It goes without saying that pictures catch our attention faster on the internet, whether on a shopping or a gaming site. Scientifically, brains respond more quickly to images and colours than any other information. Hence, in today’s fast-paced world, where netizens have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, it is important to not make potential customers wait long to see an image.
According to a 2017 Google report, 53% of users leave a webpage if it does not load within 3 seconds. “Studies available on the internet show that if your page loads slower by, let us say, a few 100 milliseconds or up to a second, then your regular users could drop by 7% to 10%,” says Rahul Nanwani, co-founder and CEO, ImageKit.
That is where Nanwani comes in. His company optimises images and videos in real time. This means that it automatically converts images and videos to the right format according to the internet bandwidth situation without compromising the quality of the image.
“An e-commerce company has thousands of products on the website. Each product then has multiple images and each of those images then have to be displayed on multiple devices — on an IOS device, on Android, desktop, laptops, etc. So, for all of these different platforms, the image format will be different, which will also depend on your screen resolution as well as the type of screen. That is where ImageKit comes in to deliver the right image experience across all platforms,” he explains.
Founded in October 2016 by ex-Ixigo employees Nanwani, Manu Chaudhary and Somesh Khatkar, Delhi-based ImageKit has over 700 clients in India, including BigBasket, Nykaa, Lenskart and Dunzo. It processes over 50 billion images every month.
Nanwani elaborates on what the company does with an example: If you send a 5MB image taken by a photography studio to an e-commerce company and if they upload it directly, it would take ages to upload the file. It is also important to maintain the quality of the image. ImageKit automatically converts these images into formats like WebP and AVIF, depending on the user’s device’s capabilities and the original image content. WebP is an image file format developed by Google that is capable of reducing image files up to 34% smaller than PNG and JPEG files while retaining the quality of the images. This helps websites display good quality images in milliseconds.
Similarly, videos are converted into WebM or MP4 format in real-time. ImageKit also provides digital asset management, i.e, an extensive media library to store pictures, videos and PDFs.
Born out of crisis
Nanwai is a 2012 passout from IIT-Roorkee. He had worked as a software engineer at PayPal and Ixigo, where he met his future co-founders.
“We actually ran into a similar problem right in our previous firm around 2014-15. As Ixigo is a travel market place, we have a lot of images of destinations, hotels, etc, and we were facing the issue around image loading on our website. While we had some solutions built in-house, it was working well for us and consuming a lot of our time,” says Nanwani.
This is when Ixigo decided to use a third-party solution, which today is a competitor of ImageKit. The process continued to be laborious because the company had a huge repository of images. “We had almost 5 billion images that were spread across different storages,” he says, adding that they also had to implement the solution for multiple platforms — Android, iOS, web.
On top of that, the solution was starting to get costly for the company on a monthly basis. Ixigo pulled out of that contract after 3-4 months.
Learning from these mistakes, the trio who would set up ImageKit were finally able to build a product that could be easily integrated with companies that have a gigantic repository of images, like Nykaa or BigBasket, within 15-30 minutes. “We have customers who have been able to go live on their website within 30 minutes of using our solutions. The idea was to make it simple, straightforward and more economical than what the competitor was doing,” says the IIT engineer.
Some of the global players in the media delivery industry, including Amazon Web Services, Limelight Networks and Adobe. Nanwani says this industry is globally worth $25-30 billion and is expected to reach $35 billion by 2028. The digital asset management industry is growing at 16-17% annually and is expected to be worth $10 billion in the next few years.
ImageKit services come in various pricing and variants. It has a free package meant for individual developers, small businesses and bloggers and the paid services start from $49 a month. “Someone who is using the $49 plan would have close to 20,000-30,000 page views a month,” says the co-founder.
ImageKit also has custom pricing for large enterprises who pay around $5,000-6,000 a month. These are businesses who use a lot of media and have millions of page views coming every day.
In terms of funding, the company is bootstrapped. What is even more impressive is that the founders did not have to dip into their reserves. The three software engineers did some projects on the side, helping other companies make websites, helping them with cloud management and other stuff. This money paid the initial expenses at ImageKit.
Once the company got a fair number of customers, the three stopped their side projects. ImageKit has been profitable for the last five years. Nanwani says they earned a revenue of $2 million last financial year. ImageKit is targeting a 6x growth in revenue in the next three years. “In the last year, we were able to grow 90%-plus in terms of our customer count as well as in revenues. 70% of our customer base is outside of India and 30% is within India,” he says.
Imagekit is now working on the security aspect of data. Nanwani says that many of their large clients have specific requirements around security or access controls. It has also ramped up its sales team from 2 to 9 people in the last few months. “We aim to expand our outbound sales, especially in international geography like the US, Western Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” he adds.