Category Archives: picsquare

Is there room for another photo site?

A new photo printing site called ZoomIn was launched last week. Sunny Balijepalli, the fabled co-founder of (which was sold to eBay for $350 million in 2000) is the CEO and co-founder of the company. I for one am surprised that people still see an opportunity in the crowded online photo printing space. From their pitch and from the site, I fail to see what is it that will make users switch from one of the existing sites. They claim to have a “Flickr meets Shutterfly” model, which is basically good photo sharing features accompanied by printing service. Sounds good, but then iTasveer and PicSquare already have Flickr/Picasa integration, by which users can logon to their Flickr/Picasa accounts and print photos from there. Another feature ZoomIn boasts of is the US delivery (since they have launched in US and India simultaneously) which again is already possible if the users adopt Flickr + an Indian site. Finally, ZoomIn also plans to introduce mobile upload and ordering features. This feature can certainly prove to be a key differentiator when actually launched, given the fact that mobile usage volume is orders of magnitude more compared to Internet in India. It will be interesting to see which other existing players roll out mobile features to fight off the competition (Its one of the features I am waiting to see for some time now).

My conclusion is that as of right now its hard to see what value the new site is adding in terms of user experience. Of course at this point it becomes the game of who can do a better job of marketing, acquiring new customers at low cost (ZoomIn is talking about leveraging social networks) and extracting higher margins. I personally would not like to play this game, but hey – competition among players and more choices for users is always great!

Invite your thoughts.

Picsquare tags along with Flickr

Update: My bad – I missed this somehow, but I’ve just been informed that iTasveer also provides integration with Flickr. This is great stuff, expect to see more from these two companies!
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.

So just when we thought online photo printing business has reached that price wars stage in India, along comes this handy feature by PicSquare – integration with Flickr. You can now print your Flickr photos via PicSquare. So while Flickr already provides and will hopefully continue to innovate on and provide awesome sharing features, PicSquare can concentrate on their core business – printing and delivery. I personally will even pay a buck or two extra if I don’t have to upload pictures separately just for printing. I love this feature. In fact now I wonder why anyone didn’t attempt this before. While on this topic, I must also mention that iTasveer launched a similar feature sometime back by providing integration with Windows Vista. While Windows vista might take some time to find its roots in India, it will be interesting to find out what gets more NRI customers – integration with Flickr or with Vista. (it’s a different story that I have no way of getting this number)

With upwards of 2 MP cameras gaining popularity and speed of data transfers increasing, I am still waiting for the day when someone announces integration with one of the mobile carriers!

iTasveer+Vista=Ease of access. (online photo site)+Reliance=disruptive?

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).

Obviously (its hard to not imagine mobile while speculating the next disruptive innovation in the Indian context), the next question is – will we see someone striking a similar partnership with Airtel, Reliance or some other mobile network? So that people can just click with their high res mobile phone cameras (or click with their standalone camera and transfer to mobile) and order prints from mobile directly. We are starting to see such services coming on mobile. For e.g. recently Reliance announced a deal with, stating that you can search for job listings with login from your Reliance mobile phone. Interestingly, the news also mentions in the end that they are looking for “other such content providers”. I do understand that ordering prints type service is more difficult than information fetch (news, email, search) type of applications because of transaction processing and large data transfers involved, but it will surely happen some time. The question is when?

Thoughts? Am I too much ahead of times to think of it at this point? Maybe our friends from iTasveer, MeraSnap, Picsquare can shed some light here. Are they thinking of any mobile angle at all?

Online photo printing – PicSquare or MeraSnap or something else?

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.