Lifeblob, a social photo sharing service startup backed by SeedFund, has been acquired by Printo, a network of print and document shops, according to a blog post by co-founder Pranav Bhasin on the company website. Both Printo and Lifeblob are Seedfund portfolio companies.
This acquisition brings together an online photo merchandising platform with the largest retail printing network in India, he says. Lifeblob.com will be discontinued post the transaction. The personalised photo gifting store at http://www.lifeblob.com/store will be available at http://www.printo.in after the transition is complete.
The deal aims to provide a comprehensive online-cum-offline solution for printing needs. The financial details of the transaction remain undisclosed, however, a report in the Economic Times, quoting industry sources, pegs the value at between $2 million and $5 million.
Talking to VCCircle, Bhasin said, while declining to disclose the value of the transaction, "Rakesh Rajan (another co-founder) and I will join Printo to facilitate the transition over the next few months. Printo has been our fulfillment partner since we started merchandising early this year. Over time, both of us felt that the combination of online plus offline retail is much more powerful than being just on one side. Since it made sense for growth of the business, we decided to go ahead with the sale."
Commenting on the deal, acquirer Printo's CEO Manish Sharma says, "The decision to acquire Lifeblob was made by the co-founders of the two firms, who have worked as partners for the past four years. It got easier as SeedFund was involved. We have been mulling this acquisition for some time now. It made sense to do things together. We did look at few other companies but found they had amateurish technology." Printo will continue on its inorganic growth path as Sharma is scouting for acquisitions in the fragmented online industry.
Lifeblob's photo gifting store will fit into Printo's upcoming marketplace Printobazaar.in, which the company expects to launch in January 2011. On whether Lifeblob's photo sharing will be removed, Sharma said,the decision had not yet been made, but photo sharing will not be a key proposition for Printo, going forward. Users of the service will be able to convert their online photos into products.
The operational details of Lifeblob co-founders' roles in Printo is being worked out. It is understood that, if the operational structure is to have online as a separate vertical inside Printo, then Rajan and Bhasin will be leading it.
Does this sellout by Lifeblob suggest that it is tough to build a sustainable social network-based business in India? Bhasin says, "Scaling a social network business in India is significantly tougher than doing it in Silicon Valley, but certainly not impossible. Finding the right set of early adopters who regularly use your services is the hardest and once you crack that, you can figure out how to scale.
However, monetization of a social network is a very tough problem to crack in India because the consumer here is very value conscious and they do not like to pay for virtual stuff. So the best approach is to have a niche social network with supporting services that monetize it. Monetization was the primary reason we diversified into merchandising in 2010."
Lifeblob was founded by Pranav Bhasin, Rakesh Rajan and Vishnu GS. Pranav, Rakesh and Vishnu previously worked at Trilogy. Started in 2007, Lifeblob allows users to explore photos through relations around it in a visually engaging format.
Lifeblob moved on to focus on merchandising personalised photo gifts to build a steady revenue stream. Lifeblob is one of the fastest growing photo sharing services in India with over 5 million photos on its platform, it says.
Printo, founded in 2005, works to make the customer's printing experience extremely easy, and is now set to open retail outlets across India. Printo has been cash profitable since the last 18 months. Printo's primary business is physical retail stores aimed at serving printing needs of customers. This business contributes to 75% of its revenues. The firm also offers printing solutions to large enterprises, which contributes 20%; the rest trickles in from its online business. Printo's primary target audience has been SMBs and individual customers, says Sharma.