Though 3D printing was officially invented in 1984, the concept of copying and recreating something three-dimensional still comes across to some as something that belongs in Star Trek. 24-year-old entrepreneur Siddharth Rathod found inspiration in this concept and put forth the idea to his uncle to create a “3D selfie” business. His uncle experienced an alternate attitude people have toward 3D printing—he was confused.
“I could not really imagine what he was trying to say,” laughs Siddharth’s uncle, Dr. Kamlesh Kothari.
They decided that they needed to see the technology in action and visited the Inside 3D Printing conference in Singapore. There, Kamlesh received his own eureka moment while watching a booth where people could receive 3D models of themselves after being rotated on a platform.
“[Siddharth and I] decided to do something together on this because nobody [in India] does this so far,” Kamlesh tells Tech in Asia. “We sensed we could be market leaders.”
Just nine months later, they launched CloneMe, a 3D printing startup in Bangalore that currently specializes in 3D selfies. People can come into the office, get scanned, and receive 3D likenesses of themselves.
The young and the adventurous
CloneMe is only three months old, but it has big dreams that stretch out over the next four years. This could be because the 3D market has a lot of room – a potential 2 billion euro industry, and the founders see great scope for it in India’s booming – and changing – lifestyle sector. The country’s gifting industry alone is estimated to be US$30 billion – US$400 million of which is online.
CloneMe’s co-founders figure that if the country is becoming more affluent and people are shopping online more, people’s gift preferences must be changing as well, leaving the door wide open for the 3D printing market in India. Indeed, CloneMe models were listed on a fun Diwali gift inspiration list, along with floor cleaning robots and “quirky gifts.”
Getting a statuette made of yourself may sound a little narcissistic or out of the box (pun intended), but these founders see possibilities beyond immortalizing the self. Kamlesh tells the story of one of his customers, a mentally challenged boy who walked into the store with his father, saw a superhero figurine, and wanted to be made in the likeness of the superhero. CloneMe was able to fill the order and deliver it to the boy’s house personally.
Seeing the smile on the child’s face, Kamlesh tells me, was really something.
I tentatively mention that weddings would be a good place to have 3D selfies, and Kamlesh lights up, and we joke a little bit about what it would be like to look back on yourself in full wedding day glory several years into the future. Wedding season in India is, of course, right around the corner, beginning in December and lasting until February, and CloneMe already has orders coming in.
Weddings are a big market in India, Kamlesh says. “[Couples] want to be immortalized with their young and beautiful wedding day appearances…it’s better than a photograph.”
CloneMe has also gotten several orders for 3D models of family gods or spiritual advisers, something Kamlesh notes is an application of the technology unique to India.
CloneMe, for the most part, requires the physical presence of the model and therefore is limited geographically, though a customer has the option of sending three pictures through the website and getting a 3D model that can be processed in 7 to 10 days. Siddharth and Kamlesh hope to extend their reach beyond India and are developing a mobile app to help people send in their orders. They hope to have the app ready in the next three to six months.
CloneMe may be taking selfies to the next level, but the three-month-old company plans to expand beyond personal likenesses within the lifestyle sector and selling 3D likenesses as novelty gifts. They’ve also taken jobs in architecture, modeling buildings with partners around the world, particularly in Germany and Turkey, to create attractive models to show to real estate clients.
Another field into which they’d like to expand is the medical field, particularly bone transplants, which is where Kamlesh’s expertise as a plastic surgeon comes into play.
“Forty percent of all the world’s oral cancer is in India. We lose a lot of jawbones,” he explains, mentioning that a jawbone replacement is either titanium or is constructed from parts of leg and hip bone. “It’s not very predictable.”
With 3D printing technology, however, the replacement model can be customized beforehand for a cleaner replacement. The co-founders hope to extend into the medical field in six to eight months time.
Spreading the word
Of course, a lot of their challenge lies in educating people on 3D printing technology and taking the idea of 3D printing from one that belongs in a science fiction movie or a museum to one that belongs in people’s living rooms.
“What our three months of experience has told us is that our sales pitch should be preceded by an education campaign before [clients] make the decision to buy it. They won’t buy it unless they understand it,” Kamlesh says. Therefore, while CloneMe does plenty of marketing in web, print, and digital media, they also showcase their products at events of that customers have the opportunity to see some selfie-taking in action.
CloneMe is a small company, self-funded by its co-founders. Siddharth and Kamlesh have plans to open four to six more stores in the next 12-18 months in Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore. Their goal is to enter the franchise market and hopefully set up in even more cities.
CloneMe’s interests stretch far and wide, from the funny to the serious, but as these co-founders see it, if one has the technology of the future, might as well use it in any way possible. Even the company’s name keeps that possibility in mind, remaining purposefully open-ended and communicating more of a futuristic aesthetic people want to experience.
“Who doesn’t want to get cloned?” asks Kamlesh. “Everyone wants to get cloned.”
It’s a sentiment that would certainly intrigue Picard.
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