Meet Prakash Tilokani, the man who clicks India’s rich and famous
When Prakash Tilokani started taking pictures at the age of 16, he had no clue that one day he would be the man behind the lens at India Inc’s weddings.
From selling pictures at 20 rupees (32 cents) each in 1984 to charging at least 300,000 rupees ($4,800) for a day now, it’s been an eventful journey for 47-year-old Tilokani, one of India’s most famous wedding photographers.
Today, with offices in Delhi and Baroda in Gujarat, Tilokani has a team of 40, including his son Rahul, who specialises in video editing. Other than India, the team travels around the globe to shoot the weddings of the rich and influential. Their client list includes families of the billionaire Ambani brothers, Essar’s Ruias, Hero MotoCorp’s Munjals, Videocon’s Dhoots and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.
Tilokani started his career in 1979, working as a full-time photographer in a studio in Baroda, and opened his first studio in 1984.
“(I) didn’t have any money to open a big studio … it was a 44 square-feet office,” Tilokani said in an interview at his Delhi office. In those years, he recalls charging 2,000 rupees for video and around 20 rupees for a photograph.
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Tilokani’s business expanded slowly thanks to client recommendations, and he managed to sign on some bigger clients in Ahmedabad, where he started shooting nearly 20 years ago. A two-day wedding function in the family of Parsvnath Developers, a real estate company, in 1997 was the first big assignment, he said. After that, his fee rose as he started doing “big weddings”.
At that time, Tilokani was clicking pictures alone, but had a post-production team. He soon realised that it would be tough to achieve his goals if he only stuck to cities such as Baroda.
“I was always looking for (a) big platform so I wanted to go to Bombay … being a Gujarati, we were scared of Delhi,” he said. “We got a lot of response from Bombay, but in Delhi there were people who could spend money. In Bombay, there were only people who would appreciate the work.”
With minimum charges of 300,000 rupees a day, most of Tilokani’s clients are from the business community. “We don’t have middle-class clients; we have got higher middle class, then upper class,” he said. “Since 1984, I have always grown … I have seen a 20 to 25 percent annual growth in my business in the last seven to eight years.”
Though Tilokani’s wedding photography business has boomed, he predicts that the scene is changing, and there will be difficult times for young photographers. Many have entered the profession in recent years, forcing him to stay on his toes.
“Competition is increasing, but there is no impact on our business. When people book a photographer they don’t trust new people … I would have been worried if my business would have been less,” he said.