Photography business evolution; Rwandan entrepreneur’s experience

By: Simon Peter Kaliisa
Published on: 2019-07-23
Visits: 65

Photography is among ventures that over the years have been disrupted by advancements in technology, with holders of smartphones in positions to become photographers. Previously, photographers were hard to miss at parties, ceremonies and events.

Paul Matabaro is among those  who have experienced the evolution in the photography business. Having been introduced to the business in the late 1990s when still a high school student, by his uncle, Matabaro has experienced the highs and lows of the venture.

He spoke to Business Times’ Simon Peter Kaliisa about his 20 years’ experience in the business.

When did you enter the business of photography?

It is very had to recall the actual year but it was in the late 1990s when I was still in high school in Rubavu. My uncle, who back then was a photographer, introduced me to the trade. At the onset, I used only to carry his equipment to several functions but, over time, he taught me how to operate a camera and, as time went on, he let me take on assignments of taking pictures at events. That’s how I got into the business.

How was the business back then?

I wouldn’t say that it was more profitable than it is now because it relied heavily on events and functions which were seasonal.

Also, given the economic situation at the time, the majority of the population and target clients did not have the financial capacity to pay for such services which saw us make marginal profits.

When did you start running your own business?

We separated in 2003 when my uncle left the business to go into trade leaving the entire business to me.

How has the journey been since?

Times were kind to me probably because I had spent a lot of time with my uncle.  During that period I had built a network of clients.

After branching out, I continued to get referrals from the former clients of my uncle.

I continued operating the business the same way my uncle did, covering weddings, graduation ceremonies, home parties among other parties.

Over the years, we have had to make innovations on how people relate to photography while some events became irrelevant. It is then that I choose to focus on weddings.

To build trust among customers and to tap into a bigger market, I registered the company with Rwanda Development Board and also relocated to Kigali.

We have also had to focus on new market with the growth in popularity of smartphones.

Talking of disruptions, which ones have changed the way you do business?

Smart phones and technology have had quite an impact on photography and videography business. 

Such advancements have brought to an end some revenue streams as clients can snap and share pictures on their phones.

How have you managed to remain relevant in the business?

My relevance is largely focusing on weddings over the last few years. Weddings count for more than 80 per cent of all the events I cover.

Despite the development in technology, there still exists a market for wedding photography.  With the frequency of weddings in the country, one is sure to have quite some business if you maintain the highest standards. I have also ensured that my firm has both photography and videography.

I have also tapped into social media to showcase my work which has consequently served as a marketing tool.

How does one ensure that word of mouth works as a marketing tool?

One has to maintain a positive reputation and standing among clients. Three attributes have promoted our business; good time management, keeping deadlines, being honest and maintaining a good relationship with my customers.

Where do you see the future of the industry?

The industry is growing as more people appreciate the value and need for photography. At the same time, it is becoming much more competitive which has created price wars, especially due to the new entrants.

Going forward, those who have passion will not be affected by the changing environment and trends.


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