“We were planning a bachelors’ party for one of our friends and just couldn’t find all the information we needed for planning in one place,” says Rahul Rane, the Founder of MegaVenues.com. It was then he, along with Shrinivas Chaphalkar, started a marketplace for event venues that allows venue owners to list their properties such as banquet halls, open air venues, meeting and conference rooms, wedding and reception venues, art galleries and enables users to search and connect with them instantly.
“Personal and Corporate Event Planning is a billion dollar industry worldwide. We are targeting the most critical aspect of event planning which is selecting the perfect venue and providing all the tools necessary to make the most educated choice,” says Rane.
Currently, ‘Mega Venues’ operates in 8 major Indian cities: Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Goa, Kolkata and Delhi.
"If you want to plan a birthday party for a friend and invite 50 people, you should be able to browse, compare and connect to 10 potential venues within 5 minutes, without the need of making a dozen phone calls. That is what Megavenues enables you," says Chaphalkar.
'Mega Venues' not only connects the user to the venues but also, gives the users a fair comparison between venues. "Most of our competitors are into event planning and force users to connect to them for getting quotations. With Megavenues, you connect directly to venues and get instant quotes," says Rane.
Meet the Founders
‘Mega Venues’ was founded in 2013 and today, they are a team of 42 including development, design, digital marketing, business development, sales, content creation and interns.
Rahul Rane, Co-Founder and CEO
Rahul has a background in designing and deploying ecommerce and CRM solutions for clients in India and US. Earlier he has worked with Zensar Technologies and Connasys.com Pvt Ltd.
Shrinivas Chaphalkar, Co-Founder and COO
Himself a venue owner, Shrinivas brings in complete domain knowledge from the hospitality industry. Shrinivas is from a business family and has handled the branding and marketing side of City Pride Multiplexes before venturing into Megavenues.com
Journey so far
Convincing venues to list up initially was difficult as it involved a lot of concept selling and insufficient traffic or leads made it difficult to assure the venue owners that it was worth it.
Although it was a difficult start, today, ‘Mega Venues’ is generating event leads worth about Rs. 4 Cr ($700,000 +) per week.
"From the beginning, we have made all the necessary efforts to establish personal relationships with the Venues signed up with us, even if it takes our sales guys to visit them 5 times before they make the decision. This gives us access to complete authentic data from the venues and a huge edge over sites who merely enlist data," says Mansoor Shaikh, Digital Marketing Executive, "Once our model got rolling, we quickly expanded the same to more cities,” he adds.
Meanwhile, team management often becomes complicated for them as they work remotely in various cities. However, they are optimistic that the "personal touch" they wish to generate among the team will be established soon.
At present, the team is working on their ground operations for expanding to 8 more cities in India and simultaneously working on launching their product in the United States by January 2015 and 4 more countries by the end of 2015. "Considering the response we are getting in India, we are well on track," says Rane.
Working with a singular view of making 'Mega Venues' a powerful product out of India, they aim at opening up a market place for venues and users to 100% transparency. Nonetheless, "this places us at the risk of our brand name being bypassed during some interactions between users and venues," says Rane.
Fund and sustenance
Megavenues.com is bootstrapped and self-funded by the founders. They are in discussions with investors to raise funds which will help them accelerate growth and expand to cities outside India.
“The increasing amount of leads being generated from the marketplace has made sure that the venues consider Megavenues as a serious marketing channel for their event spaces. Premium marketing boost contracts and pay per lead contracts with these venues form the base of the existing revenue model. Megavenues CRM, which is our next offering to venues for managing campaigns, leads and support, is in alpha phase and being tested with some selective venues," says Shaikh.