Art isn’t necessarily a hot commodity when it’s in its digitally-adopted, tech-enabled forms. Although there are many online art galleries, such as Artling in Singapore and Moselo in Indonesia that sell crafts, a dedicated platform for artists still needs a ground-up work, the right market penetration, and a strong network of artists to be able to survive.
Seniiku is trying to change the facet of digital art by providing a go-to platform for artists — who are trying to make a living out of their job — to source, distribute and deliver arts.
“Existing creative marketplaces are focussed on providing a platform for people to sell their products, which is useful, but is insufficient for those making a living through art,” says Martin Lim, Founder of Seniiku.
Art can be a steady job
Seniiku’s vision is to enable artists to make a living through art, which Lim believes is a way to help reduce the stigma around art and artists as a non-steady job.
“I once read an article about the struggles of surviving in a gig economy, in which budding creators have to take on multiple gigs to make ends meet. That really rang a bell with me,” Lim recalls.
It brought him back to the time when he and his fellow art enthusiast-friends in school had to stop pursuing their passion due to lack of resources, knowledge, and skills. “It got me thinking about ways that artists can specialise in the craft they were passionate about, instead of having to diversify for utility’s sake.”
Seniiku was started off as a standard online gallery and provided manual assistance to artists to get some help on printing or showcasing their works.
“I received direct requests from China, Thailand and even Russia, and they provided me their online works. But as I received more and more interests, it got hard to do it manually. I decided that I had to take a step back to focus on preparing an online marketplace to serve such needs,” says Lim.
While there has been increasing acceptance and government support for the art industry throughout Southeast Asia, artistic endeavours are somehow still seen as impractical, unrealistic, and unprofitable.
“It was originally started as an initiative to support creative people, especially young people who are in need of making a career out of doing creative works, but it eventually became something that is aimed at helping to grow the creative industry locally,” says Lim.
An art e-commerce platform and beyond
In March 2019, the art and craft space was left vacant with the shutting down of Qlapa, which dominated the space for four years. Despite raising funds and being recognised by Google and Forbes Asia for its potential, the company was ‘unable to turn Qlapa into a profitable and sustainable business’. Lim, who currently resides in Singapore, mentioned that he wants to fill this gap.
“What we offer is not simply a creative e-commerce platform. We want to become a digital multi-platform that provides a variety of means for creators to make earnings from art, design, and lifestyle experience — from end to end,” Lim explains.
Founded in May 2018, Seniiku targets independent creators and creative small businesses such as jewellers, craftsmen, fashionista, illustrators and painters to set up a page and sell their creations.
Seniiku aims to help artists tackling the multiple processes they need to be able to sell their works. It offers to take care of the production of non-digital arts and delivery. The idea is to save production time for artists by providing an all-in-one service, allowing them to just focus on making creative works, instead of having to source multiple platforms or services in order to develop their products in time for sale.
One step at a time
Seniiku says that the process to sell artwork on the platform has been made simple.
“Artists can go to our website and sign up. They then need to provide us with the URL(s) of their sample works for our approval. Once approved, they can start uploading their products (both digital and non-digital artworks) and create their online gallery and shop. We can also help set up all these if the artists email us their work sample files,” Lim explains.
Given its vision and mission, the journey to discover and promote artists and their works is indeed ambitious, but Seniiku needs to start somewhere.
Learning from Etsy, a public-listed company with US$2 billion valuation, the challenge for Seniiku is to educate the sellers and buyers about the platform.
According to a case study published by Growth Hacker, Etsy’s Brand and Community Hacker Danielle Maveal explained that in its early days, Etsy did what other online brands avoided; it got off the internet to educate and recruit. Etsy had a team attending art and craft shows across the US and Canada almost every weekend.
The Etsy team would single out influential artists, crafters, and vintage collectors, and basically court them for their strong offline followers and community. The timing was in Etsy’s favour back in the early 2000s because, during that time, more and more indie artists and crafter emerged and the company quickly grasped them.
Etsy managed to grow quickly from then on.
Despite being early in the sector, Lim said Seniiku is optimistic with the collaboration-marketing model. He continues, “Right now, we are having discussions with businesses providing on-demand printing, international logistic platform, and digital support by allowing buyers to connect to the creators directly. Let’s start there.”
As for the number of artists signed up, as many as 50 artists have started selling on the platform. “Our current goal is to gradually improve through effective collaborations, operations, and partnerships,” Lim noted.
The future of art tech and e-commerce
“I strongly believe that you need to keep looking out for the new trends and never stop innovating. Art is evolving and technology is a big part of its future, with the blockchain implementation, AI, and Augmented Reality. However, we should be careful not to create too much disruption, as such technology advancement needs to be rolled out along with the efforts to educate, assist, and bring a positive contribution to the society,” Lim stresses.
Lim emphasises the importance of collaboration and partnerships for growth. Marketplaces, he says, can co-exist and give options to creators that will provide channels for them to promote branding and improve their chances for earning a living.
As for Seniiku next plan, Lim says it’s currently looking for angel investment and seed funding to accelerate growth. It’s a five-men operation and still missing a co-founder, something that he still scours as he wishes to have someone with strong background in business development, art, and tech.
“When we get funding, we will improve the infrastructure, business development, and marketing,” Lim concludes.