In conversation with Manas Wadhwa, Co-Founder & CEO, WeddingPlz.com
How and when did you feel the need to start WeddingPlz? Was it based on a personal experience or did you simply see it as an existing gap in the market?
The story begins when we started Virtual Space Infotech, a company that creates virtual tours, panoramas, Google business photos for SMEs. When we started this in 2013, the initial plan was to provide virtual tours to everyone in Delhi/NCR. We started expanding pan-India and started doing virtual tours for diverse set of clients. Today, we have done virtual tours for almost all Salons, Spas, Hospitals & Hotels in Delhi/NCR.
While attending a cousin’s wedding in Ludhiana, Punjab, one of the vendors cancelled at the last moment and it became very difficult for us to arrange another vendor at the last minute. While discussing this situation, we realized that it was much easier to find a restaurant using a Zomato App but it was almost impossible to search for wedding vendors online.
We gave this a lot of thought and discussed it with all our vendors (banquet halls, caterers, decorators and salons) and got a good response from these people, especially from the banquet hall vendors. At the same time, we were having a parallel conversation with a lot of couples to try and understand their pain points. We thought of ourselves as an intermediary who could address these pain points and bridge the gap between the two groups. So, in January 2014 we launched the first version of WeddingPlz.com.
To make our product strong and relevant to our target group, we did some research on the existing players in the market to find out their weak points. We found that these companies were not on mobile and to address this, we are shortly launching a mobile optimized website.
How much iteration did it take from the initial idea to the current product? How did you get your first few customers?
When we launched, we were only a search portal, there was nothing else on offer. It was a completely classified search engine related to weddings. Most people who visited our website, searched for the vendor names and left. We wanted engagement, wanted people to come back to our site for any wedding related issues they may be facing. This led us to develop comprehensive wedding planning tools, such as a budget manager, which automatically divides your budget and tells you the exact amount you should spend under different heads. It also specifies the vendors in your area who can be approached for various services. Moreover, this budget manager helps families keep track of their expenses and manage their timelines by sending reminders well in advance.
Till date the traffic that we get is organic. So when we started, we wrote a few articles around wedding ideas on our blog, and one of those articles- ‘Mehendi night ideas’ got picked up and became very popular. Our first few customers came to us after reading that blog, so now we ensure that our content is based on trends. The most important guideline we follow while creating content is to write something that everyone can relate to. We also have a customizable wedding site where a couple can create their own story and share it with their friends and family.
If you could pick one unique product or service offering, which would be your favourite, and why?
When we started doing 360 degree virtual tours and photographs, we ended up convincing all hospitals in Delhi/NCR to adopt the virtual tour feature. While we were doing these for a host of clients, we always wondered why Zomato, 99acres etc. are not doing it. With the entry of Housing.com, virtual tours and real photos became quite a rage, and that was an AHA moment for us. We felt really good about our product as we somehow are the pioneers in this market. We are making the Virtual Tour available to all our paid customers at WeddingPlz now.
What is the best marketing move that you’ve initiated which sets you apart from your competitors?
Although we don’t really do extensive marketing and don’t have a huge budget for it, we have recently started partnering with event companies as their online media partner. For example, there is an OSCARs for photographers happening in Ahmedabad and we are their online media partner. Similarly, in Delhi there is a quarterly event called Runway Rising run by Ramola Bachchan. We are their official media partner and this has helped us create a presence among our target audience, i.e. the who’s who of Delhi/NCR.
Picking vendors is without a doubt one of the most difficult parts of planning a wedding, how does WeddingPlz help to streamline that process?
When we started farming data, we were very clear that we would only launch in a city after we had done a benchmarking with Just dial. For example, in Delhi we have 55% more farmed data than Just dial. We have a set of parameters, which we have arrived upon after customer surveys, and all the vendors listed on our site have to fulfill these parameters.
What has been your single biggest challenge in sourcing and retaining talent? What are the key qualities you look out for in a potential hire?
The founding team being from a non-technical background with zero working knowledge of website creation was the biggest challenge. So the first part of the problem was to hire technical people and the second part of the problem was retaining them as technical people prefer working for hardcore Tech companies.
We look for people who are ready to be a partner in our journey, understand the scale we are looking at achieving, and are not in it for just the money. They should be clear about the vision, the dream with which we had started the company. So basically we don’t want employees, we want partners, people who can take ownership before even joining WeddingPlz.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to others just getting started in your field?
My biggest learning is- passion, unless a person is passionate about the idea and dream they have, unless they give it their 100%, there is a high possibility of them failing.
- What has gotten you this far?
- What’s the favorite part of your job?
Creativity- working day and night to create something which has not been created yet.
- One thing that differentiates you from others in your field.
The vision- we want to reach a point where there is no education barrier for using our product.
- How do you unwind and relax?
Team outings- we go for late night movies and IPL matches.