It all began in 2008, when you along with your trusted friend Shibu Ramakrishnan set up Honeycomb Creative Support. Why did you get into creative repro, despite knowing that the year was impacted by slowdown?
Many companies were affected by the recession of 2008. After I had resigned from the company that I was an employee of I had encountered a dilemma as to whether to find a new job or start a business. The entrepreneurial dream was always there, and those in my inner circle encouraged me to start something new.
Ramakrishnan joined in the image-editing business we began.
What made you think that the image-editing market could accommodate you?
Yes, there was the slowdown in 2008, but we still felt that there was room in the market for image-editing. We conducted a survey and the results strengthened our belief. There were big companies in the city that catered to image-editing needs but there was a paucity of companies that did small amounts of work on short notice. This is where we hoped to be of use.
How did you begin?
With a paltry investment of two-lakh rupees, we set up a small working space in C V Raman Nagar, Bengaluru – a total of two Macintosh desktops, and a team of five people. My familiarity with the advertising agency network helped us get our first job from Ogilvy and Mather. We expanded gradually, getting in more people and operating in two major segments. One where the jobs were routed through advertising agencies and the other was the corporate companies who approached us directly for quick batches of work. Later, we built an in-house product photography set-up which was often preferred by clients. A list of our major clients includes names like Tanishq, Wipro, Bosch and Avon Beauty Products.
A project in the early days that you would like to tell us about?
It certainly was photographing products for Tanishq. An in-house photographer along with an on-site image-editing team was assigned to work at the Tanishq factory. Close to 6,000 jewellery products were photographed and retouched within 24 days of time. We also did something similar for Dell’s “Hero Campaign”, where three people along with machines were stationed on-site and worked with the client for three months. Both were successful campaigns and instrumental in catapulting Honeycomb into the top league of creative repro houses. Today we have employees stationed at companies like Urban Ladder, Tanishq and Infosys to cater to their need for marketing collaterals.
You expanded your workspace, and dabbled in print, investing in digital printing machines?
We had begun CMYK proofing for the advertising agencies in Bengaluru and had invested in Epson 9900 and Star Proof colour management system. The machine was sparingly used and an apprentice marketing team had come up with an idea about fine-art prints. The Epson and Star Proof software could be put to use. We started approaching photographers and art galleries for prints. We did many customer engagement workshops on colour management, raw conversion etc. It yielded results and many of the participants became our customers over a period of time. Today we have over 900 customers in our fine-art print division.
Recently you set up an operation in Mumbai?
Yes, it’s a business where we provide customised and premium fine-art printing service on archival canvas and papers to the eclectic community of artists, art galleries and professional photographers in and around Maharashtra and Goa.
What’s special about fine-art printing?
Archival printing, also known as Giclee printing technology facilitates the highest quality fine-art and photography printing on a variety of archival media and is considered one of the most sophisticated ways of preserving fine-art and photography, extending its longevity for more than 50 plus years. The technology allows for reproductions to imbibe, maintain and exude the brilliance of the originals thereby delivering finer quality works of art. In India, it is still a niche industry.
What kind of equipment are a part of your investment?
It includes the Epson P9000 series SureColour, an eleven-colour printer and a Benq hardware calibrated monitor that has the ability to produce a wide gamut of colours, enabling us to provide the most accurate match to Pantone colours. Media substrates from companies such as Hahnemuhle, Canson, Epson and Felix Schoeller are used for our archival prints.
How much emphasis would you lay on investment and expansion of operations as a necessity for creative repro businesses?
Scaling up is one of the best options to improve and perform better in the business. We derive great pleasure in providing employment and thus fulfilling our commitment to the society. We don’t look at the profit and do business. Entrepreneurship is our passion and everything we do at Honeycomb is done with passion. That’s how we have grown over the years with business verticals, which includes ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) development.
Creative repro as a business segment, is there still room for growth? What are your next plans?
I think the shape of the creative repro has been changing over the years. I hardly see any specialised pre-media unit these days. Many are diverging into other areas the way we did. We have plans to expand our business to Hyderabad, Pune, Goa, New Delhi and Kolkata.
Like the slowdown in 2008, there’s uncertainty with certain economic decisions taken, while GST is on the anvil. Going ahead, do you think these will have an effect on creative repro as a business, and thus on Honeycomb’s business?
I don’t think the new tax re-structure will affect our business. As long as the consumption is alive we will survive. The most important thing every business person should think about is how often and how effectively we can engage the customer. The better we engage – with the customer – the better we grow.