If you are getting married, brace yourself for a lot of unnecessary knick-knacks and presents: that tasteless photo frame that will never see the light of day, that oddly shaped figurine that makes you cringe every time you see it on your dresser, and the multiple bouquets of flowers meant to bring joy, but are just wasteful at the end of the day.
Even if the to-be-wed couple explicitly mentions, ‘no gifts please’ on their invites, they are laden with many unwanted presents that have no use for them.
To help avoid wasteful gifting at Indian weddings and put the decision-making power in the hands of the couple, Kanika Subbiah started Wedding Wishlist in 2015.
“Gifting during weddings is a cultural thing for Indians. We spend a lot of money on gifts and we believe that we cannot go to a wedding function empty-handed. But we aren’t sure what gifts are useful for the couple. But instead of shopping blindly, wouldn’t it be simpler if there was a gift registry where the couple could list what they wanted, and the guests could choose a gift from that?” asks Kanika Subbiah, Co-founder and CEO, Wedding Wishlist, a wedding gift registry platform based out of Chennai.
Sitting in her quaint office in Nungambakkam, Chennai, Kanika takes us on her journey of starting up in a space that has become more popular in the Indian wedding industry.
“A few crores is actually a modest estimate of the amount spent on gifts at weddings. That is just such a waste of money and resources, and many times the couple just isn’t sure what to do with the gift,” says Kanika.
‘I do’ to the idea
Married to Vellayan Subbiah of the Chennai-based conglomerate Murugappa Group, Kanika has worked for over a decade in the US. In 2013, she started Cherrytin, a personalised gifting platform.
So why was the wedding registry on the cards for this entrepreneur?
“Over the years, the idea of wedding gifting was something that needed to be addressed. Also, with celebrity couples like Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh using wedding registries, people in India are warming up to the idea,” she says.
Kanika started Wedding Wishlist along with Tanvi Saraf and Sathish Subramanian in 2015. The platform has two aspects: for the larger part, it is a B2C company that offers wedding technologies (with a focus on gift registries) to engaged couples. Recently, it launched a B2B element to the marketplace model where wedding planners and invitation designers can create storefronts for their products and services.
What the couple wants
Couples can sign up for free on the Wedding Wishlist platform. Once they’ve created an account, the registry builder helps them curate their gift registry step-by-step. They have the option of choosing from home appliances, furniture, kitchenware, and tableware to holidays, gift cards, charities, and personal care.
They also have the option of adding gifts, charities or experiences from any online store that delivers to their city. They can then integrate their registry with their personalised wedding website, and share function details, travel information, RSVP, and more with guests.
When guests receive the couple’s link, they simply click on it, choose the gift they like to get, and buy or contribute towards it. The gifts are delivered to the couple when and where they want, thus completing the entire journey for them.
“In addition to this, they can also purchase digital invitations, custom monogram and wedding apps on our website, or enjoy our free tools like the wedding checklist and budget planner. We also offer a catalogue of return gifts that couples can buy as wedding favours for guests. So it is a complete platform for the prospective couple,” says Co-founder Tanvi.
On the vendor side, one can create a storefront on the DIY platform. Once the storefront is ready, vendors can upload their services, manage clients, and apps through a dashboard.
“Invitation designers can upload their designs and price them. These designs, once approved, become available to all our couples. We transfer their earnings each month after deducting a commission,” says Tanvi.
Gifting, millennial style
The time is ripe for a concept like a wedding registry in India as millennials (and Gen Zs now too) are getting married, and will have their children tying the knot in the future. These are a tech-savvy lot who embrace the narrative of smart weddings with minimal waste.
So the founders of Wedding Wishlist had to ramp up their tech efforts to please the discerning digital generation. This is where Sathish comes into the picture; he explains that despite having close to 11 million weddings a year in India, technology seems to have eluded this massive industry.
From vendors to couples and everything in between, the power of automation, connection, and convenience that technology brings is conspicuous in its absence.
“Wedding Wishlist is bringing together technology and tradition and shifting the wedding planning process from being predominantly offline to online, at least partially. From creating a community for guests to sharing live locations, announcements, and updates, our apps and websites allow couples to streamline the entire planning process and manage it on their phone,” Sathish explains.
The team explains that it uses technology to convey preferences to guests, and manage the end-to-end process, from building their registry to gift delivery.
Once the team scales, it intends to focus on delighting both guests and couples with personalised services, and efficient, end-to-end fulfilment, including ‘thank you’ notes for the couple. Managing out-of-stock products, keeping gifts in storage until the couple’s preferred date of delivery, and coordination with guests and couples are all on the cards once the startup builds on its processes and team strength.
The marriage market
According to industry experts, the Indian wedding industry is worth Rs 1 lakh crore, and is growing at 25 percent annually. The market is also quite lucrative and has witnessed many startups offering different solutions to the wedding industry. The estimated cost of an Indian wedding in India is anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5 crore.
There are other players like Mumbai-based Wedding Brigade, Gurugram-based ForMyShaadi, and a few others. At present, Wedding Wishlist doesn’t charge for the gift registry, and the business model works like that of a marketplace. While the team refused to share details of the commissions, it has brand tie-ups on the catalogue and commissions on gifts purchased contributing to its revenue.
For gifts that are added from external sites, Wedding Wishlist charges a service fee. The team counts Kirthiga Reddy, former Facebook India MD and current Venture Partner Softbank as an angel investor.
“At present, our focus is to inspire widespread adoption of wedding gift registry. Our commissions are relatively small, but with scale, we will achieve break-even and may also monetise some of the value-adds we currently offer for free. In addition to the gift registry, we sell e-invites, video invites, Guested logistics app, return gifts, and customised monogram designs,” says Tanvi.
The platform has done over 130 gift registries, and sold over 4,000 invites and other tools to date. It is now looking forward to the 2019 wedding season, which will be its first wedding season post its platform completion with the value-added services.
“Our mission is to make a gift registry an essential step in the wedding planning process, and do away with unwanted gifts – the single largest source of waste in Indian weddings,” says Kanika.