Why these two women entrepreneurs wanted to disrupt the wedding card business, launched startup Mostly Handmade
Weddings translate into immense stress for the bride, groom, and their families. There’s so much that needs to be finalised: the venue, catering, decor, clothes, gifts, jewellery, and – not to forget - the perfect wedding card. Looking for a unique card can be a long, drawn-out process, and it was to simplify this that Narmada Deb and Akshata Karnad started Mostly Handmade.
The ecommerce portal for wedding stationery, which offers 100 ready designs on its website, can customise the invite on your mind as you plan the wedding of your dreams.
The idea came to the duo when Narmada was working at Tanishq, and would see couples struggling to find quality and transparency. Akshata, who had worked for the likes of HP and other software companies, was keen to start a business. With a basic model in place, the duo began Mostly Handmade. They had met through common acquaintances and have been friends.
“We had observed a dearth of quality design in the wedding market,” Narmada says. There was a sea of wedding cards “replete with gaudy and overbearing designs”, and young couples struggling with poor card choices and a “dated service mindset that knew little about global Indians and their needs”.
However, what got them validation was a cold call from a young woman in South Africa. The woman said,
“I'm getting married in a couple of months. My fiance is from Nigeria and I have grown up in South Africa too. But we can’t find any wedding cards that understand our unique cultures and who can coordinate the whole thing while we are in a different continent....can you help?”
Narmada and Akshata
Playing their cards right
“The stress and desperation in her voice reached right us and we instantly said: ‘Of course’. We ended up doing not just her cards, but eco-friendly menus, gift boxes, the whole wedding suite....it was a huge moment for us to realise that there were so many people searching in vain and willing to put in the time and effort to find us. That’s when we knew we were on the right track. We've never looked back since then,” Narmada says.
Bootstrapped Mostly Handmade, which was launched in 2018, connects with customers, designers, and vendors across the globe, using Skype, WhatsApp, and other online solutions. Narmada explains that their “office” is scattered geographically across the globe, with clients across time zones.
The company works with multiple vendors - printing partners, talented designers, and logistics partners - to create a robust network and make any product available to couples looking to do “something different and special” for their wedding.
Shopping for cards is easy on the website, and Mostly Handmade assures full design support from “start to finish”, guaranteeing that your cards will be printed in 10 days. Apart from regular cards, they offer a range of eco-friendly of cards, which once sown grow into plants.
Working in a male-dominated industry
Two women entering a male-dominated traditional market that is centuries old certainly had its share of challenges.
“We were humble enough to accept that we knew little about the economies of the business and year one was all about discovery. We went door to door, asking traditional print makers to teach us and partner in our vision. We were turned away at many places; we were dismissed as crazy ladies with bees in our bonnets. But perseverance always pays off. We were fortunate that some forward thinkers in the old lanes of Bengaluru saw, in their own businesses, a need for fresh blood and opened their doors readily to us. Both sides learned on the job – the factory had to streamline to modern production pressures and standardisation challenges and we had so much to learn from them about paper, printing, and operations,” Narmada says.
Numbers and the market
The team claims to have more than 120 designs and international payment gateways, which has brought it repeat traffic from New York, California, London, Toronto, Sydney and across India (from Mumbai to Tripura).
The cards and envelope sets are made and customised as per the requirements of the couple. The team works closely with different designers and manufactures the cards with the help of a few vendors. Each card, with an envelope, is priced between Rs 70 and Rs 2,000, depending on the customisation. On average, the team claims to make 300 to 400 cards per order.
According to industry experts, the Indian wedding industry is worth Rs 1 lakh crore, and is growing at 25 percent annually. The market is quite lucrative and has witnessed many startups offering different solutions to the wedding industry. The estimated cost of an Indian wedding is anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5 crore.
Other startups operating in the space are Mumbai-based Wedding Brigade, Gurugram-based ForMyShaadi, and Chennai-based Wedding Wishlist. However, these are focused on gift registry while Mostly Handmade is focused on the card business.
Narmada says, “When you connect to a set of consumers who are entering their ‘adulting’ age together and starting a whole new life, there is a complete lifecycle journey that you take with them. We have seen in our research among current customers that a wedding is a personal moment. Earning their trust at that time means that the customer comes back again, throughout their life’s milestones. MHM’s future brand extension line is promising, with a firm eye on lifestyle products for the global consumer.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)