The Indian wedding is often an ostentatious affair where most people like to display their wealth without giving a second thought to the Rupee. With the economic boom of the past decade, India’s wedding industry has been on a bull run and isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Indeed it looks as if the traditional Indian wedding is just getting bigger and fatter. With this in mind, Veristrat Inc. created Shaadi-e-Khas, a Software-as-a-Service(SaaS) product designed to help both couples and event planners preserve their sanity amidst the pre-wedding chaos. That involves choosing the marriage hall, catering, decoration and even logistics for guests. This is where tech steps in. SaaS is a part of the cloud computing family which helps companies to subscribe software rather than buy and maintain it.
Veristrat Inc. was founded and co-funded by Bharat Kanodia, who holds a Bachelor in Science in mechanical engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MBA in international finance from Marquette University.
According to Kanodia, Veristrat works with a hybrid design model that can build a complete online presence for customers while providing specialised web services. When asked about the inspiration behind Shaadi-e-Khas, Kanodia said, “In certain communities an average wedding budget can exceed $1 million. Since 2002, this industry has witnessed staggering growth.”
“On the other hand, there is India’s booming IT industry, which has already hit $100 billion and with mass technology consumption this will only grow. However, it is surprising to most that the majority of IT industry revenue lies in outsourcing projects,” he says.
The company is upbeat about the new wave of democratisation of technology, which levels the playing field for a multi billion dollar company or a company with a few dollars. In this backdrop, startups are starting to assert themselves – globally and in India. Only a handful of Indian companies have IT products. At Veristrat, we thought of creating a product that can help reposition Indian IT from project based to product based,” says Kanodia.
Apart from being a boon for event managers, Shaadi-e-Khas is being embraced by couples who do not want to hire costly wedding planners. The initial, non-refundable fees of wedding planners can easily range from Rs 20,000 to 2 lakhs. In contrast, the Shaadi-e-Khas Web site (www.shaadiekhas.com) has quoted the company’s full service, Platinum Package at Rs 3,100 while the Gold Package is tagged at Rs 2,100 and the basic Silver Package is free.
Need for help
Kanodia commented on the need for Shaadi-e-Khas, “Planning a wedding can be scary. If we can just eliminate the headache of cards and invitations distribution via email and e-invites, we are taking a big load off the wedding organisers.” The influences seem to come from movies like The Wedding Planner.
When asked about the inevitable hurdles, he listed the challenges of gaining acceptance for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution suited to the Indian wedding scenario, the public’s hesitance to adapt to e-commerce products, and figuring out the target audience in terms of demography and geography.
Kanodia elaborated on traits that set Veristrat’s Shaadi-e-Khas apart from the rest, “As we have built SAAS products that depend on the latest technologies, we keep our products updated with the latest features and trends, like social interaction, wedding Web sites with banner images, the latest styles of online invitation cards and Google map facility to locate the wedding event venues. A futuristic approach to wedding planning has led us to provide options like Guest Manager, which helps manage the guest list, accommodations and schedules, and Vendor Manager to connect users to all categories of vendors such as designers, caterers, DJs and others in the wedding industry.”
When asked about funding he said that the company has initial seed investment from the founders and has not required any additional funding, adding, “Veristrat is a profitable and self-sustaining business. These days it’s seldom to hear of new businesses doing well, and we are very proud. Of course, general cost control measures are in place, but the company is not too worried about containing costs at the current time; our focus is on growth for the next 3-4 years, he says. Going forward, we expect to see 1 lakh sign ups on Shaadi-e-Khas every month, and that is just a small portion of the market. We are very bullish on the wedding industry and its partnering with the IT industry, the eventual converging of the two is necessary, he adds.”
Apparently, the company’s success lies in its growing popularity, and Kanodia rattles of numbers. Online invitations sent is a little more than 2 lakhs, , wedding Web sites sold are about 11,544, number of weddings conducted in the region of 21,544; vendors associated with us all around India is 8,346, he says.
“Shaadi-e-Khas has loads of registrations from all around the globe. At the beginning of this year was a wedding in Sydney, Australia by Lapmun Leung, who was delighted with the features, Task Manager, and sending beautifully designed e-invites. They chose a beautiful wedding Web site featuring their pre-wedding photo shoot and blessings received from close ones.”
As per the Wedding Report, the average amount spent on a wedding in 2008 in the US was $21,814. Some economists opine that marriage is a recession-proof industry like alcohol or food. Companies are just about beginning to see that.