She is fair, light-eyed and the perfect clothes horse. But on days when regular modelling assignments dry up, she doesn’t mind changing 50 outfits and being photographed in a small studio against a plain white backdrop. Front, side, and back and you are done, says Anushree, 24, a Mumbai model.
The NIFT graduate, who wants to become an actress, started modelling for e-commerce sites four years ago. The work is not as glam as regular fashion shoots — sunkissed beaches and expensive designer togs are replaced by cramped studios and everyday wear — but it’s steady and brings in money. “You are just a mannequin, but you can make money while you chase other dreams,” Anushree says.
With fashion e-tail booming — it is expected to touch $35 billion by 2020, according to research by Google India — opportunities have opened up for youngsters like her who can look both aspirational and attainable.
E-tailers in the clothing, accessories and jewellery segment publicize product images differently on their sites. Some, like the luxury handloom site Parisera or the affordable craft/textile site Itokri are content to simply post photographs of saris, yardage, kurtas, and so on. A popular fashion e-commerce website like Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop uses runway models for big publicity shoots, but simply crops out faces in online catalogues. But most, like Jaypore, Myntra, Jabong, Tadpole and Snapdeal, use their websites as storefronts and models are their mannequins.
The faces that feature in these online shop windows are usually young, fresh-faced women who hope to move on to more prestigious assignments. Jasleen Ghuman, a 22-year-old model based in Mumbai, is working towards a break in Bollywood. “I joined acting and dance classes and need to pay the bills. I do modelling work for e-commerce sites, and the money’s not bad. You could earn up to Rs 3 lakh a month if you did it for 30 days straights and there is no dearth of work,” says Ghuman. Sites like Myntra and Jabong pay around Rs 10,000 per day and a model is expected to pose in 50-80 outfits. Banner shoots (editorials with creative backgrounds) bring in more money with payment ranging from Rs 30,000 to 50,000.
Quite a few big players now prefer to create their own ecosystem of in-house photographers, stylists and make-up artists instead of outsourcing the work. Anirban Tarafdar, the catalogue head at Myntra.com, says that over the last three years, the company started with a couple of studios and now has 25. The creative work has in fact gone beyond the standard profile shots; they are even doing small promotional videos of products.
“Overall, we have about 2,000 brands and more than 2.5 lakh products. Our studios have the capacity to shoot more than 2,500 products a day. At Myntra, it is more about display and the focus is always on improving the imagery. We work with five modelling agencies that provide us with international models and Indian ones too. On any given day, we have 12 to 20 models in our studios,” Tarafdar says.
Foreign models are less averse to bikini or lingerie shoots, say the agencies. Himanshu Bhasin of Karma Models Production, an agency based in both Delhi and Mumbai, says he has talent from Argentina, Russia, Croatia, and Serbia. “International models used to get paid around Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per shoot, but now prices have dropped to Rs 10-20,000 because competition is fierce. In Delhi alone, there are 18 to 20 international modelling agencies,” says Bhasin.
The entrepreneur says his company enjoyed monopoly in the early days of the boom. “But now, e-commerce websites have their own agencies and hire their own photographers,” he says.
Myntra, for instance, has around 25 photographers on board and according to agencies, they make Rs 300-400 per shoot. Akash Satheesh, who works with Bengaluru-based Full House Labs, which specializes in editing and photographing products for e-commerce sites, says there is a lot of demand for those who can shoot catalogues.
“I am an engineer by training and started doing photography and documentary filmmaking, and later found there’s a lot of demand for catalogue shoots for e-commerce websites. Now, we specialize in it,” he says.
But there is little scope for creativity in the field, says Manish Khullar of Delhi-based NewIndiaModels. Arshia Ahuja, who is a sought-after model for fashion weeks, says she works for e-commerce sites but only does banner shoots according to her rates.
But the younger lot isn’t complaining. In fact, they’re hoping to replicate the success of supermodel Cara Delevingne who started as a clothes horse for e-commerce retailer Asos and is now the face of Tom Ford, Burberry, Topshop and Yves Saint Laurent.