Pictures have quietly become the centre of gravity for social media platforms. If anybody had doubts on that, Mark Zuckerberg and his team put that to rest on Monday by inking a deal to buy a two year old app company Instagram for a mind numbing figure of $1 billion.
Purists may dismiss it as yet another bubble activity, but even they can't deny the wildfire like adoption ( more on that here) of a product like Instagram opens up a huge opportunity for future monetization.
To be sure, Instagram shares such consumer interest with another picture related social media site Pinterest, where users can 'pin' and share whatever they like in pictures (check out how it came out of nowhere to storm the Internet world here).
That's not all, even on Facebook more than anything people talk through pictures. Moreover, when the primarily text based social networking site Twitter added picture sharing few years back it became a hotter product overnight with celebrities as also general users tweeting their pics in real-time from all over the world.
The appeal of the picture is fairly understood as it's easier to capture (than say writing and giving an opinion) and is getting only better as an instant sharing content type with more feature topped mobile handsets. The visual element also brings in colour to social interactions as against drab text.
So where does Indian startups stand in building a business around pictures?
Plenty, in terms of services revolving around pictures. For instance there is Canvera which is an online photography company providing mass customized printed products and e-com solutions to professional photographers, then there is Zoomin Online (India) Pvt Ltd, a photo services start-up offering customised photo products such as mugs, calendars and wedding albums(more on them here). Then there are others like Printo and Printbucket into photo printing among other services.
But this is where the gap lies. There are hardly any picture related products/apps which can be a game changer.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma of One97 Communications, who has previously backed product startups like Dexetra, says, "Indian investors or even the ecosystem as a whole doesn't really have an appetite for loss-making businesses so if we talk about Instagram, it doesn't boast of great revenue figures but it's the popularity of the app that has made everyone sit up and notice. We are more services focused and if you ask me why Indian app makers are not venturing into the riskier product apps it can be attributed to the whole scenario where such products don't get funded or find takers easily."
One interesting picture sharing Indian firm is Picovico, which turns your pictures into videos and enables sharing on various social networking sites. The site went public beta two weeks ago as per its blog post.
It is basically a cloud-based video creation platform which takes a set of images, blends it with the music and produces a video plotted alongside your story. It allows users to upload images or import from Facebook/Flickr with an option to add captions to the images besides selecting music from its library or uploading your own. It does the rest and once the video is ready, users can share it online or even export it to other online-video-sharing-platforms.
All in all, it's still some way before we create an Instagram in India, but who knows something might yet be cooking in the kitchen. If you have spotted any such picture related apps produced in India, do give us a shout.