Sudhir Ahluwalia

Artists and creators flourish with the support of fans and patrons. While art and creativity is 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 emarketplace 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, buyers of art including those seeking creative work visit the market place seeking suitable creators. Customers can see samples of work of creators on the website, 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 work.

Supporting artists and creators is a noble cause. It targets the creative community which to flourish needs patronage. But this emarketplace is not owned by the Department of Culture, business baron, society bigwig, movie star, art critic or even a not for profit entity. It has been conceptualized and implemented by two Mumbai based entrepreneurs in the early twenties – Shashank Jogani and Kavan Antani. The emarketplace – www.bananabandy.com concept came into being when the two were still in college.

The startup found Shashank Jogani announced in August 2016 that they have rebranded bananabandy and are now calling themselves indiefolio. The website now is www.indiefolio.com

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Bananabandy Founders

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 art works have been uploaded onto the portal. Companies big and small are visiting the marketplace 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 at 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 the cities are industrial and business hubs. The need for functional art work is felt more by growing business. They use it to advertise, promote brands and fulfill 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 a product concept, presenting the concept has always been there. Now the need is growing across the entire range of industrial, infrastructural and social market segments. Bananabandy current portfolio is still largely restricted to traditional art, animation and related areas.

The art and creative market in India is largely dominated by small sized studios. There are only a couple of large studios like DQ Entertainment employing artists and creative people on 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 with 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 India market for IT is not profitable. There is little incentive for industry to invest and grow business in the Indian market.

The opportunity in the Indian market for art work 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 effectively leverage the India market. This reality will be as much there for Bananabandy too.

Theoretically, the focus on domestic business looks good on paper. The facts on the ground, though, do not appear to support this expectation. Bananabandy will need to get over 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 boundaries, Shashank and Kavin should think about these facts and take appropriate business decisions.

Disruption is always round the corner. A startup in Philippines, Singapore, Silicon Valley or anywhere else in the world 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 be also true? Uber, Amazon, Zoom car and many others are already in and getting good response 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 to expand reach funds will be required. The venture will need to invest into both the back and the front end. The e marketplace model is capital intensive. Marketing infrastructure requires strengthening too.

For Bananabandy to go the next level, the startup will have to think beyond the Founders and be ready to induct quality specialist manpower. Talent acquisition is often a very difficult exercise for most startups. Founders, in general,’ 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, it is led by great Founders. My sense is 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.

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