Wedding photographers in India beat economic gloom
Rising costs and a slowing economy haven’t darkened the mood of wedding photographers in India. More couples than ever are willing to spend thousands of rupees on photo albums, pre-wedding shoots and videos, allowing photographers to take a bigger slice of India’s $30 billion weddings business.
“People are willing to spend more money now compared to what they were spending three years back,” said Delhi-based photographer Vijay Tonk, who charges around 100,000 rupees for clicking pictures at a two-day function, 10 times more than what he charged in 2010. “It’s a status symbol now to spend money and have good (pictures).”
Professional photographers, some of whom charge as much as 100,000 to 300,000 rupees ($1,600 – $4,800) for a single day, have not seen any slowdown in client queries. With 20 confirmed wedding assignments in the next three months, 26-year-old Tonk has been forced to say no to some couples.
People increasingly are looking to pay premium prices for photographers who can capture the essence on their subjects through candid shots. Sonal Kalra, who hired Tonk for her December wedding functions, said such pictures “help capture the mood better”.
Some of the price rise comes as photography supply costs increase. Much of it, however, comes from an increasing willingness on the part of Indian families to not only spend big on weddings as they have always done, but to spend even more on higher-quality photos and other aspects of the ceremonies.
As a result, more people appear to be choosing wedding photography as a career option, despite graduating from India’s best business schools and working for top private companies. This is happening as India’s economy grows at its slowest pace in a decade, automobiles become more expensive, inflation accelerates and interest rates rise.
Sharik Verma, who quit India’s third-largest IT services provider Wipro in 2010 and became a wedding photographer, works for six months a year and takes 15 assignments, something that generates enough money for him to travel the world during the rest of the year.
“The idea to quit the job was to not work and live, it was to live and work … I didn’t want to be like my boss at 40,” said Verma, 26, who charges 90,000-100,000 rupees for a one-day function. “Finding 14-15 like-minded clients is not a problem … there’s a lot of money involved.”
Joseph Radhik, who graduated from India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Management in 2007, worked at Colgate Palmolive for more than two years before starting his wedding photography business in 2010.
His client base has grown by 20-25 percent annually in the last three years, and he charges at least 200,000 rupees for pictures and 150,000 rupees for video, which he prefers calling “cinema”, for a single-day event.
“The propensity to spend in weddings has never decreased … You spend all that money and make the event look good, and the living proof of how that event lives is what we do,” said the 30-year-old Radhik, co-founder of Stories in Motion Pvt. Ltd. Radhik’s brother Joshua Karthik, an MBA graduate, quit Asian Paints in 2012 to join the company as a partner.
Weddings in India are grand celebrations. Families usually start saving early and end up spending millions of rupees on gold jewellery, decoration, gifts, catering and sometimes dowry.
India’s wedding market is a $30 billion industry, growing at 15 to 20 percent annually, according to matrimonial website shaadi.com. With 13 million registered marriages annually, it is a huge market for wedding planners, photographers and sectors such as hospitality.
Canvera, a Bangalore-based photography supplies company, gets 70-80 percent of its business from weddings. The company’s chief executive, Dhiraj Kacker, estimates that there are at least 250,000 active wedding photographers in the country.
“Wedding photography as a business is growing at phenomenal pace,” he said. “We are growing by 40-50 percent year-on-year.”
Eastman Kodak considers wedding photography as one of its most important segments for digital printing in India. In the next three years, the company expects 25 percent annual growth in that, said Evandro Matteucci, vice president marketing for Asia Pacific at Kodak.