When Neha and Puneet Aggarwal went on their honeymoon to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, they pieced together an itinerary based on information gathered online. After their 25-day honeymoon, they returned home wishing they had planned better. If only they had been able to consult somebody who had travelled to those places, they sighed. So when one of their friends wanted to go on a honeymoon, Puneet and Neha planned it for the couple. Such was the success of the honeymoon itinerary that word spread and others who were getting married started queuing up for a honeymoon plan. That’s how Puneet evolved into HoneymoonSwami.
No to breakfast, yes to local beer
Neha and Puneet started HoneymoonSwami in 2008, in their small home office in Faridabad. “Our sole aim was to help couples avoid the pitfalls of a badly planned honeymoon itinerary,” Puneet recalls. They began with a capital of Rs. 50,000.
By then, they already had over two years of experience planning honeymoons for all their friends. Around then, Puneet wrote a blog about their honeymoon story, and why there was a need for a consulting service for honeymooning couples. The blog went viral, and couples started approaching them. “I still remember my first meeting with Sameer and Kanu, the first couple who took our service. I met them in Greater Kailash, New Delhi. They liked the whole idea that they could just enjoy the wedding and assign the task of research and designing the honeymoon to a domain expert. When we asked if they had any special requests to be incorporated into their honeymoon plan, they told me NOT to include breakfast (which is included as a default at most of the hotels) because they would wake up late and miss breakfast. They wanted the mini-bar complimentary, and filled with special local beer,” Puneet remembers. This gave him an insight that small things done right can add a ‘Wow’ touch to the honeymoon.
That is how the-first-of-its-kind consulting service for honeymooners was born.
“HoneymoonSwami is a one-stop solution with a team of destination experts who can help honeymooners design a bespoke itinerary, which matches their preferences, likes, dislikes, and incorporates their bucket list of things-to-do on their trip. This allows the couple to enjoy their wedding and outsource their honeymoon worries to us,” Puneet explains.
Puneet gives three main reasons why couples use their services:
1) They do not have time to plan their honeymoon because they are busy with the wedding.
2) They are super excited about the honeymoon and don’t want to risk anything going wrong on this very special trip.
3) In 95% of the cases, the couple do not want to go to a place they have been to before.
HoneymoonSwami’s consulting services are backed by a no-questions-asked Money Back Guarantee, which is valid till the time the honeymooners return from their trip.
A degree called Certified Honeymoon Planner
The wedding market in India is pegged at INR 3500 billion, according to a NetScribe report. “We believe, on a honeymoon, a couple spends 10-15% of their wedding expenses. Going by this assumption, the honeymoon market should be around INR 350 billion,” Puneet says.
“I wish there was a degree called Certified Honeymoon Planner,” he quips while talking about his credentials. His travel education has been through his own holidays. Besides HoneymoonSwami, he has been running another company for 13 years selling herbs and Ayurvedic products.
Currently, HoneymoonSwami is a six-member team, including Neha and Puneet. They are happy to say: “Since we started simple with a basic consulting service, we were cash-positive from Day 1. We aim to remain that way.”
Though there are big travel companies like Cox and Kings, Thomas Cook, and a few boutique travel firms which offer tailor-made honeymoon packages, none have a consulting model like HoneymoonSwami. “We offer consulting or mentoring on the honeymoon to the couple. The consulting fee is a percentage of their honeymoon budget. This gives them a flexibility to get advice, get clarity, and get a customised plan. Once they have a plan in place, they are flexible to book it either through us or from any other company. There are no players who offer only the planning bit of it. They are more interested in selling the product than offering advice.”
An insider tip he gives us is that “most times, the honeymoon package costs more than the sum of its parts. People think that by taking a package, they have bagged a deal but it is quite the contrary.”
HoneymoonSwami does have a few challenges. Today, the traveller can make a few phone calls, or fill a few forms on the web, and packages and quotes from various travel companies will start flowing into their mailbox. The traveller then tends to forget about the itinerary and finer details, and start comparing the quotes looking at the price. Also, couples frequently ask their friends and family for advice on selecting a destination without any clarity about their budget. “What they don’t realise is that their friends have gone to just the one place, and hence cannot offer a comparison or a bird’s eye view. Also, they might have travelled during a different season, on a different budget, and have a different set of tastes and preferences. This remains our biggest challenge, but one that we love to solve,” Puneet says.
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