Planning a surprise is now simple. All you have to do is go to a website, share your occasion, interests of the person you want to surprise, and your budget.
At a Glance
Startup: Surprise Machi
Founders: Bhagya Prabhu and Shahul Hameed
Year it was founded: 2016
Where is it based: Chennai
Sector: Surprise services/lifestyle
The problem it solves: Planning customised surprises and gifts
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Have you ever wanted to surprise someone but didn’t have an idea on how to go about it? Either you didn’t know how to, didn’t have the time to plan an elaborate one, or maybe you just ran out of ideas.
In this “outsource-everything” world, you can surprise someone by outsourcing your surprise. This is where Chennai-based startup Surprise Machi comes into the picture.
The process of planning a surprise with Surprise Machi is simple. All you have to do is to visit its website, share your occasion, interests of the person you want to surprise, and your budget. And Surprise Machi will do the rest.
The startup does not believe in selling the usual ideas or gifts to surprise someone, its USP is 100 percent customised ideas. What makes it different from others is that it sells surprises along with gifts.
Bhagya Prabhu, who worked in advertising prior to starting up, had toyed with the idea of starting a portal for surprises. It materialised when she found similar interests in her friend Shahul Hameed.
Shahul, who was working as a data analyst in Dubai, left his job and settled in Chennai to support the startup. It also has a personal adviser Shahul Ahmed who has been working with them right from the beginning.
Bhagya has a background in Visual Communication and her creativity helped with Surprise Machi as well as in planning the surprises.
The main challenge for the team at the initial stage was to convince those sceptical about the idea.
“It was also challenging to take up something like this along with the job. Immediately after they saw how the people welcomed this idea, they were convinced,” says Bhagya.
Bhagya adds that when they started Surprise Machi in July 2016, their competitors were repeating a set of surprises. But Bhagya and her team were determined to separate themselves from their competitors.
Surprise Machi soon caught the attention of its customers with unique ideas and ways of presenting them. So it came as no surprise that the startup’s videos went viral in social media. From a Harry Porter themed surprise to a simple proposal, they have done it all to make clients happy.
Depending on customers’ interests, Surprise Machi arranges to sing their favourite songs, dance and helps propose in a fairy tale or filmy style. It also offers customised portraits.
There is no set list available with Surprise Machi, as all surprises are completely customised. It gets most of its customers from social media, especially from Facebook where it has a good reach. One of its videos crossed more than a million views on Facebook, the first video that it posted.
Surprise Machi competes with Chennai-based The6.in and Hyderabad-based Oye Happy, the other players in the market.
Though based in Chennai, Surprise Machi has teams in Coimbatore and Bengaluru as well. The team now travels throughout Tamil Nadu to surprise people. Surprise Machi has already organised 35-40 surprises in Bengaluru where it started operations just three months ago.
According to the founders, there’s a reason why Chennai is the base for their startup. The team has used the word ‘machi’ which is commonly used in Chennai to address close friends. Bhagya feels that the city has a unique local flavour and have accordingly customised surprises for its residents. Also, since both the founders are based in Chennai, they wanted to set up in the city first and then think of expanding to other cities.
“We have surpassed 1,000 events with an average of 32-35 per month. There have been times where we have organised more than 60 events in a month especially during the wedding season,” says Bhagya.
Surprise Machi has a team of 14 working in Chennai, out of which, only four work full-time and others are part-time support.
Bhagya says that it has been profitable from Day 1, but the intention is to grow at a slow and steady pace.
Surprise Machi targets youngsters in the age group of 18-32 years. “This target group, especially those working in the IT sector are more interested in surprising people,” says Bhagya.
The budget for the surprise ranges from Rs 2,000-to Rs 2 lakh and it’s highly customised.
“Surprise Machi was bootstrapped with savings from our previous jobs. We invested Rs 1.5 lakh and remain self-funded. We have no plans to raise funds for now. We might need funds if we plan to expand across the country, but right now, our focus is only on South India,” informs Bhagya.
The startup has a turnover of Rs 6-7 lakh with a profit of about Rs 3-4 lakh. Surprise Machi plans to double its turnover by next year, and together with its expansion strategy hopes to make the startup a complete platform for gifting and surprising. Its website is being re-launched with more features.