Meet the woman entrepreneur behind the ‘Amazon for celebrations’
Planning a wedding is stressful. One has to ensure decorations are in place, the catering service is good, the venue is top notch, the transport company is reliable, and take care of several other minute details to make sure it turns out to the one you have always dreamt of.
Swathi Bavanaka and Anji Beeravalli, like most people planning their wedding, were also caught up in the storm. They wanted to plan their wedding with the help of an online platform, where they could choose from the best. When they found that none existed, they seized the opportunity to start one of their own. And thus, the couple launchedin 2014.
Swathi Bavanaka, Co-founder, Evibe.in
However, after conducting extensive market research, they discovered that the real problem in the party planning industry was in planning children’s parties. Thus, they pivoted to create a one-stop platform - Evibe.in for all celebrations.
India is home to diverse cultures and multiple celebrations. Planning an event takes weeks of effort and hard work. One can take the help of event planners. However, the industry still largely remains unorganised.
Swathi’s goal with Evibe.in was to solve these issues. And her entry into the sector was quite accidental.
After completing her master's in computer science in the US, Swathi returned to India to work for a startup, called Knolskape, building gaming simulations for B-schools. Here, she met her husband and Co-founder Anji, who was an Information Systems major from BITS Pilani.
The couple launched the beta version of Evibe.in with children’s birthday packages on February 10, 2014. The very next day, they received their first paying customer.
With time, she has handled operations of scaling to two cities - Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The startup has also expanded on the categories of service providers including venues, caterers, cakes, artists, and more. The platform now offers a wide range of packages for parties, private events like surprises, candle light dinners, housewarming, baby showers, and more.
Swathi says, “We are a one-stop-shop platform for celebrations that provides reliable, quality service from verified vendors at credible prices. Consumers discover and book ready-made customisable packages with the latest trends, reviews, photos, and inclusions. Because of the convenience similar to Amazon, customers often refer to Evibe as the 'Amazon for celebrations'”.
Apart from scaling operations, Swathi also takes care of business business strategies, innovation, key partnerships and sales. For her efforts in entrepreneurship, she was identified as an Emerging Woman Entrepreneur of Hyderabad in 2019 by the Government of Telangana. She was also featured by Google as one of the top 10 Women Techmakers across India. She leads Google Women Techmakers Hyderabad and Facebook SheLeadsTech Hyderabad communities.
“I aspire to influence and bring in more women in technology,” she says.
Swathi and her husband began Evibe.in with their savings that amounted to a few lakh rupees. In 2016, they raised angel funding from Hyderabad Angels and Common Floor co-founders Vikas and Lalith.
However, in 2017, they hit a rough patch. Despite good growth and raising funds, they were affected by the severe funding crunch in the B2C market.
“This was a time when we were planning to build our core team, get new funds, and were poised for growth. With very little funds, we not only tried to survive but also grew beyond our target along with adding people who aligned to our core values. We built a solid team, got our growth by focusing right within the next 15 months,” she explains. Rather than looking at it as a challenging period, she likens it to be a turning point.
Building a startup as a woman entrepreneur is much more difficult, she says. “You need to be at your best every single moment, otherwise you will be criticised and mocked by anyone and everyone. Your capabilities are always doubted until and unless you have a proven track record.”
However difficult the journey, she says that help has always been available. Her biggest learning from the journey is that it’s okay to ask for help, and contrary to expectations, there are good people out there who are willing to support you. In the future, Swathi wants to scale the operations across India and become a household brand for celebrations by organising the fragmented event services market.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)