Last summer, Sandeep Lodha went to attend his cousin brother’s wedding in Orissa. He realised, when it came to organising a wedding, nothing much had changed even 15 years after he got married.
It was the same feeling of being anxious and clueless about which vendor to choose and which venue to narrow down on. There was very little support and the family had to do the running around to get vendors and get them to do the preparations on time. But Sandeep saw this as an opportunity.
Having graduated from IIT in 1997, and completing his MBA from The Wharton School in 2006, Sandeep had found a good footing in Bain & Company. But three years later he moved back to India with dreams of turning an entrepreneur. “India came across as a natural choice in so many ways. It’s your country and you know the market, while being comfortable with it. Moreover, you understand the psyche of Indian customers, thereby increasing your chances of success,” says Sandeep, 40.
However, the timing did not seem right. So after a few more years at Bain & Company, Sandeep joined Disney India in 2013 to lead the consumer products division.
It was attending his cousin’s weding in 2014 that finally led him to take the entrepreneurial plunge and in 2015, Sandeep founded Weddingz.in.
Weddingz – From inspirations to deals
Weddingz, launched in May 2015, is a wedding platform that allows consumers to discover, book, and buy all wedding-related products and services. The platform also allows brides and grooms to get inspired from the large collection of wedding photos available.
But it took quite some convincing to take the jump, “It’s never easy to #startup, especially when you have a family to cater to. But I was lucky to have a strong network of individuals to back me,” Sandeep says.
Between October and November, Weddingz launched operations in 11 cities–including Delhi, Pune, Goa, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer–and lists above 2,000 venues and vendors each on the platform. The team is now 80-people strong. Of this, 20 are in customer support as Sandeep believes strongly in delighting his users.
On the traction front, Sandeep says that the business is growing 50 per cent month-on-month. The platform witnesses traffic of 50,000 users every month with over 800 customers served in the month of November. This number grew from 450 in October. The platform received over 100 venue bookings in November, compared to 70 bookings in October, with an average ticket size of about Rs 3 lakh. Venue bookings contribute to a majority of his revenues. Sandeep is targeting to grow his business 100 times by end of next year across metrics like bookings and traffic. He, however, did not want to reveal current or target revenues. Sandeep says, “What we are seeing is a strong and growing demand that we are unable to fulfil. Moreover, there is no dull moment in this industry. Weddings are an exciting space to be and you have so many options to explore new products and services here.”
Sandeep claims the business broke even within two months of launch in Mumbai. The venture is currently funded by family, friends, and HNIs.
In order to meet the increasing demand, the platform is focussing on automating venue bookings. It is also introducing a real-time 360 degree view of the venue so customers can make an informed decision. This helps in shortlisting a venue as, Sandeep says, most customers prefer to do a physical recce before finalising.
The firm also plans to launch its mobile application in the next three months. Weddingz also intends to add more features like help customers plan honeymoons or create a gift registry.
In 2014, the wedding planning industry was touted to be a $ 38 billion market place growing at 25–30 per cent, according to Conde Nast India. The industry is extremely fragmented and dominated by offline wedding planners and vendors in each city and town of India. The online space has also seen the emergence of a few players like 7Vachan, MyShadi, Weddings9, urbanrestro and getyourvenue. These either offer end-to-end wedding planning services or are focused on a single service, like venue booking.
Almost every transaction category, from shopping to getting a plumber, is moving online especially in Indian cities. That is clearly happening in the wedding segment too. When it comes to wedding purchases and decisions the bride is increasingly the major decision maker in Urban India. The fact that women are expected to make up over 40 per cent of the 100 million online shoppers in India next year, according to a report by Google and Forrester Consulting, is good news for these online wedding planners. Marriages might be made in heaven, but, pretty soon, big fat Indian weddings will be organised online.