Both computer science engineers, Harish S and Gayathri Gupta used to work together in a software development company. While Gayatri is experienced in conducting training and workshops, Harish would experiment with various art forms on the side.
They both would indulge in art as a hobby and would use the medium of alcohol inks to create artworks as a stress-buster in their free time.
Mostly used to create free-flowing and abstract paintings, alcohol inks are bright, dye-based paints that are diluted with either isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol. They are mostly used in making markers. The ink gives the user much more control over the dying process to make varied patterns on surfaces such as fabrics, metals, ceramics, glass, etc.
However, the artform is yet to gain popularity in India. Harish tells YourStory that the market for alcohol ink-based art was almost non-existent in India and the prices of the products were high.
“The pain point was the unavailability of alcohol ink in India at affordable prices. This was the main reason behind the unawareness of this art medium,” says Co-founder and CEO, Harish S.
So, in March 2019, Harish and Gayathri started Beyond Inks to manufacture alcohol-based inks for art in India and offer them to the community at affordable prices.
“Back in 2018, there were hardly any stores selling these inks due to the very high prices. That is when we thought to try and make these inks available in India, and started spreading awareness about alcohol inks medium. With research, coupled with a lot of trial and error over six months, we made a workable product and formed the Beyond Inks brand,” Harish adds.
Beyond Inks primarily focuses on introducing India to contemporary art supplies. Currently, it offers three product lines of alcohol inks with 43 different shades, YUPO paper, synthetic paper, and other surfaces and canvases that can be used to work with alcohol inks. The startup is also working on a different line of inks that can be used by all age groups.
Beyond Inks’ business model is both B2C and B2B. The Hyderabad-based startup sells directly to the end customers through its website. It also supplies its products to all major and medium art stores across the country for reselling purposes. The startup plans to expand its horizons to other countries soon.
The price of the inks starts from as low as Rs 169 and goes up to Rs 2,500.
What Beyond Inks means
“The reason behind choosing ‘Beyond Inks’ as the name is our vision of going beyond supplying just the inks. We engage in building an active community of artists for this art medium, and provide the needed support for their art journey,” says Gayathri Gupta, Co-founder and Director, Beyond Inks.
Tackling the issue of the non-existent market, Harish says they decided to use the influence of social media.
“We could create product awareness by promoting the art forms on various social media platforms, through personal and online workshops and word of mouth. As we were the first Indian brand to launch alcohol inks in India, our product was widely accepted by artists and well received by end customers.”
Creating a community of artists
“We collaborate with artists across the country to conduct workshops where people can learn basic to advanced techniques using our products (alcohol inks). The artists also share their creations and use cases on our social media platforms to help educate people about our inks,” Gayathri adds.
While speaking about USP, Gayathri says that most of the artists using Beyond Inks’ platform are women and first-time entrepreneurs.
“We are very happy that these women can use our inks to create and sell various products and conduct workshops, thereby generating revenues for themselves. Our company is one-of-a-kind in promoting creativity and talent among women and thereby, contributing towards women empowerment and entrepreneurship,” she says.
According to Harish, “the other major factor of our brand is we are proudly made in India. All of our ink is made in India, making it easily available and affordable to the end-user to buy, unlike other international brands in this space. We have a manufacturing unit and a warehouse in Hyderabad from where we process online orders and supply to distributors and retailers.”
Started with around 20-25 SKUs initially, Beyond Inks now has close to 100 SKUs, and also plans to increase that number in the coming months with the help of completely new product lines.
The target audience
“Anyone above 18 years is our target audience. We constantly engage with people on different social media platforms by constantly posting details/videos/blogs on the art form to increase the awareness of the medium among people,” Harish says.
According to Harish, alcohol ink art form is very therapeutic and the startup constantly receives feedback from many customers who say they are very relaxing and fun to work with. “They are so versatile that a lot of people up-cycle many things around them using our products. We see people creating hand-painted coasters, planters, clocks etc with our inks,” he adds.
The startup currently has a team of 10 employees, as well as supported by 30+ artists across the country.
The art market and future plans
Beyond Inks has close to 7,500 direct customers and its products are listed across 80-100 art and stationery stores across the country. Started with an investment of Rs 5 lakh, the startup has been making a revenue of more than Rs 1 crore every year since its inception.
“We experienced over 100 percent growth during the lockdown, and are currently sustaining the growth as well as trying to increase the business by adding new product lines and expanding markets,” Gayathri says.
Beyond Inks is currently bootstrapped. It was started with a small investment by the founders with the main focus on research and development of the product and bringing it to the market.
The Indian art market was estimated at $14.6 million as of 2017, according to a FICCI-KPMG report. The Research and Markets’ report stated that the Indian art stationery market is expected to register a CAGR of 13.8 percent during 2018-2024, thus creating a significant opportunity for players like Beyond Inks.
“Going forward, our motto is to constantly innovate around the line of inks, and increase the usage and applications of inks to the artists,” Gayathri adds.
Globally it competes with international players like Ranger, Pinata, and Copic among others.