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Buying and selling art is never easy. For Shaishav Todi, a young professional and an art lover, it was always difficult to find quality artwork. One day, after a session of beer, Todi decided to take charge and better the experience of procuring art in India.

The problem he set out to solve was the lack of accessibility to the thousands of artworks out there, and the opportunity for artists to monetise on their work. After many brainstorming sessions with friends and fellow art lovers, Todi evolved the skeleton of Cupick, a platform that enables visual artists to showcase, share and sell their work on various mediums such as t-shirts, hoodies, posters, art prints, canvases and cards.

A play on the word Cupid
“We had two requirements while choosing the name — it should be short and available in .com. All the names we had in mind didn’t have .coms available, so while going through the deleted list of domain names, I came across Cupick.com and it struck a chord,” says Todi.

“It’s short, pronounceable and has an air of mystery around it; makes people curious as to what we do,” he adds.

Cupick.image

With friends Justin Alva, who is the Co-founder and takes care of marketing and user acquisition, and Rituraj Dowerah, the tech partner and Co-founder, the startup was founded in 2014.

How does it work?
Artists can upload their work in high resolution and set their own prices. Cupick takes care of the printing, shipping, payment collection and customer service allowing artists to only focus on create quality art works.

“Our goal has been to simplify selling for artists. We provide them tools to market and protect their work. Some of the popular features on Cupick include download protection and auto-watermarking that prevents unauthorised usage of images,” Todi shares.

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Cupick started out with posters, art prints, canvases, postcards and greeting cards. “Posters and art prints sell well with the former being more popular with the younger audience and the latter preferred by people more serious about art,” Todi adds.

The platform launched t-shirts a few months ago and it has become the most popular product on Cupick. It currently has more than 1500 artists on the platform and over 7500 artworks uploaded. Although 70 per cent of artists on Cupick are from India, a good 30 per cent are from US, Europe and other countries.

Where’s the moolah?
Cupick makes money on every sale. It sets a base price on every product which covers the costs and margins. “Artists can mark this up by a percentage which they’d like to earn. To that we add taxes to get the retail price. On a sale, we retain the base amount and artists keep the ‘Artist Markup’,” explains Alva. The prices are affordable and depend on size and medium of the artwork. Currently, it has a single revenue stream, however, it will soon diversify and add other channels.

The startup has raised INR 10 lakh (US$15,714) from friends and family which went towards initial product development. “Most of the development is in-house and we work on zero-inventory, making it a fairly sustainable model,” says Alva.

Empowering artists with a social cause
The platform powered the efforts of two designers, Prathima Muniyappa and Unnati Agarwal, for its ‘Design for Kashmir’ initiative to raise funds using art contributed by artists around the country for flood-struck Kashmir. Alva believes Cupick can play a big role in raising awareness and funds for such causes.

On International Women’s Day (March 8), the platform went live with ‘The Fearless Collective’, which is a women’s rights movement using art to foster discussion on gender violence across the country. Launched over two years ago in the aftermath of the protests that rocked Delhi post the brutal gang rape, this Collective spearheaded by Shilo Shiv Suleman (an artist) campaigns offline through workshops and street art. In addition, artists from all over the country have sent in artwork on posters. “We saw an opportunity to help the Collective and partnered with them to monetise the artwork which is available on t-shirts, posters, prints and more. The money raised will go towards offline activities furthering the cause,” Alva states.

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Titan, the watch and lifestyle brand, also approached Cupick for its #GiftofTime Valentine’s Day campaign. Cupick assisted the brand in getting 12 illustrators to bring to life love stories sent in by Titan customers.

Competition in the category
Cupick competes with companies like Postergully, but Alva believes that it does not have direct competitors in India. “Globally, we compete with Society6 and Redbubble who have a strong presence in the US and UK markets. Every week, Cupick features artists on its homepage and this is a strong incentive for them to be on the platform. We promote them across our social channels and their interviews through our blog,” he explains.

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Roadmap ahead
By the end of 2015, Cupick is looking to have 10,000 artists and an asset size of over 50,000 artworks on the platform. There will be addition of new product lines such as phone covers, skins, mugs, mousepads, coasters, etc.

“The Cupick print-on-demand model makes it easy for us to expand geographically, but for now, the Indian market is our current focus,” Alva concludes.

Image Credits: Kuznetcov_Konstantin/ Shutterstock