The Indian wedding industry is the second largest in the world, behind the US. Considered an important milestone for families, weddings are flamboyant affairs in India, so much so that an average Indian spends nearly one-fifth of their life’s earnings on weddings.
More than 10 Mn weddings take place in India each year, amounting to a staggering 30K weddings a day! The estimated market value of the Indian wedding industry is $50 Bn, with a growth rate of 30% per annum. As per data available, an average Indian spends an estimated one-fifth of his/her lifetime wealth on weddings.
With such huge stakes, it’s no wonder that Indian startups are gearing up to solve the problems in the wedding market, armed with the latest tech.
The changing trends, lifestyles and exposure to digital wedding solutions has changed how Indians view weddings these days.
How Tech Has Changed The Game For Wedding Startup Industry
With a solid 15-20% growth rate year-on-year currently, the market has huge untapped potential in India leading to the launch of more than 20 wedding startups in the last few years such as WeddingBrigade, OYO-owned Weddingz.in, Shaadimagic.com, WedMeGood, Weddingplz, Planningwale, Marrily, ShaadiSaga and many others.
These startups are working on creating the right models by adapting to the changing trends in the Indian wedding market.
“The wedding segment was not highly advanced in terms of technology when we were starting out. Triggered by this idea, we launched Weddingz.in to satisfy the increasing need for the new-age, tech-savvy customers to provide a reliable and organised wedding venue along with other supplementary offerings,” Sandeep Lodha, CEO, Weddingz.in, told Inc42.
Weddingz provides end-to-end solutions for quick discovery of a wide range of services and information related to availability, budgeting and transaction facilities on a single platform. “The USP is simple- a one-stop shop with complete transparency to facilitate a great event at guaranteed best prices,” Lodha added.
The idea is to make wedding preparation a happy hassle-free and convenient experience while simplifying the lengthy and tedious process. Founded in 2015, the startup has more than 2K employees and aims to reach 3000 by the end of 2019. In November, the startup executed 4000+ events across India that were flawlessly executed with a solid NPS of 75%.
Shaadi Squad, the wedding startup that organised one of the most famous weddings in recent times – Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli’s ceremony — and the engagement of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, offers a range of services including logistics management, vendor management. This includes not only recommending vendors, but also negotiating with them, coordinating with them right till execution and delivery. Further, it also offers budget management and guest management services, all interlinked through tech tools and a messaging platform.
Customisation is what these startups work in the market. Couples want to make their big day as unique and creative as possible, while still adhering to traditions. To make this wish come alive, the wedding startups bet high on creating a tech stack.
“We say we are not wedding planners, but a production company. This is because we, the founders, all come from filmmaking backgrounds. Hence, the transition from creating concepts for the screen to making one’s dream wedding come to life was a very natural one,” Shaadi Squad cofounder Tina Tharwani told Inc42.
In terms of technology innovation, these startups are constantly updating their services, apps and web-based tools in-line with current trends. “For us, a wedding is a production with the bride and groom being the protagonists, and everyone else playing a supporting role,” Tharwani added.
Founded by Kanika Subbiah, Tanvi Saraf and Sathish Subramanian in 2016, Wedding Wishlist is a wedding gift registry and wedding management platform. While the gift registry has remained at the core of its services, over the time, Wedding Wishlist has developed into a complete, tech-driven wedding platform for couples.
The company is based out of Chennai and offers services across India. While it started out by focussing on making gift registry an essential part of the wedding planning process for couples in our country, it’s expanded beyond that into vendor management, budgeting, and guest management experiences.
“Every day, we have over 200 prospective couples signing up to our website. I believe with weddings being a fairly recession-proof industry, there is a lot of potential growth for wedding startups,” said Kanika Subbiah, founder, Wedding Wishlist.
Wedding Wishlist provides the following products and services other than gift registry:
- Wedding Website – The couples can create a free wedding website for themselves, where they incorporate their story, function details.
- Invites – From printed to designer invites, video invites and more, the platform offers a wide variety of themes/ invite templates at different prices.
- Checklist – A customisable countdown to the wedding so that the couple doesn’t forget smallest of detail before the big day.
- Budget Planner – Track, manage, record and split all the wedding expenses with this tool. This is a free offering.
- Vendors – A platform where couples can use search for the right vendor for them by city, service or budget and contact them.
Indian Startups With End-to-End Wedding Stacks
“We have the entire tech stack and we pose as an online marketplace for all wedding related services,” added Lodha. Wedding startups focus largely on being a one-stop solution for couples. The biggest challenge one faces when planning a wedding in India, is that it is so difficult to manage the planning and executing an entire wedding on a limited budget in a limited period of time. This is where these wedding planning companies come into play.
“Our competitors tend to focus on just one part of the puzzle – one only focuses on venues, one only works on content, and another focuses on photography and makeup. However, none are actually solving the bigger problem – how do you entirely remove the stress of planning a wedding?,” Sanna Vohra, CEO and founder, The Wedding Brigade told Inc42.
The startup works through four verticals:
- Content business where they write original articles, produce videos and share inspiration/ideas with our community
- An ecommerce platform with affordable wedding fashion, costume jewellery, gifts and favours and accessories from over 250 brands
- A services booking website where customers can book venues, makeup artists, photographers and more with the help of a free concierge service
- Banqueting business and app.
- Incorporated in 2016, Mumbai-based The Wedding Brigade plans to scale up the banqueting business and grow eCommerce business.
- The services offered by the Indian wedding startups range from beautiful and spacious venues, managed themed décor along with end-to-end catering, in-house photographers to choreographers, makeup artists. The team of experts also work very closely with local artisans and craftsmen, designers, local talent and artists to ensure a picture-perfect celebration.
“The Wedding Brigade provides the perfect solution to the problem at hand, as we are the only company that has an end-to-end solution for any couple and/or family planning a wedding,” Vohra added.
Weddings For All Budgets
Pricing is the reflection of everything the wedding startups do. With India being a country of diverse cultures and traditions, nothing defines the wedding business more than the price point offered.
The startups charge from INR 3 Lakh for an event for 400 guests to INR 7-8 lakh for 300 guests for premium venues and crores in case of celebrity weddings. “I believe the increasing disposable income as well as India’s shifting focus towards premiumization have led to the growth of the wedding industry. In the past couple of years, we’ve observed many cities across India accept the concept of a well-organised wedding through tech-enabled offerings such as ours,” said Lodha.
Couples across income groups are choosing to have waste-free weddings. No single-use plastics, donating extra food, going paperless or using local vendors are all very common wedding planning decisions couples today take, in addition to asking guests to contribute to a charity in their name.
All of these indicate towards a generation of millennials who prefer conscious, waste-free and meaningful celebrations and thus making wedding planners take cost into account.
“Anyone who is in the market needs to be able to provide solutions to families across price points, religions, and cultures. Although this makes it challenging to build a very robust portal, it is also really exciting to be able to deliver a multi-faceted solution,” The Wedding Brigade’s Vohra told us.
“Making expectations and budgets meet. Everyone, of course, wants nothing but the best but may not be willing to spend as much,” added Shaadi Squad’s Tharwani.
Competing Over Weddings
While weddings are an important milestone in western cultures, their guest lists are much smaller. Western cultures spend more on photography, wedding outfits and rings than Indian counterparts. Western weddings are usually a short ceremony followed by a simple reception. While in India, weddings tend to be opulent and days-long affairs with multiple functions.
However, a few trends every year trickle down from western markets. For example, brides and grooms in India have started to lead their own wedding planning unlike earlier times when it was left to the parents and others in the family. Another big trend is stylish and high-tech photography with drones not uncommon at larger settings.
However, tech driven millennials and the fact that Indians marry relatively early in life and are hence more likely to adopt technology, means that there is tonnes of competition in this sector.
Sumit Sahni is the founder of Sumit Productions, a digital photography and cinematography studio that earns a lot of its business from weddings. “There is so much competition these days in the wedding market, so to stay in the market one needs to be best in their work, provide the best service otherwise survival is difficult. Hence, for vendors there is a wide market opportunity, but they need to be efficient and unique, It’s all about quality,” he told us.
In terms of challenges, despite extensive planning and multiple run-throughs, there can always be certain situations that would not be in our control.
“It could be bad weather during an open roof wedding or unavailability of resources for décor or catering. However, the key is to foresee the potential challenges and keep an alternative or Plan B for such situations,” says Weddingz.in’s Lodha.
Another challenge is that customer lifespan is relatively short (from when a couple gets engaged to when they get married), which means these startups have to keep spreading awareness to an ever-changing core target audience.
However, despite the challenges, growing opportunities is much more in the wedding industry than any other. By 2020, India may become the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29, accelerating the growth of the wedding industry further. Given the changing dynamics of Indian weddings, the rapid tech adoption and the need to have the best trendiest wedding in town, new and interactive approaches are welcomed and innovation is the norm, rather than the exception. It’s a great time to be a wedding startup.