The two most important characteristics of a true entrepreneur are the ability to take advantage of an opportunity to fill a need and the focus that ensures that they don’t lose sight of the big picture. Rahul Rupani (26) is a case in point.
Three years ago, when Rahul had newly joined Jabong as an operations trainee, he was given a task to find a venue for a team party to celebrate the company director’s birthday.
It proved to be a difficult job, involving many google searches, calls, emails and negotiations before a venue was finalised upon.
A venture born out of personal experience
Rahul observed that the problem he had faced was likely common. He went on to look for an online solution to this problem but didn’t find anything impressive.
He discussed the issue with two friends of his, Ritwik Sahoo (25) and Aditya Goyal (26), who were working with Tata Technology and Bosch repectively. They were all interested by the idea and agreed to pursue it together.
Two years later, the trio launched VenueMonk, an online platform that helps customers book venues for every possible occasion, in June 2015.
“Lack of availability of the right venues and vendors, standardisation issues and price disparities were the key issues in this segment in dire need of being addressed when we launched our venture. Now, VenueMonk fulfils the requirement of the consumers completely,” says Rahul, Co-founder and CEO of VenueMonk.
Rahul explains that a person planning an event can visit the VenueMonk website, where he/she shortlists venues and sends an enquiry. Our event expert verifies and understands the customer’s requirement in detail over a call and enters the verified data into the system. The system suggests venues best matching the customer’s requirements. The customer gets the venue details with pricing for the shortlisted venues and additional suggested venues from the system, and then finalises the venue, going on to book it with an advance payment.
The three co-founders started the company with an outlay of Rs 20,000. The money was spent mainly on team building. In a year’s time, the company has grown to a team size of 10, and has been growing over 30 percent month-on-month.
Currently, VenueMonk claims to work with over 1,000 venues in Delhi NCR, serving around 200 events every month. The venture charges its venue partners a marketing fee on a quarterly/annual basis.
“Our focus is on the basics – accurate data and service,” says Rahul.
Accurate data makes all the relevant data points available on the website, ensuring that the customer can make the correct decision faster and with minimum effort.
“We are continuously trying to improve our algorithms and process to enable the customer to find and book the venue in the minimum time. Currently, for corporate events and birthday parties, our average response time is 15 minutes, which includes customers getting the right venue options with customised packages suited to their requirements,” adds Rahul.
He says that they have also launched express book packages. Using express book, customers planning corporate and birthday events can directly book best-selling customised packages online at the lowest prices, thus speeding up the process for both venues and customers alike. Apart from online targeted advertising, referrals from existing customers significantly contribute to the growth of the customer base.
Rahul says that most of the venues work offline, with a large number maintaining their availability on notebooks. Getting the venues online is very important to get the real-time availability and other data that smoothen the overall event planning experience. VenueMonk is building technology to solve the problem and also getting its sales people to convince and convert venues to manager their data online.
Apart from that, gaining customer trust is another challenge. India is a trust-deficient nation, and to succeed in the events industry, it’s highly important for people to trust you. Unlike online shopping, where a wrong product delivered only affects the person who ordered it, in the case of events, any last minute surprise would affect not just one person, but all the guests attending the event. Thus, gaining their customers’ trust is really important for the team at VenueMonk. For the same, Rahul focuses on continuous learning for the whole team, ensuring that each individual becomes an expert, remains updated and keeps improving continuously, developing and maintaining good relations with venues.
India’s events market is estimated to be worth $50 billion, with venue and F&B, an extremely fragmented segment, accounting for 40 percent.
In this space, players like MegaVenues.com, BookEventZ, VenueLook, Weddingz, Eventila, MeraEvents, Venuepick and BigFday have found the market to be rife with opportunity.
BookEventZ last year raised an undisclosed amount from Mumbai angles and other investors, while Weddingz scooped up $1 million from angle investors, including Google India’s MD Rajan Anandan.
With the planning of events largely being an ordeal of discomforting magnitude, ventures like VenueMonk are sure to be a boon for many, allowing event planners to shift their focus to more pressing matters.