Case | HBS Case Collection | July 2007 (Revised February 2010)

Saffronart.com: Bidding for Success

by Mukti Khaire and R. Daniel Wadhwani

Abstract

Saffronart, a five-year-old online art auction company, leads the market for modern Indian art and now faces competitors in the market it created. Established in 2000 by the wife-and-husband team of Minal and Dinesh Vazirani, Saffronart.com is an innovative online auction firm that specializes in modern and contemporary Indian art. Having been the first firm to offer Indian fine art with authenticity guarantees in an auction setting that increased the transparency of prices, Saffronart succeeded in establishing the genre of modern and contemporary Indian art in the art world, and in creating a market for it. This market, and Saffronart's revenues, grew rapidly from 2000 to 2005. Saffronart's estimate was that the Indian art auction market would be worth $125 million in 2006, with their revenues being $45 million. While this success was gratifying, the firm and its founders faced new internal and external pressures; particularly worrisome was the entry of auction giants Christie's and Sotheby's into the market. The Vaziranis' main challenge now is to consolidate their leading position in the market they created in the face of the unpredictable cyclicality of the secondary art market and increasingly strong competitors.

Keywords: Arts; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Auctions; Industry Growth; Competition; Online Technology; Fine Arts Industry; India;

Citation:

Khaire, Mukti, and R. Daniel Wadhwani. "Saffronart.com: Bidding for Success." Harvard Business School Case 808-027, July 2007. (Revised February 2010.)