BollywoodShaadis.com: Online platform for wedding planning information resources

By Team YS|1st Sep 2011
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YourStory in conversation with entrepreneur Apoorv Kalra to know more about the business idea behind BollywoodShaadis.com, an online platform that aims to be an end-to-end wedding planning resource outlet. Given below are excerpts from the interview:Apoorv, introduce us to the business idea behind BollywoodShaadis.com.

Bollywoodshaadis.com is India’s first and largest wedding planning information resource portal for the soon-to-be-married. It connects the soon-to-be-married with local service providers, allowing them to choose a vendor who suits their personal style and budget.

How is BollywoodShaadis different from other service provider/vendor listings? For instance, even JustDial recently did an ad about how an entire wedding could be pulled off through them. What are your flagship differentiators?

Just like Yelp and ServiceMagic.com in USA, JustDial is a great website. However, comparing any of these websites to BollywoodShaadis.com, would be the same as comparing Filmfare magazine to the movie section of a local newspaper. Like a newspaper, these websites try to cover everything. BollywoodShaadis.com, however, is solely focused on weddings.

In addition to matching visitors with the vendors, BollywoodShaadis.com provides comprehensive wedding planning tips, expert advice and information on latest wedding trends. BollywoodShaadis.com also offers an excellent tool which enables young people to create their own personal wedding websites.

How did the business idea for BollywoodShaadis come about? How did you zero in on the name ‘BollywoodShaadis’?

The problem of finding the right vendors for the most expensive and elaborate event in one's life has always been a daunting process.

Even in the US, people face a similar experience. Paul Kalra, the chairman of BollywoodShaadis who is based in the US, noticed it first hand with his friends and clients. He carefully watched the rise of the website TheKnot.com. He wanted to do something even better for our Indian community here in India and USA. Today, our website is even more user-friendly than TheKnot.com.The main inspiration behind the domain name BollywoodShaadis.com is the entertainment industry itself and the marriage celebrations portrayed in the movies. Every about-to-be- married couple wants to add a Bollywood flair to its wedding, especially Indian brides. The domain BollywoodShaadis.com has good recall and creates curiosity in anyone who hears about it. As a side note, we actually had reviewed over a hundred domains such as HappyWeddings.com and EasyShaadis.com. We even looked at BollywoodWeddings.com, but did not feel that it connected with the common person as beautifully as BollywoodShaadis.com does.

Tell us about background of the founders.

Paul Kalra is the chairman and co-founder of the BollywoodShaadis.com group. He is responsible for setting the overall direction for the company. He graduated from the University of Delhi with a Master of Science degree. After that, he went to Canada and UCLA in California for graduate studies. Eventually, he established his career as a financial planner for the high net worth clientele.

I’m the director and co-founder at BollywoodShaadis.com. I oversee the company's business operations including product strategy, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. I received my MBA in Marketing from University of Texas at Dallas and I also hold a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management from India’s premier hotel management institute WelcomGroup Graduate School of Hotel administration.

Is there acceptance for your concept? What is the size of the market that you’re addressing?

We have grown by leaps and bounds in the last few months. Our Facebook page has gained more than 20,000 fans in a short period of time. Within just six months of the launch of BollywoodShaadis, we have more than 4000 wedding professionals registered with us. We are generating 50 to 60 leads a day for our registered vendors. The traffic on our entire network is growing at almost 50% rate every month. Recently, we also released India’s most comprehensive book on wedding planning “The Step By Step Wedding Planning Guide” and have already received 2500 download requests. We hope to bring the printed version of this book to the market in the next few months.

The latest addition to the BollywoodShaadis.com group portfolio is WeGettingMarried.com. It’s a site that enables the newly engaged couples to create personalized wedding websites for free and it has been a great success, with close to 550 websites made in just 2 months of its launch. All this simply shows that more and more newly-engaged couples in India are adopting a tech savvy approach in matters of wedding planning.

According to industry experts, the size of the wedding industry is a whopping Rs.1,90,000 crores (Source) and growing at 25% annually. India is one of the most sought-after wedding destinations in the world and people from across the world are choosing India to solemnize their wedding ceremonies in true Indian style. The market as you see is quite lucrative.

Where do you see the information resource portal space in India and BollywoodShaadis five years from now?

Informational resource portals are here to stay for a very long time, especially in the wedding planning domain. It is quite interesting when you look at it this way though people search for information on the internet, they rely on human recommendations only, preferably expert advice. Luckily, we have social media websites that make it possible to integrate human interaction with technological prowess. Every day, brides seek answers to many of their urgent questions on our website. We feel deeply gratified with the role which our advisors and the website play in meeting the needs of these brides.

Five years from now, we hope to be "everything wedding" for Indians everywhere. We plan to launch a network of schools all across the country which would train wedding planners. We are already working with a few experienced wedding planners to write text books for the curriculum. To protect the consumer from fraud and disappointment, we intend to work with the central and local governments to make the licensing and certification of wedding planners mandatory.

What is BollywoodShaadis’ revenue model? Are you looking at raising funds?

BollywoodShaadis.com is a platform for wedding professionals and business owners to build their brand value and reach the audience that is ready and willing to spend big money. Our revenue model is mainly through advertisements and sponsored listings. At present, because of the fast growth, we are spending more than we are taking in.

What are the challenges that you faced while developing your solution? How did you overcome those challenges?

The concept of wedding planning websites that can help visitors plan their wedding is fairly new. Actually, since the launch of our first website, DelhiWeddingPlanners.com, we have seen several copycat sites come up. Ours is a very dynamic website versus static or partially dynamic websites. Putting together the right team of web developers, marketing managers, writers and business developers was a tricky task. More so, because ours is a self-funded venture, we had to manage the funds in the most optimum way possible.

Another challenge was getting vendors to register with us and making them understand that we are a company which means serious business. Only after they started to notice us in the number 1 spot or on page 1 of Google for the majority of the wedding related terms, did they develop trust and respect for us.

How big is the team behind BollywoodShaadis? Are you looking at hiring?

We have a total of about 10 people working in various capacities on the website, including the two founders. The engineering team consists of a developer, designer and two programmers. Our SEO team includes four writers and SEO experts. In addition, we have recently brought on board a PR expert and are now looking for one or two experienced marketing executives. Within a year, we hope to more than double our staff.

Let us know about your expansion plans.

By the end of the year, we will be launching BollywoodShaadis.com in USA. Soon after that, we will begin working on the UK version. Within about 2 years, we hope to cover every country with a large population of Indians, such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Canada. While expanding overseas, we plan to continue to add more and more cities and states in India to our website

So, what are the data points that have reinforced your faith in the business idea behind BollywoodShaadis.com?

An average Indian wedding costs $34,000 (approx Rs. 15 lakhs) which is 30% more than an average American wedding, which typically costs about $26,000. Incidentally, it is not at all uncommon for an Indian family in USA to spend between $100,000 to $200,000 on their daughters' weddings. Also, with respect to what brides look for while searching the Internet, it’s primarily down to the following 4 items as per Google Trends:

  • Wedding website
  • Wedding shopping
  • Wedding professionals
  • Wedding planning guidance

To know more, check out www.bollywoodshaadis.com. Also, do let us know about thoughts and views by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

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