Disruption is around the corner. A startup in the Philippines, Singapore, Silicon Valley, or elsewhere is waiting to disrupt a business created in India or elsewhere. We in India cannot believe that we can have a monopoly over the local market. We have plenty of examples in support of this premise.
After all, if the IT majors TCS, Infosys, and others could disrupt the system integration US market, why can’t the reverse also be true? Uber, Amazon, Zoom car, and many others are already in and getting good responses in India. They are giving a tough fight to domestic startup companies.
While the venture has attracted some seed funding and Shashank did not say that Bananabandy needed more funds, it is clear that funds will be required to expand its reach. The venture will need to invest in both the back and the front end. The e-marketplace model is capital-intensive. Marketing infrastructure requires strengthening too.
For Bananabandy to to go the next level, the startup must think beyond the Founders and be ready to induct quality speworkforcemanpower. Talent acquisition is often a very difficult exercise for most startups. In general, founders are reluctant to let go and give elbow room for talent to innovate and perform. Although, I must clarify that my interaction with Shashank was too brief for me to come to any conclusion one way or the other.
Bananabandy is a great idea. Great Founders lead it. I sense that the venture is poised for takeoff. Whether that will happen will depend on the vision and thinking of Shashank and Kavin.
Bananabandy is sitting on the edge – it has the potential to catapult to the next level.