The world is drowning in images these days. People are taking more photos than ever before, mainly due to increase in usage and ownership of mobile phones with cameras. A research report points out that over one trillion photos were taken in 2015; with 90% of people taking photos only with a camera phone. Sensing the opportunity, a 26-year-old Indian entrepreneur has come up with a promising innovation in the image-sharing segment. The creation by Sahil Bhagat is called Vebbler and it is a camera app designed to make sharing photos between groups at night-outs, vacations and celebrations, easier.
“This is the first and the only photo collaboration platform that has been developed in India,” claims Bhagat, founder & CEO, Vebbler. “It offers a more personal experience to photo sharing as compared to platforms like Instagram and Facebook where people can create private, on-the-go groups for everyday moments of their lives and share photos instantly.”
While people frequently take photos together using different phones and cameras, the process of bringing together those photos is extremely cumbersome, and Vebbler promises to make that happen in one single-tap.“By design, Vebbler is private, which means that photos are shared within groups called clubs, and can only be seen by respective club members. Unlike other social media platforms that broadcast your content, on Vebbler you can contextually share with relevant groups of people,” says Bhagat, who also leads overall product strategy and direction of the firm.
Quiz the young entrepreneur on the origin of the idea and he opens up with a lot of enthusiasm. “Vebbler was founded in June 2013 on the web and positioned itself as a personal network that makes it easy for people to share content contextually with groups of people, as compared to broadcasting it,” he says. “The platform grew to over 90,000 users across 108 countries in a span of a few months, which is when we decided to shift our focus to mobile. Around this time, we were based out of Mumbai.”
“Around that period, Vebbler witnessed several shifts in the social media space. Networks were becoming more visual than textual. “We hence trimmed the product and removed status updates and sharing of links on the platform. We also saw that there was a huge gap in the group photo-sharing space, which ‘clubs’ could very easily and effectively address since it was all about contextual groups,” he says.
It then decided to focus more on photo and video. It also implemented a camera-first strategy that made it easier for people to sync photos into a club, directly from the camera itself.“It was around this period that we raised R3.34 crore in funding and shifted our base to Bengaluru,” says Bhagat.
The funding was led by a syndicate of 16 angel investors via the LetsVenture platform. Lead investors include Anupam Mittal, founder and CEO of People Group, Sharad Sharma, co-founder of iSpirit, Venkat Raju, CEO of Kyron Accelerator, Pranav Pai and Siddarth Pai, founding partners of 3one4 Capital, among others.
Bhagat believes that India is the ideal market for such products. “In rural India, 75% of users are in the 18-30 bracket, while 11% are younger than 18. In urban India, 32% of monthly active users are college-going students and that’s the age group our product caters to,” he says.Is there is a need for such a camera app in the market? Bhagat explains with a counter question: “What is the biggest problem in sharing photos with friends? It’s the never-ending, mechanical process of giving and getting photos captured on each other’s phones. The popularity of using
email to send photos has significantly dropped, perhaps resulting from an expanded variety of other channels
for sharing photos with friends and family.”
While Facebook continues to lead other sharing platforms for photos, with WhatsApp and cloud folders
such as Dropbox and Drive as viable alternatives, the problem of collaborating photos from different contributors in real-time continues to be a problem. With the smartphone being the most frequently used device to capture
photos, the process of photo collaboration hasn’t been effectively addressed yet, Bhagat says.
According to him, Vebbler is designed to solve just that. It uses a camera-first approach to take photos, except that instead of saving them in your gallery, you get the ability to instantly sync all your photos with those taken by your friends on the same occasion—in real-time.
Taking it mainstream
Vebbler aims to mobilise campuses across India and the world to spread the word. In India, it is currently running
a massive Campus Ambassador Programme across the major metros of India to mobilise college students and onboard them onto Vebbler through word of mouth.
“Vebbler is working with over 200 Campus Ambassadors currently and is looking to add several hundred more in the coming weeks,” says Bhagat. “Apart from that, we are focusing heavily on influencer marketing with bloggers and avid social media users who will help us drive the messaging for the app.”
The start-up has also partnered with several event organising companies as well as experiential travel companies to mobilise groups to use Vebbler in their travels and activities.