From Rs 7.5L to Rs 15L revenue in six months, this startup helps middle-class Indians cut down on wedding costs
Celebrated over decades as a spectacle of grandeur by Bollywood, the Big Fat Indian Wedding is much more than a culture-fare. The truth is, it is a recession-proof industry, attracting the attention of traditional entrepreneurs and startups alike.
For both high-end, luxury event planners and budget-shaadi organisers, the Indian wedding industry – pegged at a massive $40-50 billion market size – presents a deep well of opportunities. Many have jumped on this bandwagon as a result, and the story of Singapore-headquartered ShaadiDost is no different.
Started by four Indian entrepreneurs in November 2018, the startup has come up with a tech-enabled wedding planning platform that provides end-to-end wedding services at affordable costs. Instead of the luxury Tier I market, the target market of this portal is the average middle-class Indians.
And their claim to fame? Making it possible for brides and grooms-to-be to plan their weddings at a fraction of the cost charged by traditional event and wedding planners.
Born of first-hand experiences, the idea of the digital wedding planning platform was conceptualised by three friends – Siddharth Sankar Mishra, Sruthi Vijayaraghavan, and Saurabhsingh Pal – whose paths crossed in Singapore.
While Siddharth and Saurabh, both graduates from NTU Singapore, knew each other from their university days, it was while working at P&G Singapore that Siddharth met his now co-founder, Sruthi.
Shared interests in starting a venture of their own, their combined expertise, and collective experiences with Indian weddings eventually led to the birth of DOST - Digital One-stop Solution for Shaadi Time – a name that co-founders Siddharth and Sruthi say was chosen to keep it close to their P&G roots.
“We wanted a name which signifies your friend at the wedding, the one who takes care of all the planning so you can enjoy with your loved ones,” the duo adds.
The ShaadiDost founding team comprises a fourth member as well - CTO Akshay Katyal, who is a serial technopreneur with experience at Mozilla, Hackerearth, and Strike, a digital marketing startup that he co-founded in 2015.
Besides bringing the technical know-how, Akshay brings to the table an essential understanding of the sector, having previously worked for a wedding gift allocation automation portal.
An UrbanClap for wedding services
“While the Tier I clients hire wedding planners who shortlist the right vendors, make phone calls, follow up to get proposals and costing info, in Indian middle-class weddings, it’s the client who ends up having to do this with 10 to 15 different types of vendors,” says the founding team.
Another pain point plaguing this sector is the lack of an end-to-end wedding solution service. While a great many listing websites have taken life in the past five to six years making it easier to discover vendors providing varied services, it still takes a lot of effort to scout them for each category and filter out the best possible option.
The three co-founders also had the first-hand experience while attending back-to-back weddings in 2018. One of their biggest understanding was about the cost of the wedding, which was nearly always borne by the parents of the bide-groom.
The team had a stark realisation staring them in the face and they understood there was a clear gap in the wedding market, especially the one catering to middle-class India.
“Our aim is to solve for the client. While today's listing websites have relevant vendor information in one place, they don't take away the work from a client,” says the founding team, which invested around Rs 7.5 lakh to kickstart the platform.
They add, “DOST’s CRM and project management platform allows clients to have adequate options reducing their work in getting the desired information by reducing more than 80 percent of the touchpoints.”
Simply put, it’s an UrbanClap-like model but for wedding centric services. With this, experiences like mock designs, detail guest management by an assistant are now easily accessible to the Indian middle-class through DOST’s tech platform at affordable rates.
How it works?
While the online wedding planner started its operations in 2018, DOST’s current model was launched only in June 2019. As the founders explain, it took DOST slightly over six months to build the prototypes, develop a sustainable client acquisition model, and set up a planner network.
Since July 2019, however, the response from the customer base has been fairly positive with more than 450 client requests. However, due to lack of capacity, the team has managed to serve over 250 clients in the last six months.
“DOST currently has a network of over 35 planners who serve more than 10 destinations across India,” the founders share.
“We collect a finder’s fee from planners for putting them in touch with potential clients. It costs between $12 to $100 based on the size of the contract. We also collect platform usage fee only if a planner manages to secure a contract through us which on an average cost $450.”
Scalability and growth
In the Indian wedding market, which is the second largest in the world after the US (at $70 billion), growing at an estimated 20 percent a year, this comparatively younger player claims to have no direct competition.
But indirectly, it rivals with the likes of Wedmegood, Weddingz, Shaadisaga, and The Wedding Brigade – a breed of new-age startups who are all leveraging technology to gain a superior edge in this gradually populating market.
To maintain the momentum would mean to ensure product superiority, add new features, and make the platform scalable; an end towards which the team is currently working. DOST is looking to raise a seed round of around half a million dollar, and with this funding, it plans to expand to 10-15 major Indian cities, says the founding team.
Besides this, the team is also eyeing to more than double the revenue it clocked in 2019.
“In 2019, we were operational for six months, and we managed to secure Rs 15 lakh in revenue. For 2020, we are aiming to do at least Rs 45 lakh. The number could be much higher if not for financial constraints, which limits our advertisement spending and ability to expand our operations team,” the founders explain.
In the garb of the ‘band, baaja, baraat’ extravaganza, the business of weddings sure presents one giant of a market potential. With its focus on the underserved middle class – weddings with a budget between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 30 lakh – ShaadiDost has found itself a sweet spot.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)