Mumbai-based WowVenue takes the planning out of celebrations by aggregating venues, decor, catering, photography and other services. With the hospitality market pegged at more than Rs 100,000 crore, there’s a reason why this startup is celebrating.
Jonathan Goodwin, a financial consultant, is looking for a venue in Mumbai for his son’s wedding. He wants a property in the Juhu region, will have 300-odd guests and wants the wedding to be celebrated by the beach. But all the places he looked at, including hotels, quoted exorbitant rates. He then went to WowVenue, which helped him discover a property at a 40 per cent lower rate.
“This is an on-demand property much like the applications I use to find rooms,” Goodwin says.
Say hello to WowVenue. WowVenue was founded by two entrepreneurs who spent 16 years in advertising. They soon realised they were discovering venues for clients regularly and could productise the service on demand basis.
Ganesh Rai, a graduate from Mangalore University, and Geeta Rawtani, a graduate from Mumbai University, had two things in common when they became friends. They came from entrepreneurial families and were keen to do things on their own.
“We realised people did not know how to choose their venues based on the occasion. Most of them settled for settings instead of finding a venue that offers them the real thing,” says Geeta, co-founder of WowVenue. She adds that there are plenty of options available – including settings from a movie or other venues in or outside India – but people just don’t know how to find them.
For three years, the duo worked hard to understand the pain points of the customer, and went on to launch the WowVenue portal in August 2016.
The idea was to bring all venue owners under one roof, be it 5-star hotels, standalone banquet facilities or family-run businesses, and – in time – become the largest venue aggregator in India.
Currently, WowVenue has more than 500 clients and the business offers a choice of more than 1,000 venues in India. The founders are planning to scale up the business across the world with a mobile responsive web platform. An app is planned to be launched in three months and WowVenue hopes to add 5,000 venues by the end of next year. The company claims to have entertained more than 10,000 users in under a year. The company has 16 categories of venue services listed on their website.
The company signs up venues only after thorough verification; for this, they contact local venue owners associations. Once you book a venue on the website, the company offers turnkey solutions – from getting the venue to executing the event with decor and food.
WowVenue has invested less than Rs 1 crore in the business and did not disclose revenues as this is the first year it has been operating. The company works on a full payment basis like most businesses in the events trade, taking a cut of 7-10 per cent from the venue owner. The venue owner pays a percentage of the total booking to WowVenue.
“The business model has grown larger than we ever thought. We are talking of building designer venues and bringing in vegan food for parties now,” Geeta says.
WowVenue is working on expanding into south-east Asia, Spain and a few European destinations.
“We are trying to fit in international destinations for corporates and social events within budgets. Indians want bachelor parties in Vegas and marriages in Spain,” Geeta says.
For the future, the company is investing heavily on the robustness of its website to handle scale.
Technology helps WowVenue ensure that a client receives the best customer service, from inquiry to venue selection. The search is tuned to a customer’s needs and the website allows users an easy interface to choose from thousands of unique venues. Three clicks can get a client to the desired venue. The sales team captures the customer requirements and closes in on customisation by interfacing with the customer on the website.
The booking dashboard allows individuals to transact online with no human interface to settle the transaction or cancel the booking.
According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the market size for hospitality is more than Rs 100,000 crore and is dominated by family run businesses.
Geeta and Ganesh want to capture 1 per cent of this market over the next five years and believe they can do so with technology.
V Ganapathy, CEO of Axilor Ventures, is in agreement. “If the entrepreneurs know the business that they are going after then they make money,” he says.
The market for on-demand services is big in India. The travel space is aggregated by biggies like MakeMyTrip and AirBnB. But venues and events are yet to benefit from the advent of technology. WowVenue wants to take a crack at this market and is gunning for a revenue of Rs 100 crore in five years. They’ll need a venue to celebrate, isn’t it?
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