Creating A Million Smiles

Published Date
01 - Apr - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2005
Creating A Million Smiles
Babulal Mishra, of Jamuna Park, Delhi drives a unique auto rickshaw to his workplace-the courts, at Delhi. He is a digital photographer tending to the passport photo requirements of applicants, or litigants near the courts. His auto is a converted, mobile digital studio, and attracts a lot of attention from onlookers. Mishra simply clicks a picture with his digital camera, and takes a printout from a photo-printer, all within a matter of minutes! He gets anywhere between 20 to 60 customers each day, and has been doing this for a year and a half now, ever since he became part of HP Digital Photo Studio's-Project Muskaan.
The Genesis
HP Digital Studio, a chain of instant, digital, photo print service has integrated digital printing. 'Project Muskaan', or the 'HP Digital Photo Studio' project, was launched by HP India in May 2002 as a platform to generate sustainable self-employment, and enable revenue generation for people from urban and rural India.

Explaining the objectives behind the venture, HP India's digital photography products, consumer segment manager, Ashwini Aggarwal says, "Project Muskaan was launched in May 2002 to drive the concept of digital photography into the Indian mainstream photography segment. We wanted to explore how technology could be used in emerging markets and be fitted  into new products, which would specifically address the needs of emerging markets in India."

Our visits to villages received a tremendous response and people showed great enthusiasm towards using digital photography
Ashwini Aggarwal, Consumer Segments Manager, Digital Photography Products, HP India

Existing photo studios and new entrepreneurs have setup shop through Project Muskaan by using the HP Digital Studio package provided. The project has an ever increasing 5,000-member franchise network servicing over two million customers a month, and is spread across 75 cities and 1,000 villages in India.

Products And Prices
An individual photographer, or an existing photo studio can avail of the HP Digital Studio package,  which includes a multi-media personal computer, photo printer, scanner, digital camera, and the HP Digital Studio software. All of it comes at a cost of Rs 50,000, as opposed to a year ago, when the price was around Rs 1.5 lakh. However, in villages, where affordability is a prime area of concern, the company offers a photo printer along with a camera for as low as Rs 15,000. Moreover, one can take advantage of easy bank financing options, thus making the package more affordable.

Most of the photographers did not want the computer interface-all they wanted was a digital camera and an appliance for printing. So, the company introduced a lightweight Photosmart printer, where one can simply insert the memory card of the camera into one of the card-reader slots on the printer, see and select the images, set print size, quality and print crisp pictures. This made the job easier for photographers, who didn't have to resort to the computer for either manipulating the images, or for printing.

Bridging The Digital Divide
Project Muskaan aims to take technology to the rural and urban masses, by converting conventional photo labs into digital photo studios.

"We wanted to narrow the digital divide between urban and rural Indians. To target emerging markets, we opened our first lab in the Kuppam constituency, of district Chitoor in Andhra Pradesh. Our visits to villages received a tremendous response and people showed enthusiasm towards using digital photography," explains Aggarwal.

Creating Entrepreneurs
The company also targeted commercial photographers, analogue photo studios, street photographers, and tour operators whose services include passport size photos, photo identity cards, posters, and visiting cards. 

Consider Suniti, a young village girl from Kuppam district. When she shuts shop for the day, she has earned a respectable Rs 200 per day from her profession as a digital photographer to double her family household income.

"A significant revenue earning stream, Project Muskaan is proof that such an endeavour can be made financially sustainable, and even profitable. In rural India, photo prints are now available on the spot, at affordable prices and people don't have to face the delay of getting the prints developed and delivered from a nearby town,"says Aggarwal.

In rural areas, Project Muskaan serves to create employment, encourages entrepreneurship, and also aids economic and social development. The Digital Studio project has gained prominence in north India in the Sirsa district in Haryana, Manas village, Rishikesh, Uttaranchal, and also in southern India by giving villagers-men and women, young and old alike, an opportunity to turn entrepreneurs.

From Polaroid To Digital
So, is the transition from the conventional forms to digital photography advisable? It's a win-win situation for both the customers as well as the photographers as Mishra is quick to point out, "Customers get instant pictures and we get instant payment. So both of us are happy! Moreover, foreign tourists insist on instant digital photographs."

The instant turnaround time, coupled with fade resistant images and high print quality has helped users to increase their daily margins leading to higher profits.

What Is Available 
The HP Digital Studio package includes an HP personal computer, HP photo printer, HP scanner, HP digital camera, and the HP Digital Studio software
for Rs 50,000.
In villages, HP offers an HP photo printer along with an HP camera for as low as Rs 15,000.

Ease of use, low cost, and mass appeal of instant solutions has tipped the scales in HP's favour. This strategy helped HP gain a wider presence, and remove misconceptions about digital photography being costly and difficult to handle.

Harish Mendiratta, owner of Sanjay Photo studio in Pahadganj, New Delhi says, "When we were using Polaroid print, it cost us Rs 35 to prepare a set of four passport sized photographs. We went digital a year ago and now it costs us Rs 12 for the same. We also have a quick return on investment, ease of printing and richer colours. We can now develop all sizes of digital photographs-from passport-sized ones to
large posters."

"Earlier, we had to click pictures, then develop them in a dark room. Thanks to digital photography we have bid goodbye to this lengthy and cumbersome process. We also perform colour correction such as increasing or decreasing the contrast and so on. So there are many options available to us at an affordable price," Mendiratta adds. 

Evangelising Digital Photography
D P Chauhan's Chayya Photo Studio in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, is nearly 12 years old. Chauhan became part of Project Muskaan in 2003. He explains, "Representatives from HP provided me with the basic training. Through brochures and practical demonstrations they explained what digital photography is all about. They helped me with the installation of the equipment and frequented my studio for three to four days until I was comfortably settled."

The company provides retail franchisees and members of Project Muskaan with marketing support initiatives such as training, branding, promotional materials such as user account management, loyalty programs, and special pricing.

HP India's  initiative to bring photo printing to the masses has sparked off a digital imaging revolution in India.

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