A business built on images from lesser known photographers: identifying and unleashing value from the majority world.
A young girl backstage waiting her turn at a beauty pageant. Family members sharing a joke. Children playing on a jungle-gym. These are images you might see in any magazine, website or newspaper around the world. But these are unique: they were taken by photographers that were capturing moments of the life around them, a life they happen to be part of as nationals from the majority world.
‘Majority World’ is a socio-political term which offers an arguably more palatable substitute for ‘third world’ or ‘developing world’ by moving beyond simple economic descriptors and highlighting the relative proportion of the world’s population that lives outside of the so-called ‘developed’ countries. Majority World (MW) is also the name of a image company based in Sri Lanka, co-founded in 2004 by a Bangladeshi photographer, Shahidul Alam, that aims to create a global platform to promote the work of established and emerging photographers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
MW aims to provide a solution to the challenges faced by many talented but lesser known or well-connected photographers from the aforementioned regions, specifically lack of access to clients, technology and resources to market themselves to the global image market, which has been traditionally very reliant on photographers from North America and Europe (where most clients are also based).
MW’s value proposition is to provide high quality photography from a new source of talent: national photographers from unrepresented regions. Their value chain extends from the content provided by local photographers to the global online portal they created to showcase and sell the works to opening further sales channels through a “growing international network of distributors” in Europe and North America.
Here’s why I think this is a great business concept.
Firstly, it’s not a charity. They are creating value by tapping into an underutilized resource: creative talent from the majority world for major international image markets, and facilitating access to the global image market to generate profits.
Secondly, they are committed to providing photographers with fair market value for their work and offering them non-exclusive contracts. Aiming to be a profitable company means selling your products for a superior price than what it cost to produce them. Yet ensuring they treat the photographers in their network fairly is not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart business move. There are bound to be imitators of this business in the future, by building a network of talented professionals and investing in their development and success, they are more likely to maintain a steady flow of ‘products’ to be sold in the future.
Thirdly, they appear to be setting up a high quality, lower cost operation. Their HQ and staff are based in Sri Lanka, while maintaining a presence in London. Sales are handled through the website as well as through international distributors. They have made significant investments in (technical) infrastructure to support the online portal and have partnered with both private and public organizations and individuals for funding.
Finally, investing in talent from the majority world will have positive consequences for majority world communities from where those professionals come, both directly by providing income for the MW photographers and indirectly through the flow-on effects of income into the families and communities as well as serving as inspiration for other professionals and entrepreneurs from underrepresented regions.
Have you come across other businesses that have identified and unleashed creative talent from the majority world?