BANGALORE: While marriages may be made in heaven, young couples in India are increasingly relying on online sites to plan and execute their dream weddings.
Social changes and the pulls and pressures of professional life have left little time for couples to plan their big day the old-fashioned way. This has resulted in many tech-savvy brides and grooms turning to a number of niche online platforms specializing in wedding-related services.
"It just wasn't working out," says Delhi's Sandhya Dhir about her initial efforts to put together a plan for her wedding in Goa this November. Dhir, 28, travelled to Goa and tried contacting decorators, make-up artists and mehendi designers, but to no avail
"I was still clueless on who the right people are." Dhir was on the verge of changing the venue when she heard of '7Vachan,' an online platform specializing in organizing weddings. She got in touch with the company, which assigned a planner to take care of all her needs through the site and by phone, including shopping for her trousseau and jewellery.
I only have weekends off and don't have the time to visit 10 different vendors, haggle over the prices and finalize everything," says Dhir, who has a budget of about Rs lakh for the two-day event. Other ventures that specialize in online wedding planning include Shaadi-e-Khas, MyShaadi, SayShaadi, ShaadiMagic and Weddings9. They are placing their bets on the mammoth wedding market in India, which is worth about $25 billion (about Rs 1.6 lakh crore) and growing rapidly. "It is a large market but completely unorganized," says Manish Grover, 28, founder of ShaadiMagic, a directory that lists more than one lakh vendors.
"Through online, couples can reach out to vendors from across the country on a single platform." The two-year-old company is targeting revenue of Rs 60 crore in 2018. Murugavel Janakiraman, founder of online matchmaking site Bharat Matrimony, says it is a natural progression from finding spouses on the net.
"People have realised online is convenient," says Janakiraman, who also runs Matrimony Directory, an online directory of vendors covering over 10 cities. Minnat Lalpuria, the 28-year-old founder of 7Vachan, says social changes are also partly responsible.
"Earlier families would organise the wedding. Now couples want to do it on their own, the way they want it." Lalpuria launched 7Vachan last year after finishing her MBA from Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.
The company, which charges between Rs 2,100 and Rs 11,000 for its services, is aiming for revenue of Rs 5 crore by fiscal 2014. The migration of young working professionals to cities is another factor.
"Couples who work in metros travel to their town of origin only a few days ahead of their wedding and so cannot rely on just their family networks," says Abhishek Jain, 28, who founded MyShaadi two years ago. The company, which provides software that helps in the planning and organising of wedding-related events, has raised angel funding from Google India head Rajan Anandan and serial entrepreneur Rehan Yar Khan, among others.
Jain charges between Rs 900 and Rs 1,999 depending on the kind of software package. Khan, who is a part of the Indian Angel Network, says it is the ability of MyShaadi to help couples put together their wedding without resorting to expensive wedding planners that lured him into investing. Though these weddings are not exactly constrained by tight budgets, Bharat Kanodia, 34, founder of two-year-old Shaadi-e-Khas, says couples want to ensure they get maximum value.
Kanodia came up with the idea of Shaadi-e-Khas when organizing his brother's wedding. "It was not easy at all and I thought an ERP (enterprise resource planning)-like product would make life simpler."
The software allows users to send invites, create a wedding site, manage guests, create and send automated reminders as well as manage budget and tasks. The company, whose product has been used for over 21,000 weddings so far, is targeting revenue of Rs 30 crore in 2015. It is not just couples who are reaping the benefits.
Even small vendors are also able to cash in on the success of such ventures. SayShaadi, founded in January, acts as a marketplace to connect couples with vendors. Its founder, Nithin Baalay, 28, is testing out the site in his home city of Hyderabad for now. The site provides vendors personalized dashboards through which they can showcase their past work.
Mumbai-based photographer Aviraj Saluja has been using SayShaadi since it was in testing. "I can ask prospective clients to check out my portfolio on the site. It is a good marketing tool," says Saluja, a former internet marketing professional. Baalay says his experience of organizing weddings for cousins and friends helped.
"I had to do a lot of running around," says Baalay. "My wedding, when it happens, will not be that difficult now."
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