A Cell Phone Canvas

Published Date
01 - Jan - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Jan - 2005
A Cell Phone Canvas
Art, for long, has been the constituency of  a chosen few and guarded well by the barriers of price. However, with changing times and evolving technology, art is ready to enter the mass domain.

The most recent step involving technology in this regard is the availability of M F Husain's paintings on cell phones. Swarup Group of Companies (SGI) and Coruscant Tec have taken the initiative of turning this dream into a reality. But is there really a market for such products?

Globally, the penetration of multimedia mobile phones is as high as 49 per cent. Entertain-ment services comprising pictures, ringtones and games have reached penetration rates of 30-35 per cent. Mobile entertainment worldwide is estimated to grow to $11 billion by 2007. In India itself, it is estimated to become a $1 billion industry by 2009. With such encouraging figures, the mobile content market is just taking off.

Who's Who
Says Guru Swarup Srivastava, chairman and managing director, SGI, "I was looking at adding something more to my investment portfolio; a new dimension to my business is what I was mainly interested in. Today, there is the option of investing in a mutual fund-art. Here, for example, let's say an investment of Rs 100 crore has to be done in purchasing paintings. A joint investment can be set up between ICICI Bank, BNP Bank, Airtel and any profits earned through the sale of paintings would be earned as a dividend by those involved."

1. The painting is shot using a digital camera

2. The digital photos are transferred onto a PC via USB card reader

3. The digital images are resized and resolution adjusted in order to fit mobile phone screens and be easily downloadable

4. The final images are given to cellular operator, who uploads them on his WAP portal

5. Subscriber having a GRPS service downloads it on his cell

Srivastava looked at the work of about eight to nine different painters before finalising on Husain's work. "I decided on Husainsaab because he is a well-known personality and also an established entity the world over. I realised that the multiplicity factor on investments was higher with him," points out Srivastava. Srivastava has purchased 100 paintings from the 'Our Planet Called Earth' (OPCE) series at for Rs 100 crore.

When Coruscant Tec approached SGI with the proposition to digitise the paintings, it was another way of doing business. "I was excited at the idea of digitising the paintings. It was a very good opportunity for investment," says Srivastava.  SGI also plans to create a Website with IIT Mumbai's aid, which to enable downloading of screensavers and/or wallpapers.

Coruscant Tec is a wireless technology company specialising in mobile business applications, mobile entertainment, mobile marketing and mobile commerce.

A new dimension to my business is what I was interested in Guru Swarup Srivastava, Chairman and MD, SGI

Ajay Adiseshann, managing director, Coruscant Tec, says, "When we read about this deal between Srivastava and Husain, we thought digitising Husain's paintings would be a good addition to our profile."

What is Digitising?
Digitising converts non-digital data into a digital format that can be then distributed or displayed using digital media including the Internet and mobile phones.

To digitise paintings, for example, a photographer first captures the paintings with a digital camera, and the resulting images are transferred to a PC. This also eliminates any need for scanning making the images first-generation.

The RAW digital images are at a very high resolution but most mobile phone screens can display a maximum of 64k colours.

Most of them usually support only 4k colours so the resolution of the pictures taken has to be reduced. Having a high-resolution picture is pointless as this would result in a very large image size and since the wallpapers are going to be downloaded over slow GPRS connections in most cases, the image size is kept low.

The next step involves resizing the dimensions of each image to fit all popular phone screens in the Indian market. For example, for the Samsung C100, the images need to be of 128x128 pixel size, whereas for the Nokia 6600, the required wallpaper size is 174x132 pixels.

All resizing and image optimisation is done using Adobe Photoshop. Once ready, the images are handed over to the cellular service provider. A subscriber can then request a wallpaper by browsing through the wallpapers displayed on the service provider's WAP portal.

Offer On Sale
Twenty-five of the 100 paintings of the OPEC series have so far been digitised. The first lot of 25 became available to customers around mid-December 2004. Price, though, was undecided and although it was to be 'competitive', it could play a major role in the popularity of the concept. Will any more painters' work be available in the future? "We would like to see what the response is like and then decide on future ventures," says Adiseshann.

Future Market
Prakash Bhende, a fresco and tempera style painter is next on the list of SGI. Bhende recently held an exhibition of his collection in Mumbai where nine paintings were purchased by SGI. Bhende is also enthusiastic about having his paintings digitised.

"Digitising is a good idea as it helps the creativity reach a wider audience. We are mainly concerned about creativity and if a little money comes out of it, it's even better," says Bhende.

With art gradually gaining acceptance as an investment option, steps like these would go a long way in enhancing the popularity of paintings among the masses.

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