You would see this at nearly every Indian family wedding – guests hogging the cameramen, binging on delicacies and having their share of fun and dance. It’s a big party, unless you are the family busy arranging the food, decorations, celebrations and the logistics. Sometimes, the bride and groom are also forced to manage last-minute requirements of guests and cannot even enjoy their big day. No wonder, the host families and the couple are most relieved when the wedding functions conclude.
Despite this disappointing overview, weddings are big business in India. The Indian wedding industry is the second largest in the world, behind the US. The estimated market value of the Indian industry is $50 Bn and more than 10 Mn weddings take place in India each year. And as we are in the age of disruption through tech, weddings have also become a target of a technology upgrade.
India’s first taste of technology and weddings was through matchmaking platforms such as BharatMatrimony and Shaadi.com, but that was just an extension of the age-old classifieds approach. The real disruption has come from tech platforms such as Wedding Wishlist. While grand weddings such as the ones for Isha Ambani and Shloka Mehta (daughter and daughter-in-law of Mukesh Ambani respectively) have left the world in awe, the real work and planning behind these beautiful weddings was done by full-stack wedding management platforms, such as Wedding Wishlist.
Chennai-based Wedding Wishlist was founded in 2016 and began life as a wedding gift registry. Kanika Subbiah, Tanvi Saraf and Sathish Subramanian, the founders, extended Wedding Wishlist’s model to become an app-based platform with a multitude of services such as guest management, logistics, private social media experience and more.
The company has raised over $290K (INR 2 Cr) in seed funding from angel investors such as ex-Facebook India managing director Kirthiga Reddy, Multiples Equity founder Renuka Ramanath as well as friends and family.
Creating A Wedding Wishlist For Urban Millennials
Talking to Inc42, Subbiah said Wedding Wishlist started as a gift registry for couples about to tie the knot, but after seeing a friend struggle with managing the unwanted and useless gifts, they thought of doing more with tech. Their primary audience is the urban millennial population, and this segment is always willing to embrace tech even for traditional events.
The couples that sign up on Wedding Wishlist’s platform for the gift registry can add gifts from any website (in India) to their list and can also do cash gifts, holidays and charities.
However, with the evolution of Indian weddings, there was a clear need to build on the gift registry model. While gift registries opened up avenues in the Indian market for a wedding manager and digital, automated solutions for many of the wedding-related tasks. Today, Wedding Wishlist offers products and services beyond the gift registry. This includes creating a wedding website, virtual invites, checklists, budget planner, and community-centric apps for guests, to manage logistics, customised motifs and more.
In the past year, the team has serviced 130 wedding registry clients. It also claims to have 250 sign-ups on average by prospective couples per day. The team has sold over 3,900 digital invites and created 1075 wedding websites.
Subbiah told us that it’s seeing most traction in metros — Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. However, that said, lately couples from Tier 2 cities such as Chandigarh, Lucknow, Ahmedabad are also signing up.
The wedding website, in simple terms, is a blog for the couple, where they can share their story, plans and details about the wedding. The startup offers a Vowed app, where it lets couples add guests who can then share photos and much more from the wedding in real-time, making it easier for everyone to have access to a personalised photo album. No more waiting to get all the pictures on WhatsApp.
The Challenge Of Organising Gifting In India
The founders told us that gifting at Indian weddings is an extremely sensitive subject and each attendee has a different idea of what they want to give. Many just resort to plain old cash, allowing the couple to pick their gifts. So educating and making couples aware about such a gifting option needed a mindset change, and that couldn’t happen overnight.
“Our greatest challenge initially was to spread awareness about this service, as well as help couples and guests move beyond any social apprehensions they had. The other challenge for us has been that so far there are no prominent players operating in this space; and with lack of competition comes a lack of other brands educating and developing the market,” Subbiah told Inc42.
Another challenge was managing the customer’s lifespan as it is relatively short in the wedding business — it’s just a few months between a couple getting engaged and when they get married. So the company has to ensure extracting maximum value while also spreading awareness to an ever-changing core target audience.
“With Wedding Wishlist, with gift registry at the centre, we have invested heavily into developing wedding technologies, DIY products and allied wedding services so our brand can stay relevant even to couples who choose not to do a registry also,” Subbiah said about what sets the startup apart from its competition. She also pointed out the company’s wise decisions around spending as a the also plan, invest and spend wisely and allocate our funds in pockets where we know it is practical to do so,”
Ready For The Smart Wedding Trend
India’s wedding passion met technology came with the launch of BharatMatrimony.com in 2001, and soon the market saw other classified-based wedding listing platform such as Shaadi.com.
As weddings became more festive, the trend for multiple functions, parties and destination weddings brought on wedding management platforms such as WeddingBrigade, OYO-owned Weddingz.in, Shaadimagic.com, WedMeGood, and ShaadiSaga.
As tech-driven events become the next big thing in the Indian wedding market, Wedding Wishlist is also looking at the B2B angle to capitalise on this massive business. It recently launched a marketplace for wedding planners, designers, florists and other stakeholders in the wedding management chain. This should open up more options for couples and allows the company to open up a B2B revenue stream.
Subbiah told us that Wedding Wishlist is looking to raise its next round of funding in 2019 and aims to continue building the technology backend to add more features, services, apps and web-based tools to keep up with changing wedding trends. Celebrity weddings are a big influencer on the market and with each such big wedding, the needs of the clientele changes as well. So having the B2B partners on board allows Wedding Wishlist to accommodate these trends.
“As of now, we feel the Indian market itself is quite huge and there is a lot of space that is untapped by this potential trend of gift registry. We would like to focus more towards building this up in the Indian market.”
Subbiah believes that tapping the right models, and taking the lead to adapt to the changing trends in the Indian wedding market are essential elements in the Indian context. She said there has been a gradual increase in the number of clients who want a grand wedding, but with minimal wastage and minimal management. And she is quick to add Wedding Wishlist has built up the tools to potentially tap this market of what she calls smart weddings.