E-commerce changing India’s art mart: Saffronart CEO

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi : E-commerce sites are changing the way people buy art in the country, says Dinesh Vazirani, CEO of India’s biggest online art auction house Saffronart. The e-buyers are aggressive, confident and wide in demography.

Support TwoCircles

“The e-commerce sites and the penetration of internet have thrown up a new segment of art buyers who are savvy with technology and confident. E-commerce is a budding platform in the country through which one can access buyers all over the world. It is very nascent in India but important because people are looking at the Indian art market,” Vazirani told IANS in an interview.

“The buyers, mostly upwardly mobile, bid very aggressively on the mobile phones because it affords them anonymity and flexibility. The physical auction room has limitations,” he said.

The bids get more layered on the digital platform. “You get a cross-section of demographic mix on the online platform,” Vazirani said.

Studies cite tha the Indian art market is estimated at over Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion).

Saffronart is offering a niche collection of modern and contemporary art for its autumn online auction Sep 21-22. The collection featuring 70 lots by 32 contemporary artists is estimated at about Rs.35.2 crore.

The selection includes works by masters like Jehangir Sabavala, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza and Arpita Singh.

Vazirani said buyers will be bidding online and on their cell phones.

“There has been convergence within technology. Hand-held instruments like mobile and i-pads are integrating with the internet on one platform, the mobile phone, to help more and more people conduct their lives through technology, organise them. One can see all kinds of transactions on the internet, including art,” Vazirani said.

India has more than 500 million mobile users, estimates by telecom regulatory authority TRAI say.

Auction bids on the mobile phone and the internet are more confident, Vazirani said.

The online art buyers are younger, he said. “Younger people are so comfortable with the technology all around. It has changed their behavioural pattern,” Vazirani said.

Vazirani said “the dynamics of the art auction market have changed since the meltdown”.

“During boom time, investors had become speculators. But the meltdown has changed the buying outlook. The market is drawing serious collectors who are a lot more aware and educated. They look for provenance (history and authenticity) of the art they are buying,” Vazirani said.

Vazirani predicts that the consolidation of the collectors’ market and e-commerce in art will lead to a “next phase of infrastructure building”.

“Many new private museums and archives modelled on the Kiran Nader Museum and the Devi Art Foundation will come up in the country. It is a very positive way to go,” Vazirani said.

Buying during the phase of infrastructure building will evolve further, he said. The astute nature of transactions by the art collectors, who are opting for quality and branding post-meltdown, will become more research-based, Vazirani predicts.

Private museum owners will demand better provenance of the art works they acquire, longevity, exclusivity and value of money, Vazirani said.

The culture of auctions will become proactive, he said. Saffronart has introduced small 24X7 auctions and small theme-based auctions every month to create a new segment of buyers and promote awareness about quality in purchase, he said.

Vazirani said, “The three major trends that will guide the Indian art market in the next decade are a new emphasis of art infrastructure, globalisation of Indian art and emergence of serious collectors.”

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])