The Life: Mohamed Kashif Joosub discusses the small business challenges of getting his new photography company, Light House Studio, started in the UAE.
Photography studio a portrait of a passion
Tired of working in the import and export industry, Mohamed Kashif Joosubdecided to pursue his passion for photography by opening a studio to shoot pictures and rent space to other photographers. The managing director and founder of Light House Studio discusses how he got started.
What opportunity did you see in the market before you launched in May?
I had been doing freelancing photography for four years and working with different photographers in the market here. There was a very small amount of studios in Dubai. Abu Dhabi and Sharjah don't really have studios. Working with the other ones was quite difficult because a lot of them were booked or didn't have the right equipment or facilities we wanted.
So you decided to create one yourself. But why did it take two months to find the right spot?
I needed a large space, which would allow access to drive cars inside the studio. What I wanted was something that was very easy and accessible from the highway. I found a great-size warehouse, which was just an empty shell previously used for ship repairing, but I knew I could transform it to a high-tech modern photography studio. It's quite close to Mall of the Emirates.
You then spent nearly two months with architects and contractors designing the space. Did you stay under your budget for that process?
It was higher than expected. Initially, I tried to get somebody I knew, but they took a lot of time and couldn't do what I wanted. I got a professional, and paid again. We wanted a nice lounge area, toilets and a dressing room. Permissions were required from Dewa [the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority] because power was very low in the facility, and we had to change it.
Another time-consuming process was hiring 12 staff from a pool of more than 400 applicants. What were you pickiest about?
I was looking for different segments they specialised in - maybe family portraits or maternity, and others purely for weddings and then some for fashion and commercial work. Then also someone who does product photography. I put some ads in different countries - I wanted to get some international photographers. I went from 400 to 200 and replied to them, and then reduced that again to 40 to 50. From there, I started calling in people. Those who were overseas we spoke over the phone.
Have you made a return on your investment yet?
Right now it's still running at a bit of a loss. We're hoping in the next three to four months it'll be running at even, and then we have plans [for] more advertising and getting more awareness out there.
Are you dipping into savings for now?
I did have a bit. Whatever I'm getting right now from all the business I'm putting back into it again. There's nothing really that made me take a big loss; it's quite minimal, so I can survive with it. With the new expected growth, I'm sure it'll be very profitable.