ArtZolo is an online marketplace that connects artists with those looking to discover and buy quality art. Shweta Gandhi explores the story behind this Hot 100: Race To Grace winner.
Born out of a love for art, ArtZolo.com aims to use technology to help artists focus on their work instead of worrying about financing and selling, and provide quality, affordable art worldwide to those looking to buy. The website, founded by Vishal Singhal and his wife Preeti, connects buyers with artists, suppliers and galleries over a transparent and informative platform.
Germ of an idea
Set up in January 2014, Vishal says the idea for ArtZolo came from watching close friends and family who were professional artists but were unable to go mainstream. “They were a great source of inspiration for setting up this website,” he says.
This self-sustaining startup has seen traditional growth patterns with Vishal and Preeti focussed on sales right from the beginning. “We do not believe in the funding model; there needs to exist a profitable business model that can push us forwards,” says Vishal, adding, “We have witnessed a lot of hit and trials in our marketing through social media, though we have always had a conservative threshold.”
The right skill set
It helped that Vishal has an MSc in Software Engineering and an MBA from the University of Toronto, and Preeti has a background in interior designing along with a Bachelor’s in Commerce. Vishal was able to use his business and software skills to set up the site, while Preeti added her creative flair and her entrepreneurial experience handling operations for her family’s garment manufacturing setup. “We both come from an entrepreneurial background, and it gave us a great push that we could do it,” says Vishal. “Preeti possesses the skills I don’t, and we balance out each other very well.”
Art on a platter
On ArtZolo, art aficionados can buy original paintings, mixed media, drawings or traditional art, all of which come complete with certifications. Digital prints of paintings, photographs, mixed media or digital art are also available. In addition to this, the site also sells craftwork like brass art, glasswork, idols and wooden toys. To help buyers make a decision, the site offers a Wall View where buyers can select a setup that looks like their room and see how the art will look on their wall. Buyers can also bid for art, just like at an auction, or directly purchase the art. “We ensure the artwork that goes to the customer is of supreme quality. The artist is paid only when the customer is happy with his/her purchase,” says Vishal.
“After we won the 2015 Hot 100: Race to Grace award, we got a lot of positive responses,” says Vishal. “People started recognising us and taking us more seriously. It added more credibility to what we’ve been doing so far, and that really helped.” They also won the Asian Association of Business Incubation (AABI) Internationalisation award.
The site has sold around 800 to 900 pieces so far, including artwork and handicraft items. The average price varies according to the artwork and the artists, and can be anywhere from a couple of thousands to a couple of lakh. The couple earns revenue through a commission on sales, which varies from artwork to artwork.
Making a case for art
Vishal and Preeti’s biggest challenge so far has been the unexplored art industry in India, where there is little-to-no appreciation of art as a mainstream means of revenue. “People in India don’t appreciate art as much as people in the West. They are very price sensitive as art is considered a luxury product,” Vishal says.
Reputed artists like Siddharth Shingade, Amit Kapoor and Vijay Biswal have showcased their work on the website, including international names like Veronique Piaser-Moyen, Marco Antonio Abbagnara and Jose Higuera. Artists wanting to be featured on the website email in their portfolio and images, after which the internal committee verifies if the artwork can be sold on the site. “Right now, we don’t charge artists for showcasing their work on our platform—and that is part of our pro-artist movement,” Vishal adds.
Looking to the future
“The coming year is going to be a test as we are looking to grow,” says Vishal. Having seen three times growth from their first year, the couple have steep targets planned. “One good thing we have seen is that we are gradually acquiring a lot of artists from various places. We’re also looking to serve as many customers as we can worldwide and expand to international territories.” So far, ArtZolo has served customers from the US, Canada, Dubai and South East Asia.