PicsArt, a leading creative platform for visual storytelling with its technology tools, is upbeat on the huge Indian market and plans to set up a centre in the country, possibly at Bengaluru. Based out of San Francisco and with operations across major locations, including Yerevan, Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing, it continues to work towards democratising its tools. Hovhannes Avoyan, Founder and CEO, PicsArt, said, “We have raised more than $67 million to date, and expect to reach $100 million annual recurring revenue this year. While the app is free with ads, users can also subscribe to our premium subscription service PicsArt Gold to unlock additional features.” In an exclusive interaction with BusinessLine , he shares his plans, including move to set up a facility in India. Excerpts:

It has been a decade since you launched PicsArt operations. How has the picture editing and video editing landscape changed over the years?

The photo editing and video editing landscape has changed dramatically over the years. From the hands of professionals, these editing tools have found their way to millions of people. This is the democratising effect of technology and the empowerment of creativity that’s inherent to everyone. Years ago, my daughter came to me in tears because she had shared her artwork online and was bullied for it. I realised then that there was a need for a supportive environment where anyone could easily make, edit and share their creations with the world and also feel inspired by fellow creators. PicsArt was built on the premise that anyone can be creative regardless of their skillset.

How have you managed to keep pace with the changing technology and what are your plans?

PicsArt offers a very unique combination of thousands of creative tools, content, and a community of creators who connect around shared interests. Dozens of apps offer various forms of editing like filters, drawing tools, and special effects, but we’ve consolidated all of these features into an all-in-one platform where you can do anything and everything from a single place.

Unlike other editing apps, we are platform-agnostic, which means we enable users to share their creations on any messaging or social media platforms. We also have AI and machine learning in place that helps us to stay ahead of the curve. By leveraging the most up-to-date and cutting-edge technology such as Apple and Google’s AR Kits, we are always advancing our use cases and growing along the way.

AI-enabled processes have taken a major place in image editing. Where do you think this technology is heading?

AI has become instrumental in helping businesses across industries be more efficient and scale efficiently. At PicsArt, we use AI in several ways. It helps us to make complex edits — like removing the background or an unwanted object in a photo — quicker, simpler and more intuitive. It also enables us to improve the overall user experience. All metadata we collect is used to directly improve the user experience. It is a virtuous cycle - data helps to improve our product, a better product increases usage, and increased usage generates more data making our AI even smarter. This cycle is necessary for businesses like ours to grow at scale.

You must now be up against huge competition from a number of technology providers like you. How is the business for you?

To stand out, we remain focused on a very core demographic — Millennials and Gen Z — which helps us curate content and build features that are more relevant, timely and likely to trend. At the same time, we discovered that 30 per cent of our users rely on PicsArt for professional purposes. PicsArt has always been an app that people turned to, even before the lockdown, to curb stress and boredom. In 2020 we saw a 20 per cent jump in global editing activity and we continue to lead in monthly active users in the photo and video editing space. Even more humbling, PicsArt was the 18th most downloaded app in the world last year.

What are your plans for India?

PicsArt has come a long way since we began in 2012. We’ve grown year over year mostly through word of mouth and search. In 2018, we launched our subscription service, and we now have more than 150 million monthly active creators across the globe.

India has become a very important market for PicsArt, and we have seen tremendous growth in terms of usage and downloads. It is also one of our top thriving markets. In India, PicsArt emerged as one of the top apps used by Indian women to enhance their photographs, as per a December 2020 Google study. The study found that women feel empowered showcasing their edited photos and selfies.

We are planning to set up a centre in India within a couple of months. We may consider one of the IT hubs, Bengaluru could be the one.