Three years ago, Anand Kekre, an Ahmedabad-based businessman, was sitting in a coffee shop on C.G. Road when he saw a young boy playing drums at a nearby music shop. He came to know that the child couldn’t play at his home since his neighbours objected to the noise. So his father brought him to the music shop, quite a distance from where they lived, to practise drums. Kekre was moved by the boy’s plight.
Despite having a degree in classical music, Kekre, 36, had decided to become a banker and later work in an e-commerce company with his brother Sourabh and a few friends. Although he was financially secure, Kekre was looking for a kick, so a year ago he decided to start Smeam, a platform for creative people, along with Sourabh, Jignesh Vasavda, a media professional, and Ankit Arora, a voice artist and former RJ. Smeam, which in Australian aboriginal language means ‘bud’, allows artistes to showcase their talent and get more projects, upgrade their skills and keep track of new developments in their field; in other words, a one stop solution to a person’s artistic needs.
In less than a year, more than 30,000 institutes and 2,500 artistes have registered on the website and 3,500 events have been listed on it. The 14-member team has done ticketing for 35 events. “There was a strong need to create a common platform for artistes,” says Vasavda, 41. Many artistes listed on the website are from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Smeam even lists DJs and hosts for children’s games at parties and properties where a film shooting can be done. Artistes are ranked and reviewed by art support groups. Even though the price quoted by artistes is not listed on the website Smeam has an internal database of all the details.
Currently, they create a database of upcoming artistes through organisations like the Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi. Smeam has been endorsed by noted artistes like dancer Mallika Sarabhai and mime artist Vilas Janve. Others who have their profiles on the website include sitarist Anupama Bhagwat and tabla player Prasad Karambelkar.
Sarabhai says the reason she has her profile listed on the website is to encourage the Smeam team and to reassure people that it is a legitimate site. She feels the portal can help in locating artistes across the country. For example, if she wants to hire a Manipuri singer, she just needs to check whether he or she is listed on Smeam’s website. Many passes for her show Kadak Badshahi were sold through Smeam, she says.
The startup handled the talent management for the award-winning short film The End, a dark comedy about the need to live life instead of merely surviving it. Another interesting initiative by the team is Sur Prabhat, a morning concert held on the first Sunday of every month. The concert offers artistes a platform to showcase their talents. “I get a kick when artistes perform at Sur Prabhat and get an overwhelming response,” says Kekre. “A lot of artistes are performing for the first time and it feels great to watch the pride on the faces of their family members after the event.”
Classical singer Arpita Vaishampayan, 23, has performed at the Sur Prabhat and says she was thrilled by the ambience and the energy of the crowd. “In many cities classical singing is not popular,” she says. “So Smeam is very useful because it gives you a wider platform. I got a call soon after I uploaded my video on the site. I am sure I will receive many inquiries for performance soon.” She says that in an age when people are increasingly becoming net-savvy, the time will soon come when artistes will be predominantly hired online.
Arora, who had a voice-over in a video performed just before Narendra Modi’s speech at Madison Square Garden, says he is happy to note many creative professionals closely following their website. “A few days ago,” he says, “artist Mukesh Ahir asked me why I had not added any new work to my profile in a while.”
Not taking the mobile app seriously and focusing only on the desktop application. If we had started with a mobile app, the number of subscribers would have doubled by now. But we have realised our mistake and are now aggressively working on the mobile app.
Childhood dream I wanted to become a soldier and serve the country
On speed dial My co-founders, graphic designer, technical head, sales head, CFO, wife and father
First office My home and Café Coffee Day outlets
Top on to-do list Get mobile app ready; get at least 25,000 artistes and 40,000 art support groups and institutions on board by July 2015; take Sur Prabhat national; give at least 1,000 artistes a national platform by 2015; and start e-tailing of art ware and art-related products in 2016