The History of BYAS

Madan Gopal Vyas, MD, BYAS FOTO WORLD, Hyderabad, narrates the nine decade long journey of BYAS, and how he is restarting the photography academy that his father once ran with the dream of spreading knowledge of photography.

To start with I would like to share the history of how the BYAS and company came into existence. My grandfather Late Shri Shankarlalji Vyas, who hailed from an agriculturist family in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, came to Hyderabad Deccan, in search of a livelihood. He chose the photography business, as he had a little exposure to this line of activity during his brief stint in Nasik. But he thought that Nasik was a small place and there would be better scope in Hyderabad, because it was a prosperous state under the Nizams. He started his studio in Kothi area, opposite Residency, in the year 1920. During this journey of 93 long years, a lot of changes, developments took place not in the industry but also at a political level in Hyderabad and also in the country.
As my father Shri Goverdhan Das ji Vyas recalls his father’s memories while he worked with him, I would like to share some of them in brief with you here.
Those days, photography was a rare and very secret type of business; very few people were involved in this activity, one of the first ones being Raja Deen Dayal in Secunderabad. Photographs were exposed on glass plates and prints were taken on black and white paper.  The enlargements were done only in England and my grandfather used to send them to England by post. It used to take about 27 days to reach there and then another one month to get them back. The money was sent by money order. To do this, he had to walk all the way up to the cantonment areas located beyond Secunderabad. He was smart enough to get this done, and we can now safely say that he was using the concept of “outsourcing” in those days. Now, we all know it is a common business practice all over the world.
In those days, it was a very big studio at Kothi, and he had, at one point, 40 employees working for him. Imagine in those days he has provided so much employment and fed forty families.
Another turning point in their studio was – one fine morning the HEH the Nizam of Hyderabad with his full convoy of security persons etc and family were passing through the kothi area, saw the impressive display of good portraits and photographs of his family and ancestors particularly, the photos of the parents of Princess Niloufer – and visited the studio. He enquired about the rates of those family photos. To which my grandfather humbly responded – “Sarkar, who toh amulya hai” (They are priceless). The Nizam was very much impressed and after that for all functions and celebrations of the Royal family, my grandfather was called for taking photos. While this continued, he was again very happy with the services and quality of work and conferred the title of Shahi Photographer to BYAS and Company on the 29th of September, 1929. During this time the Nizam also suggested to open another studio and sent the officials of the then City Improvement Board and showed three locations to choose from, one was at Abids, the place where GPO stands now, the second one was the Lepakshi showroom land at Gunfoundry, and the third one was at Basheerbagh. My grandfather chose Basheerbagh, because it was cheap and big, and he was very practical and forward-thinking; he thought it was the centre of the twin cities.
My grandfather had employed professionals in the studio like Mr Shukla from Bombay, and along with him he also learned professional photography. During this time my father Shri Goverdhan Das ji Vyas also joined the studio. He was just 12 years old and used to do his schooling at Vivek Vardhini and after school hours used to help his father in the studio. As my grandfather was not keeping too well, my father had to discontinue studies after class 9, and joined the family business full time. Even today, at the age of 87, he is very active in the day to day activities of our business. During the long years of his experience he has seen the complete changes, from Black and White glass plates to cut films to roll films to colour films and now to digital photography. 
Over the years many people who were working with him left and started on their own, as my father always encouraged entrepreneurship. In between the independence movement, Razakardaur, liberation of Hyderabad happened. However, my father moved on with times and kept on focussing on his business. In the year 1965 the studio was shifted to Bashirbagh. At this time he thought to share the knowledge he has gained, and started a training institute called Ganesh Institute of Photography. It was a short course of two months with one hour of class daily with both theory and practicals. The fee charged was just Rs 50 for total course, including material. At the end of the course, exams were conducted and a diploma was awarded to all successful students. Hundreds of students utilised these programme and were employed in government jobs, even abroad. Students from nearby towns like Nanded, Aurangabad etc also used to come for this course. One of the students got the job in Osmania University. The business which was supposed to be a secret and with very few people, my father thought to impart the knowledge and make it available to one and all. Likewise, he was instrumental in starting the first association for photographers at state level and also at South India level. In those days there was a ban or quota on imports of photography goods. The SIPATA could collectively negotiate with the government for releasing more photography goods to the industry and this helped all, but particularly the small businesses. He worked a lot for the associations and in fact used to travel to Madras and Delhi at his own expense in the interest of the trade. 
My father had three brothers and therefore he ventured and started a studio in Tandur, RR district about 60 years ago, and even today it is run by his younger brother Shri Gyanchandji Vyas and family. The other two brothers settled in Jaisalmer and are in photography business even now.
Goverdhan Das ji Vyas married Mrs Kesar Devi Vyas and she was big support even in the studio. His motto was to serve the industry 24/7. The press photographers used to come for films even at midnight and he used to service them with a smile and encouraging words. Goverdhan Das ji Vyas is blessed with five sons and all of them are in the same photography business in Hyderabad. All are very well educated. Mr Bhanwarlal Vyas and Mr Madhav Vyas joined the family business in 1965/66 which was a great support to my father. In fact Mr Madhav Vyas has done a diploma in photography from JNTU, now known as JNAFAU, and he was a good help in teaching the students of the photography institute.  His third son Dr Motilal Vyas has done his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and he worked for NASA. He has done scientific photography, he had covered the total solar eclipse of 16 February, 1980 using all types of cameras, including field, regular SLRs and telescope attached SLR camera bodies. This was first of its kind and unheard of.
The fourth and fifth sons, me and my younger brother are also associated in the same business for last more than 30 years. My father had to close the photography institute for business reasons but I wanted to continue my father’s dream of spreading the knowledge of photography, and hence stared the BYAS ACADEMY OF PHOTOGRAPHY, wherein we conduct seminars, trainings, workshops with practical sessions for all everyone, including students, amateurs, professionals and hobby photographers.
In the year 1989 we had organised the FIRST STATE PHOTOGRAPHY TRADE AND PROFESSIONALS CONVENTION at Indira Priyadarshini hall. It was graced by Ms Kumud Ben Joshi, the then Governor of our state as Chief Guest and the guests of honour were Shri N. Bhagwandas IAS, then Chief Secretary and Mr P R S Rao, Chairman and MD of Hindustan photo films. On this occasion, we felicitated all senior photographers from press, studios and traders from our state. This was appreciated by one and all.
Friends, during this long journey of nine decades, my father was always open to the changing times and challenges faced by the industry, he adapted to all the newer developments and the technology from black & white to today’s latest technology of digital photography. Now, the fourth generation of our family is also in the business, and my father has always encouraged to go for new technology, to take risks and at the same time do clean and transparent business. The idea is to care and share. 
And now BYAS PHOTOGRAPHY ACADEMY, formally started last year, holds a vision to spread the knowledge of photography among beginners, students, and others.
Every month we conduct two batches of students in a two days course of Basic Photography, apart from regular one day workshop with Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, and Sony. Sony came forward to co-sponsor the two Days Basic Photography Course for beginners since last 8 months.
Also Asian Photography sponsored their monthly magazines for our every participant who attends the workshop and basic photography course. Thanks to AP team.

Madan Gopal Vyas