Weddings, just like in most parts of the world, make a big industry in India. Of course, India has its own flamboyant and diverse customs and traditions, not to forget we have the concept of arranged marriages. There are a lot of stakeholders--in this case members of the family--so weddings are most painful to organize, without a doubt!
This industry in India, exploited as it is, is a niche that enjoys enormous amount of business throughout the wedding season, which in most cases is all year round for different people of different communities in different parts of the country.
Lots of avenues open up for many service providers such as wedding hall providers, caterers, photographers, priests/pundits, astrologers, designers, decorators, honeymoon planners, wedding planners, and the works. With a much sophisticated approach, weddings nowadays have become more like an event management affair for many families in India. Amid all this, getting a hold of all of these folks who provide the necessary services is sheer pain as experienced by many such customers who are about to tie the knot.
This is where a startup from Hyderabad, Sayshaadi.com, hopes to offer some respite.
The idea behind SayShaadi originated in 2010 when the founder and CEO, Nithin Baalay, moved back to India from the United States.
He realized the strenuous process a family goes through during the wedding with little or no information available online. It's almost impossible for common folks to organize a wedding without friends and family members helping out, or being able to negotiate good prices with vendors.
Although at that time Nithin was working with BuyThePrice.com as CTO, he didn't put much thought into his idea. BuyThePrice.com was an e-commerce venture which was later acquired by Tradus.
Two years later, when he moved on, he realized there wasn't such a platform that existed. That's when he put in extensive research on both vendor and client side to come up with Sayshaadi.com.
Of course, in the age of Internet startups, leveraging the best in Web technology is very important. If it helps, soon-to-be-wed couples and their families can easily and efficiently manage everything leading up to the big day. After working on the site meticulously, Sayshaadi.com was launched on June 16, 2013.
Nithin said the company aims to take the agony out of planning a wedding and one that's beyond the ordinary. It wants to help couples and their family simplify things and make the whole process hassle-free, by leveraging technology to make sure they cherish every bit of those once-in-a-lifetime moments.
SayShaadi aims to address the following customer concerns:
- Who are the best vendors in the city for the wedding?
- From traditional search today, instead of showing a list of 200 vendors with just a phone number, can customers find the best vendors with a bunch of smart filters?
- Before they pick up the phone, can they learn more about the vendor, their work, previous work, and so on?
- Where can the clients see real reviews from real customers who have used certain vendors before?
- Are the prices and vendors reasonable and efficient?
According to Nithin, the startup's target audience is the new-age city crowd who spend most of they day in their cubicles in a multinational corporation and cannot venture out to plan their wedding. This is the premium crowd who care about the quality of their lavish weddings and also NRIs (non-resident Indians) who want to save their elderly parents organizing their wedding from the unwanted trouble.
Some key features SayShaadi offers include:
- Vendor Search. Short-lists vendors in the couple's city. Use of smart filters to generate a smaller list. For example, it will show a list of venues in Delhi which can seat up to 1,000 people, provide 200 carpark lots, with airconditioning, and which has a liquor license. Unlike the current lead-generation websites, the list is much shorter and couples learn everything about the vendors before they actually call or visit the office.
- Vendor Profiles. Apart from the usual information about vendors like their phone number, address, rating, and previous work reviews, they have detailed FAQs which each vendor needs to answer in detail. This is of great help for vendors as they can avoid information-only calls as well as the clients. The vendor can also be introduced to potential customers on the Web platform, which is a bonus for market players that don't have a Web presence.
- Showcase. It's a gallery which features bridal saree in red with specific handicraft from the best vendors as well as photos from actual weddings. It's a great place to start to find out the latest trends and get ideas.
- My Wedding. This is the user's account where couples are provided a basic checklist for the wedding. They can shortlist vendors and save the information in the user account. Couples also can save and share photos from the showcase and playlists, and share these with friends, family, and vendors. For example, before a client meets a decorator, the bride can open up a link of the kinds of decorations she likes and check with the vendor if he is able to provide these.
- Marketplace. If the couple prefers to plan their wedding the old-fashioned way, SayShaadi enables them to do so by making the process transparent so, for instance, clients can post requirements and vendors bid for the project.
- Deals and Events. The site showcases exclusive deals offered by vendors. Events section features all wedding-related events in the city the couple lives.
- Songs. A modern Indian wedding is incomplete without songs and party. SayShaadi has compiled the best-of-songs suitable for weddings, sangeet (or music), and dance parties. Couples can save the playlist and share it with friends or the DJ.
SayShaadi is currently self-funded and will soon look to raise some money to help the startup expand into all major cities in India. And currently we are small team of full-timers, part-timers and freelancers. Nithin started off alone, building out the IT platform and also working on the business development.
"I believe in the lean startup model and lead most of the teams here," he said. "The sales team then came onboard, which helped us sign up vendors quickly, and conducted hundreds of calls to explain the model before the launch. Apart from the hires, the biggest contributions have come from friends and acquaintances who helped us build this out. Suhruda, Mira, Nagarani, Nitisha, Rohini, Megha and Naveen have all helped us with where we are today."
He is a product guy loves the Web, a believer in the lean startup idea, and a computer science engineer.
Pretty interesting startup and a market that hasn't been penetrated all that much in India. How far will it go and how it evolves is yet to be seen. What are your thoughts about it?