From Shyam Art ‘N’ Frames to SAF: Digital transformation rewrites success story

Paintings business gets an online push with Konica Minolta presses

Deepak Kumawat with the Konica Minolta c12000 professional printer. Photo IPP

The state of Rajasthan, which is known for its rich cultural heritage, famed textiles and ornate jewelry, also hosts Khatu Shyam Ji Mandir in Sikar district – one of the most revered pilgrimage destinations in this part of the country. Shyam Art ‘N’ Frames in Jaipur, a digital printer which is into the business of designing and selling wall paintings, derives its name from this very temple dedicated to Shyam, another name for Lord Krishna.

Launched by Deepak Kumawat way back in 1998 from a small shop near Dehar ka Balaji Temple on Sikar Road in Jaipur, the painting business completes its silver jubilee this year.

Kumawat’s business catapulted after his son Jitesh’s entry. Jitesh launched the painting business on eCommerce portals such as Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Meesho and rebranded it as SAF, an acronym for Shyam Art ‘N’ Frames. Today, they sell an average of two lakh units per month with 20 lakh units per year. The framing and packaging of the paintings is done in-house.

Their online operations began with the acquisition of a Konica Minolta c258/c368, which was later augmented with a Konica Minolta c3070P. SAF recently acquired a Konica Minolta c12000 professional printer to support its online growth. The company also uses a Colorjet Soniq HQ inkjet printer with a Konica Minolta printhead to print on canvas.

Jitesh Kumawat says, “Konica Minolta’s service and quality is excellent and the downtime is very low comparatively.” The biggest challenge online is service, he says, adding commitment and fast deliveries are what maintains their performance and help earn badges on eCommerce portals. “Konica Minolta has always given us reliable service, especially during breakdowns in the peak Diwali season.”

Indians generally redecorate their houses during Diwali and the religion-themed paintings with multiple designs of Hindu deities such as Lord Shiva, Lord Rama, Goddess Lakshmi, Tirupati Balaji and Sai Baba sell extremely well. The other segments include modern art, abstract, pop art, landscape, nature, posters and motivational quotes.

At present, SAF exports its paintings to 12 countries, including the US, a few European countries, UAE and Australia. Modern art, pop art and abstracts are most popular in these countries, Kumawat says.

eCommerce penetration

The Sikar Road offline store has limited customers, mostly locals who source large-sized paintings and religious designs. Their business is mostly done online. Getting listed on eCommerce portals helped them gain a strong foothold in the online segment, the junior Kumawat says. “We are a market leader on all platforms with a 70 % share in the paintings category pan-India,” he adds. To tap into the segment, SAF had to do away with glass and instead use a laminate to redesign the product in such a way that it is lightweight and can be easily shipped to customers without any damage.

Paintings by SAF. Photo IPP

With 10,000 plus designs available across Amazon, Flipkart, Meesho and Snapdeal, SAF plans to increase its presence to 50,000 to 60,000 designs in the next six months leading to the festive season this year. He plans to majorly tap into the Big Billion Days and Great Indian Festival Diwali sales on Flipkart and Amazon, respectively. The designs are mostly produced by an in-house team or outsourced to other companies who design according to SAF’s specifications.

Redecoration trend following Covid-19

The online market saw its biggest slump during the initial two-month lockdown that followed the global Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. The pandemic, however, went on to be a blessing in disguise for the paintings business as people had enough spare time to invest in hobbies such as home décor and explore platforms such as Pinterest.

“After the initial decline, we started receiving a large number of orders, with a 50% jump. Our average improved tremendously from a measly 50,000 units per month to two lakh units in the last two years. The eCommerce portals also pushed customers through merchandising and marketing to increase their traffic,” he says.

Immune to plagiarism

Plagiarism and copying is a pain point in the painting industry. However, SAF isn’t much bothered as it uses UV lamination with multi-effects, which is tough to replicate. “The quality of the print file cannot be reproduced as problems such as pixelation and blurring occur. At the end of the day, designs can be copied but original is original,” the junior Kumawat says.

Raw material concerns

SAF sources art print paper from Indonesia via vendors in Jaipur and Delhi for its printing operations. They get the canvas from vendors in Delhi and corrugated boxes from some local vendors in Jaipur.

The cost of raw material — paper, corrugated material, synthetic frames, and board — has risen following the pandemic, says Kumawat. “The rise in prices of raw material is a pan-India issue. We too have to increase our prices accordingly. The increase in prices is a market trend. All our competitors have increased the prices of their products,” he adds.

SAF stocks its finished products in Flipkart and Amazon warehouses in four zones – Whitefield in Bengaluru in the South, Kolkata in the East, Bhiwandi in the West, and Haryana in the North. These warehouses charge according to the space occupied but help ensure same-day delivery, Kumawat says. The Southern region makes up for 40% of the company’s total sales. East has a 25% share while North and West have 10% each. Exports take a 2-3% share of the business pie.

The company looks to grow globally in the coming years. “The whole game of paintings is based on design and presentation. We are very aggressive in terms of design. We have contacted some famous names to design paintings for us,” Kumawat says.

“Our R&D is strong as we regularly introduce new designs and attend exhibitions and design fairs in India and abroad. Pinterest has helped us a lot in the presentation of our paintings on walls, living rooms and kitchens. At the end of the day, presentation has a huge impact on customers’ buying decisions. Our digital transformation has helped us expand our reach and tap into the huge market in India and abroad,” he concludes.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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