India File

The new-age wedding entrepreneurs

Swathi Moorthy | Updated on January 20, 2018

The expert In her initial days, Kaviya Kamaraj , founder of TBG, went to saree and jewellery shops and met make-up artists to understand the trade. Soon she turned from advisor to manager BIJOY GHOSH

Even as the big, fat $40 billion industry expands, a few startups are redefining the space with niche services. We bring stories of four such businesses from Delhi NCR, Chennai and Hyderabad, where their young founders, mostly women, are redefining customs

In a clubhouse of a residential colony in Vadapalani, in central Chennai, about 30 women are in their blouses and skirts, standing with a spread of silk sarees around them. “Now take the pleated pallu and pin it right below the shoulder,” a voice instructs them. Few follow, many frown helplessly and some call out for help.

The voice belongs to Kaviya Kamaraj, who is pinning the pleated pallu of a heavy Kanchipuram saree. “This is a workshop on saree-draping that is organised every month,” says the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tamil Brides Guide (TBG), a one-stop solution for brides. TBG offers services such as make-up, and helps brides-to-be hire jewellery, cosmetologist, fashion designers and floral accessories.

"I found the services friendly and it was easy to handle everything online," says Suganya Vasudevan, a software engineer. When her marriage was fixed to be held in Vellore, she struggled to find the right people who could provide all services. That is when she stumbled upon TBG.

Starting on Facebook

In its first avatar, TBG was a Facebook page that gave tips to brides. “Many brides when it comes to their wedding, are clueless as to where and how to begin. Since I already helped out my friends during their weddings I had some knowledge,” says the 27-year-old Kamaraj. She began by posting tips on finding a wedding saree without spending exorbitant amounts, or how to choose the right make-up.

To get more content for the page, Kamaraj went to saree shops to analyse price ranges; met make-up artists to understand the trade , and waded through hundreds of blogs to learn what it takes to generate revenue through content. And finally, she was ready to start the page in 2013.

Soon a bigger opportunity came knocking. “Many people who visited my page, queried if it was possible for me to arrange good make-up artists and hairstylists or help them with hiring artificial jewellery. I thought, may be, I should change the course of business, one that offers advice to one that deals directly with brides,” she said.

For human resource, Kamaraj hired freelancers through her friends and relatives. “Initially I had tough time as most were reluctant to accept an idea of aggregator model.” It was five-six months before she started the service with 15 freelance make-up artists and hairstylists.

Now three years later, and with 2,000 South Indian weddings under her belt, Kamaraj has customers across Tamil Nadu, and in Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Mumbai. “I recently launched the service in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,” she says. The company, which has a network of 150 artists, employs 11 people – a technical team, bride consultant, content writer and a full-time accountant.

For every transaction, Kamaraj gets a commission of 5-15 per cent of the total pay. The artists are assigned work based on their performance, which is tracked using an algorithm. “If they perform well they get more jobs else their leads are reduced,” she said. Kamaraj, who is creating a mobile application, also earns revenue from workshops. During the peak wedding season, the profitable venture gets up to 50 brides a month, each billing an average of ₹50,000.

Though there is hardly any competition at the moment, Kamaraj realises that the business is replicable. That is why she is integrating the business and adding more revenue generators, including a training school that will start in six months. Also in the pipeline are experience centres - where clients can check out the services, and rental shops for apparels and jewellery.

However, she does not want to explore the possibility of catering to non-South Indian brides. “The needs of a bride (in North India) are very different from that of the South, something I’m not familiar with,” she says with a smile.

Published on April 11, 2016

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