Online photo printing – PicSquare or MeraSnap or something else?

Written by: Madhur

On Dec 6th, 2006

Last week, had a talk with the founders of two players in the online photo printing service – MeraSnap and PicSquare. While I think that this service is useful and has much clearer business model compared to some of the Web2.0 ideas, this market is already getting overcrowded. The list of companies (eYaadein, RangeelaPhotos, PhotoMasti, 123shots, iTasveer, add more here) is getting bigger every day due to the inherent nature of this business – low barrier to entry for companies and no switching cost for customers.

So the natural question is what can these sites do to gain an edge over others, esp. considering the specifics of operating in the Indian market? I posed this question to both the companies, but didn’t get a convincing answer. (although I do understand that they may not want to reveal whats in the works) Obviously, providing top notch customer service goes without saying and both the companies mentioned this point as their main strength. More and more of these companies are now providing options for personalized gifts such as mugs, tshirts, etc. with your photos. These are good features, but it is clear that the winner has to really provide something that will keep users coming back to use their service, and not switch to another serivce easily (to avail that Re. 1 difference). So here is my attempt at thinking up some features that could differentiate one from the rest of the crowd:

1. Internet penetration is still small, so go offline: I think the offline angle should be there in any Indian consumer Internet startup if they plan to build a large user base today. People in smaller towns also own digital camera. Imagine if they could drop off their memory card into any of the local offline centers (maybe self-owned or tie up with cybercafes, etc.) and pick up their photos without having to even use their credit card for payment. I think that can really give them a big upper hand in acquiring customers who do not have Internet access or have slow access where the upload speed sucks.

2. Mobile penetration is huge, so go mobile: If I could download any of my stored photos from their server on my mobile (with GPRS or Picture messaging), wouldn’t I love to show them off to my friends and share them. This can really help spread the word about the company in a viral way.

3. Web2.0 features: Yes you can share the pictures with friends with these services, but none of these sites provide the tagging/sharing/browsing features of photo sharing sites like Flickr or Webshots. Isn’t it a pain to upload to Flickr for sharing and using some other service for printing?

4. Basic editing features: Would be nice if they can even provide one simple “Feeling Lucky” feature from Picasa for correcting the photo before printing. If you don’t know about this feature, what that does is with one click of a button, it removes the red-eye, adjusts brightness/contrast thus making the picture much more nicer to look at. This type of feature is esp. useful since since people have intentions of printing the photo, when they are using one of these sites.

Invite your comments/ideas.

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Entry Filed under: merasnap,online photo printing,picsquare,web2.0

13 Responses

  1. 1. Siddharth Puri said on December 6th, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    You are right these companies need to go brick-mortar till the time internet penetration increases. For instance in tier-II cities there are lot of photo studios which dont even have access to digital printing. How about creating mechanism to pick volumes from them. Creating them as a drop off centers. Secondly have photo upload booths at shopping malls where even manned by someone who gets paid 3-5K per month. Takes payment and upload the pic to the system from phones or memory cards of camera users carrying. Photos get delivered next day to their home by provider. Trying to reach out to the user will surely work.

  2. 2. IndianPad said on December 7th, 2006 at 1:59 am

    Online photo printing – PicSquare or MeraSnap or something else?…

    Online photo printing – PicSquare or MeraSnap or something else? posted at IndianPad.com…

  3. 3. Aditya said on December 7th, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    Since cost are built into developing drop-off centres and offline stores. The drop-off centre wala will take a cut ths driving up the prices. People having access to digital cameras are very likely to have access to computers and internet connection. These people can go online, upload their photos and get their photos delivered home.

  4. 4. vivek garg said on December 7th, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    I have a very real case scenario that is not being targeted. I am here in US and I gave my parents a digicam last time I visited India. My sister in law has taken a liking snapping pictures of my niece and events. Home even has a computer but my parents are not in know how to upload pictures to me. SIL can upload them to the computer but dont have enough bandwidth to upload it somewhere else. If they want to send me pictures they have to visit a cyber cafe but they dont have time. Even if they can visit it, they will have to courier those pictures to me. or the cyber cafe guy has to email it to me. Too many options that take time and money.

    What they would like is a drop off service, or a phone service or sms service to pick up memory card or digital picture or somewhere that can print those pictures when they are shopping or doing their day to day. This should get integrated seamlessly in their day to day. Least effort if they really want to do it every day or once a week along with other work they do. I guess I am asking too much. This will definitely drive prices up that customers cannot afford. So companies have to find a price point that will justify all this. And this will become the differentiating factor for other companies to enter into the segment.

  5. 5. Kadam V V said on December 16th, 2006 at 6:41 am

    Dear Siddarth Aditya and Vivek,

    I’m Kadam from MeraSnap.com

    Thanks for sparing time to put forth your deeply felt thoughts. Your suggestions are valid and may be possible to implement in the not-so-distant future. What we look for is whether such a need is big enough (critical mass) to be feasible. Presently, it does not look so. More so, offline studio labs are dime a dozen in any locality.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Warmly, Kadam

  6. 6. iLeher » Offline presence- All about Internet industry in India said on December 18th, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    […] I’ve referred to this multiple times in the past. Off the top of my head, here and here. I think offline presence is very very important to build a large user base esp. if the service is targeted towards general masses (as opposed to say social networking site that is targeted towards teen and youth demographics) Every Internet usage report that comes out, we get to see the same thing coming out – Internet penetration is still limited to bigger cities, main mode of access is still not home – more than 50% of the Internet usage is seen from cyber cafes, offices, schools. […]

  7. 7. Shreepal Shah said on February 7th, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Online photoprinting is a really a good service. I have transacted with merasnap.com and picsquare.com and found that merasnap.com is 100 times better than picsquare in terms of printing quality, ontime delivery & customer responce. Merasnap took 3 days for my 165 photographs to print & deliver at my address and after some days i ordered just 5 photographs from picsquare.com and it took 18 days for them to deliver the photographs and i found the worst customer responce as there was no reply for my mails from their end, poor delivery mode, bad quality of printing and higher price for the printing.

  8. 8. vivek garg said on February 8th, 2007 at 2:11 am

    wow. leaves me speechless. 18 days.

  9. 9. iLeher » iTasveer+Vista=Ease of access. (online photo site)+Reliance=disruptive? Catching the Internet Wave in India said on March 1st, 2007 at 9:24 am

    […] iTasveer is in news as they recently announced a deal with Microsoft. If you have Vista, you can order photos right from Windows explorer, without needing to visit any website at all. Pretty neat. They also announced Doodlepad, a new feature with which you can custom design your own tshirts/mugs and order them online. Good to see some innovation in this space. Clearly, these features make them stand apart from others in this crowded space. However, digital camera + decent Internet access + Windows Vista is not a combination that is prevalent at least today in India, so it will be a little while before they start reaping real benefits from this. (esp. with all the steps Microsoft is taking to prevent piracy in Vista). […]

  10. 10. Sneha Dua said on March 21st, 2007 at 7:08 am

    As per my experience merasnap wins easily. Their customer service is far superior, their delivery schedule is excellent [most of the times the photos are received within 3 days of ordering]. Compare that too picsquare which takes weeks to complete an order, order tab has little info and no contact number to talk to someone to. Hopefully they will improve as they have more services in future. But for now its 1/0 in favor of merasnap.com

    Love
    Sneha Dua

  11. 11. iLeher » Picsquare tags along with Flickr Catching the Internet Wave in India said on June 25th, 2007 at 6:54 am

    […] In a business like online photo printing there is only so much you can do to acquire customers. Not much scope for any substantial innovation here. Its been tried and tested before in other markets. It pretty much boils down to price when there are so many sites trying to fight it out. As a result, what companies try to innovate on is the process and logistics to keep the prices as low as possible and still extract good margins. Of course there is no substitute to decent user experience and customer service (which most sites claim to differentiate on and indeed seem to be doing a good job on), so we will count that even for all sites. […]

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