Weddings may or may not be made in heaven, but planning them is no piece of cake as Anand and Mehak Shahani discovered in 2012. The issues they faced in finding the right venue and vendors prompted Mehak to start a wedding blog. Just two years later, in 2014, the couple launched a full-scale portal, WedMeGood, which connects brides and grooms with service providers such as photographers, make up artists, dress designers, venue planners, caterers and music bands. “It is a curated platform, more like a classified service. But all the data is verified and vendors go through quality checks before we list them,” says Shahani, adding they have tie-ups with over 7,000 vendors. The company claims that the website has seen 20 lakh unique visitors till date, while the monthly count is about 3 lakh. The app, available on both Android and iOS, has been downloaded by over 20,000 users, Shahani adds.
Indear, started by ex-Morgan Stanley investment banker Sanna Vohra, is another website trying to make a difference. Vohra talks of the harrowing experience her friend’s sister faced while planning her wedding. She had to go through multiple websites, emails and WhatsApp groups, says Vohra. The chaos and lack of organised wedding planning services gave birth to Indear. While it started off by providing information and is still largely a marketplace, Indear also sells fashion products, jewellery and gift items from various brands on its website. It also has a separate service portal where customers can book mehendi, make-up, catering services as well as venues. Besides, it offers free concierge services, wherein its team makes recommendations to clients.
These online portals are not just trying to smoothen the experience for couples, they are also tapping into what is a chaotic and fragmented market. “The online shift in the wedding segment is similar to the Zomato story. Inherently, it is scalable,” says US-based entrepreneur Hemant Kanakia, who has invested in WedMeGood. Industry insiders estimate the Indian wedding market at $40-50 billion. Not surprisingly then, a lot of start-ups have entered the segment in the past 15 months.
Former restaurateur Manas Wadhwa got into the business when the search for a good caterer for his cousin’s wedding went sour. WeddingPlz, founded in 2014, has 45,000 verified vendors listed on its portal and is present in five cities. It provides services across 43 categories right from security, venue, catering to even astrology. Moreover, it provides a 360-degree virtual tour of the venue besides online tools like a wedding calendar, budget manager, photo gallery etc. “We provide category, location and region-specific searches for vendors, something that our competitors don’t offer currently,” he says, adding that WeddingPlz sees 5 lakh unique visitors per month.
The average wedding spend in the country is estimated at Rs.10 lakh (for the middle class segment). Shahani’s target audience is upper-middle class, where couples are willing to spend Rs.20 lakh though he adds they have something for every budget. While it doesn’t charge users, WedMeGood charges a subscription fee from its vendors on a quarterly or six-monthly basis. Shahani claims that the company has 200 vendors, who pay a subscription fee upwards of Rs.2,000 per month. Just like search engines, priority listing means a higher charge. The duo add that 80% of WedMeGood’s revenue comes from subscriptions and 20% through marketing tie-ups.
While WedMeGood charges vendors for listing, Vohra’s Indear makes money by charging a commission for every product/service. “Most other wedding companies list vendors without due checks, which means their quality suffers,” says Vohra. Indear has seen 2 million unique visitors on its portal. WeddingPlz though charges vendors for advertising on its platform, which accounts for its Rs.5 lakh monthly revenue besides transaction fees collected from vendors listed on the site.
The consensus seems to be that mere lead generation is not sustainable. “Merely generating leads and listing vendors won’t work. Eventually, online wedding portals will have to move to the transaction model where vendors charge customers and give commission to the portal, especially for services like catering and venues,” says Alok Mittal, co-founder, Indian Angel Network, who is an investor in WedMeGood.
While there is no doubt that the online wedding market will grow, it is currently restricted to metros and tier-I cities. Besides expanding reach, experts also advocate in-house services. Rishi Parti, angel investor and MD, Info-X Software, says, “Online wedding portals will have to provide some services in-house such as photography, make up, mehendi etc. as consumers will benefit from standardised services. This, coupled with the transaction model, is the way ahead.”
For you, if the wedding bells are ringing already, you may want to visit these websites before you say the magic words — I do.