Business Today

Winning Arts and Minds

twitter-logo Goutam Das        Print Edition: Feb 3, 2013

LOCATION: Bangalore
BUSINESS: Social platform for creative talent
FOUNDED IN: Summer of 2010
LED BY: Shekhar Kapur, A.R. Rahman, Poonacha Machaiah
COOL QUOTIENT: Users can hope to collaborate, be mentored, noticed, and ultimately find a marketplace to monetise their creations

A few weeks ago, Gurupriya Atreya, a Bangalore-based radio jockey as well as playback singer for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films, got an intriguing phone call. Madhav Ayachit, a guitarist working for Qyuki, a new social media site, wanted to know if she was willing to collaborate with other singers, lyricists and composers to record a song and cut a video. Atreya agreed without hesitation. The result was a number, Through My Eyes, which mixed the extremes - classical alaaps with rock.

While Atreya sang the classical section, the rock came from Akhil Unnikrishnan, a vocalist with a rock band Heretic. As for the video, it was shot by users handpicked from Qyuki's members. "Qyuki is a great platform to get noticed," says Atreya. "I would never have imagined I could do a song with both Hindustani classical and rock in it."

Facilitating and bankrolling collaboration between creative minds is just one of the things Qyuki does. Its primary objective is to provide a platform for singers, photographers, filmmakers, artists, graphic designers, writers and others to showcase their work to a worldwide audience. The company has star backers - it was founded in the summer of 2010 by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and music composer A.R. Rahman. CEO Poonacha Machaiah brings in the technical expertise. "We love to watch movies, we love to sing.

Shekhar knew the movie part well, Rahman the music part. I got the technology play," says Machaiah. Together, they aim to make Qyuki a platform for performing arts and fine arts, as well as a marketplace for creative minds to earn money from their work.

"There is tons of talent in India but it never gets exposed because there is no platform," says Machaiah explaining the rationale behind Qyuki. "You can put up a lot of things on YouTube. But who is going to pick that up? Our goal is to find creative talent a market." Incidentally, the name Qyuki itself is open to interpretation. "Shekhar came up with the name and tweeted it before the launch. People in Japan said it means warrior. In India, some said it was a first sign of love. It could also mean because," says Machaiah, who these days brings his one-month-old pup, Hera, to work.

The website was launched on December 5 last year with funding from Cisco. Qyuki has already started making revenues, quite rare for a social media site this young. Samsung and Dell are early advertisers. Machaiah expects to see strong revenue from four buckets: advertising, brand sponsorship, subscriptions (for those who want a higher level of service such as downloads) and a marketplace. The marketplace will be introduced in March, allowing users to sell their content. The company will keep an undisclosed percentage of every sale.

Right from the beginning, the attempt was to differentiate the site from other social networking sites, says Machaiah. The user interface is very different from Facebook, for instance. And unlike in Facebook, one cannot 'Like' a photograph. Instead, there are 'emographs' to express love, hope, joy, pride and so on.

The early traction has been encouraging. Since December 5, 2012, when the site was officially launched, more than 12,000 people have registered as members. The company claims it has clocked about 700,000 page views with an average engagement time of more than seven minutes. If it can sustain those numbers, indeed, improve on them, Qyuki will be a name to watch out for.

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