Buying a replica of your favourite artwork to do up your home or office interiors is now just a click away thanks to Artjini that was set up by Suresh Jayanthi and Meher Vijaya
Imagine being able to buy a masterpiece by your favourite artist at the click of a mouse. No bidding, no exorbitant prices and yet you can flaunt a masterpiece on your wall. That is what Suresh Jayanthi and Meher Vijaya had in mind when they launched Artjini, an online store that has on offer replicas of a variety of works by artists from across the globe. And no, they aren’t rip offs. They are replicas that have been procured after paying full royalty to the artist.
The decision to launch this online art store emerged when Suresh, who worked as the regional manager of sales with IBM, was bored of his job and Meher, his wife, wanted to use her time productively. Suresh quit his job and the couple made an initial investment of `4 lakh to launch Artjini in 2008. Incidentally, the couple have neither studied art nor did have any experience in the field. Yet they made the business flourish through sheer dedication.
“At that time I found that my job was beginning to get rather monotonous. I was doing the same thing that my boss did or for that matter what his boss did, just at different levels. I would often discuss setting up a business, be it in apparels or pharmaceuticals, with Meher. After much thought, we decided to set up Artjini. The initial concept was very simple — bringing posters from various countries and selling them in India. Today, the company has evolved and showcases about 4,50,000 different kinds of personalised artworks,” says Suresh.
For Meher, however, managing her home, children and the business was a challenge. “I began the business with Suresh’s help after he gave up his job. But as a woman I did find it challenging to start the business. Support from my parents and in-laws made it all happen. My in-laws took care of our children when I was busy putting the business together by meeting architects. It was important to meet architects as they were the ones who bought the artworks for their clients when it came to decorating the interiors,” says Meher.
However, the couple doesn’t want to limit their business to mere online retailing. “There is value addition throughout the process. Internet is the key for this business model. It is almost impossible to have 4,50,000 artworks on display in a traditional offline store. Moreover, the customer can customise and personalise the artwork. They can also check if the artwork they are interested in matches their interiors by uploading a photograph of their wall,” she adds.
However, Artjini only deals with reproductions and not original art. “Clients can decorate their houses at less than 1/3 of the price of the original art. It is difficult to make out the difference between an original piece and a reproduction. At the same time, the reproduction doesn’t kill the art but promotes it with full royalty being paid to the artists by the publisher,” says Suresh.
Over the years Artjini has flourished and has tie-ups with several architects and interior designers. Nearly 70 per cent of its revenue comes from architects and the remaining 30 per cent comes from direct sales.
Talking about their clientele, the couple reveals that buyers are discerning and don’t just blindly invest in the artwork. Customers first check what they have to offer, research about the said piece, call the company to verify the piece and then make the investment.
The company is increasing its online process by tying up with different websites like Snapdeal. “It decreases our customer acquisition effort and increases sales,” says Suresh.
In their spare time, the couple love to unwind by watching movies. “We love to watch a movie or two at home. The movie 3 Idiots is one of our all-time favourites,” they say. Apart from that Meher loves listening to music. “I love old Hindi songs. Hemant Kumar and Mohammed Rafi are my favourite singers,” she says. For Suresh it is books that help him unwind. “I used to be a voracious reader and To Kill a Mockingbird is my favourite novel. However, these days I am hard pressed for time so most of my reading happens on my phone. I like to read up about the new technologies on offer,” he says.
Education: MBA, Marketing, Entrepreneurship from Management Development Institute 1996 – 1998
BE, Electrical engineering from Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology 1989 – 1993
Work: Director – Business Development at Mila Dec 2008 – Aug 2009
Regional Manager at IBM Jan 2000 – Nov 2008
Co-Founder and Director: Artjini Aug 2009 – Present
Languages: Telugu, English, Hindi and Tamil