The wedding industry would roughly be at 35% of pre-covid levels in 2021: Sandeep Lodha of Oyo's Weddingz.in
How the pandemic has led to digitization of events in the wedding industryWeddingz.in
Oyo's Weddingz.in is betting big on tech and customer experience-driven path to recovery

The wedding industry would roughly be at 35% of pre-covid levels in 2021: Sandeep Lodha of Oyo's Weddingz.in

Oyo's Weddingz.in is betting big on tech and customer experience-driven path to recovery
  • The usual fervor of the Big Fat Indian Summer weddings have given way to downsized miniature ceremonies this year.
  • However, the global pandemic hasn’t affected Indians’ love for weddings.
  • Sandeep Lodha, CEO, OYO’s Weddingz.in voiced his optimism for the recovery of the sector.
  • He spoke to us about the brand's journey, COVID-19’s impact and projections for 2021 and how they are sticking to their idea of togetherness in times of social distancing.
It was at a wedding that Sandeep Lodha, CEO, OYO’s Weddingz.in conceived the idea of starting a brand that could cater to the rising need for professional and organised wedding-related venue and non-venue requirements for the new-age, tech-savvy consumer.

The idea was simple. Lodha wanted his Weddingz.in to be a one-stop-shop that enables the promise of a great event at guaranteed best prices and allows the bride and groom to focus on their dream wedding and not worry about mundane tasks.

Walking us behind the idea that led to Weddingz.in, Lodha shared, “It all started in 2015, while I was attending a relative’s wedding. I realized that the Indian wedding industry hadn't changed at all since 1999 when I got married. In fact, it was still very fragmented and disorganized, in terms of promises made by vendors vis-a-vis lack of delivery, which became one of the biggest pain points for to-be-weds as well as their families. I realised among all services, the largest investment or budget was allotted to venues alone, and poorly managed catering, sound, decor, among other elements threw a spanner in the works for the couple on their big day.”

He saw an immense opportunity to organise the wedding sector with technological solutions, and he believes that the wedding industry still has a long way to go as an average Indian parent spends about one-fifth of the wealth accumulated in his/her lifetime on their child’s wedding. According to a KPMG report, India’s current wedding market is at $50 billion, growing rapidly every year.

In 2018, Weddingz.in was acquired by OYO and has grown leaps and bounds since. As per Lodha, Weddingz.in is the largest wedding company in India that offers venue and non-venue wedding-related services.

“Within the first year of acquisition, we scaled great heights. Just last year (2019), we executed over 27,000+ events and just before the pandemic-led nation-wide lockdown, we executed 4,000+ successful events in February 2020,” said Lodha.

From the 'big-fat Indian wedding' to 'small is the new big'

The big-fat Indian wedding industry in our country has never seen a recession period. However, 2020 has been an unusual period for businesses of all shapes and sizes, as well as economies of scale. Weddings that last usually for 4-5 days in India, had to be cut down to only include the main wedding day and ‘small is the new big’ emerged as the biggest trend of the year in the industry.

Until early September, weddings were not a grand affair -- the overall spending on elements such as photography, food, decoration, etc also dropped with the number of people.

In March 2020, Weddingz.in also saw its revenue dip by 90% but in the same quarter, things started looking up.

Telling us how the 5-year-old brand tried to minimise COVID’s impact, Lodha said, “With restrictions on large social gatherings and events including wedding ceremonies, the pandemic has changed the wedding landscape in India. In the initial phase of the lockdown, customers were holding back. During this time, in light of the situation, we offered our existing customers the option of free rescheduling and offered potential value-based packages inclusive of venue, photography and makeup, among others. Owing to this flexibility that we offered our customers, the majority of them chose to reschedule their events, as opposed to cancelling them. Owing to our efforts, in Q1 itself, over 3000+ summer weddings were rescheduled for the latter half of the year, specifically, October-November-December 2020.”

Weddingz.in launched a program called ‘Wz Safe’ with a 20+ point checklist to ensure social distancing, hygiene and sanitation across venues and win its audiences’ trust. It also offered flexibility to reschedule events free of charge.

During the lockdown, it launched a multi-video conferencing platform called ‘Next Gen Weddingz’, with an emcee and multiple chat rooms. It also allowed the virtual attendees to interact so that they feel as much a part of the celebrations.

As of today, the government allows 50-200 guests at the wedding. Weddingz.in’s partners are also scaling their operations by embracing the digital world.

“These efforts also enabled our venue partners with online demand during such ‘socially distant’ times. For instance, we’re extremely glad to share that some of our Weddingz.in venue owners that leveraged our online platforms saw approximately 50-60% demand levels, thereby making operations feasible and enabling them with the necessary cash flow to sustain expenses towards rentals, etc. In my opinion, in a way, the pandemic is an accelerant, leading to the ‘digitization’ of events, a trend that we would have seen maybe 5-10 years from today. Since couples are trying to avoid running about and meeting the multiple vendors to fulfil their requirements, there was an uptick in demand for one-stop-shop online solutions that offered packages with all services,” said Lodha.

Adding on how the lockdown period accelerated Weddingz.in to become a digital-led company, Lodha said, “This (lockdown period) really pushed us to re-think and accelerate our pace of innovations for sustainable and long-term health of the business. We decided to move on from being a tech-enabled organisation to a tech-driven/led company. Through a three-pronged approach to resurrect, win customer confidence and build for the future, combined with the steady relaxation of government restrictions, as of today, we have been able to reach 75-80% demand of pre-covid levels and believe this will continue to grow month-on-month in 2021.”

Trends in 2020 and 2021

Brides and grooms are now taking the punt to travel to a different state and have their dream weddings with a smaller group of people.

Commenting on the trends that emerged during 2020, Lodha shared, “We’re seeing an upswing in inquiries/demand for destination weddings - couples are opting to tie the knot across exotic locations like palaces, beach-side venues, outdoor farms or even in-city affordable resorts. Preference for open-air lawns or alternatively, booking hotel banquets twice the size for a much safer and socially distanced wedding are also on the rise. Another trend that’s definitely on the rise is live streaming of events for virtual guests/attendees. As couples are also increasingly opting for one-stop-shop solutions to avoid running about and meeting the umpteenth number of vendors to fulfill all their requirements. And of course, if there’s one thing in demand more than others, it has to be a lot of stress on hygiene-focused efforts.”

According to Lodha, the wedding industry could roughly be at 35% of pre-covid levels in 2021 if three factors go in their way: the scale of weddings, number of events per wedding and guestlist increase.

Lodha explained, “While things are almost there, we are already at 75-80% of pre-covid level demand. Some clients still continue to postpone their events but most are now taking the punt and going ahead with it. Secondly, the customer’s willingness to go ahead with pre-wedding ceremonies like Sangeet, Mehendi, Haldi etc. will help the industry bounce back sooner and steadily. In the short term, small and intimate functions may take place, however, large scale events will take time to make a comeback. For the winter wedding season, we saw a rise in guestlist (depending on region-wise relaxation of restrictions). But as you know, if cases continue to rise, the guestlist may shrink again. We feel as long as Covid is here to stay, the guest list will continue to remain small compared to pre-covid days, but with an upward trend as customers get accustomed to the new normal.”

Vision for the brand

Weddingz.in is now aiming to be there for its customers from the beginning of their planning and become the most sought after tech-led platform. It is betting big on tech and customer experience-driven path to recovery.

“As we enter a new decade, for our customers, we want to be the most sought after platform for weddings in India. We want to truly become a one-stop-shop for all our customer’s requirements and continue delivering on our promise of a 100% great event. To do so, we will enable customers with our technology to plan their wedding right from the beginning. For our partners, we want to enable them to scale up operations by leveraging technology and equip them with the right infrastructure to make customer transactions more transparent, reliable and authentic. We want to create significant value for their business,” said Lodha.