Often after the monsoon bids adieu, we find ourselves looking at the busiest few months of the year. In fact, if it weren't for COVID-19 modifying our plans for the year, a lot of us would have been engaged in prepping for the forthcoming wedding season. And while it may appear entirely absurd to think that a wedding could be on the cards this year, digitisation has made magic possible during our darkest of hours. For Rishika Agarwal and Navam Gupta, the idea of WedHaven came to them in 2020, but the eminence of the concept gained momentum, more after the pandemic was announced.
With a motto of keeping weddings fun and stressfree, Navam and Rishika thought of the concept when one of their friends couldn't make it to their wedding in 2014. Reason? They were unable to locate the baraat! From allowing their guests to update event details to being able to 'live-track' the baraat -- WedHaven has a host of features that renders a digital direction to your post-pandemic wedding plans.
Was creating an app like WedHaven always on your mind? What was the inspiration behind its conceptualisation?
Rishika: We've lived in Delhi for most of our lives, and being in North India, weddings are such a huge affair. All of India for that matter, but even more so in North India where anything less than a thousand people's wedding is a very rare affair. For these thousand people, wedding issues range from events getting delayed to guests being lost at the airport, to not finding their hotel rooms and not being able to figure out where the event is taking place. Being in a technologically advanced era, these issues can be easily solved.
Years after years we attended several weddings, and we encountered many issues like being stranded at the airport, not knowing where to meet whom, being disturbed by the hotel staff when we were taking a nap at the venue... and other things like that. That's when the idea struck us that we need to start something up.
Navam: The idea originated before COVID times; we thought that it should be simplified. It (weddings) shouldn't be this hard, you know? We stand by our motto; we want to make weddings fun for everyone, it shouldn't be that your family, your friends, your parents, your brothers and sisters are running around -- always worried, always stressed out. During COVID-19 times, it has an interesting and even more significant role to play. Even though the sizes of weddings are smaller, it is alright as it's much easier to manage them. But it isn't easy getting in touch, without being present for anything -- trying to keep that social distancing. And the technology helps, you don't have to worry about invites, or to get them printed, or getting them delivered.
What were the challenges that came along with setting up an app like WedHaven?
Rishika: Yeah, there were a couple. The first one being since it's a novel idea and not many popular apps have existed like this. So, it has been interested to see people getting adapted to this. Handling weddings digitally via an app is a new thing to get accustomed to people's mindset because we're used to making guest lists, writing everything down, creating an excel sheet. Thanks to COVID, people are much more receptive of digitalisation. They are more open to trying new things out; it turned out to be a different kind of blessing even though the number of weddings went down, people are looking to it. We see people interacting and coming to the app, experimenting, reaching out to us.
It takes a while for people to understand that our module is different than the other well-known brands in the market and that we are trying to do something different here, which is more on the aspect for wedding management and connecting the hosts and guests and making things easier for them.
What were your thoughts about the features of this app? Before the COVID-19 situation came into existence?
Navam: You'll see that it is a long list of features, and we start with the basic problems that we faced like we mentioned we got stranded at the airport, we couldn't communicate properly, the venue got changed, and we didn't know about it. We took these small pieces and began thinking deeply about 'wedding management' as a whole. We basically started listing down what are the key areas in a wedding that need a lot of help and things that can be easily approached. In the basic MVP you should be able to share your schedule, your events, your listing, you should be able to update them anytime, people should get reminders, there should be a way for the host to notify the guests for any changes. A little bit of social aspect as well, by adding photos, you should be able to share the photos out with the guests. Simple things such as the Baraat tracking, it is a straightforward concept, but it is also one of the most well-received one till date.
Then we started looking deeper into the guest management aspect of it. We have added the ability of import contacts from your phone directly and generate a guest list right there. There is also a concept of co-host now, and what it does is -- it's just not your contacts -- any of the co-hosts can add people to the guest list.
Rishika: As weddings are a huge affair, you can use WedHaven to share responsibilities, divide the tasks among yourselves and manage the load. There is this whole concept of RSVP -- guests can update their RSVP status for functions they are attending, and the hosts can keep track of that.
How has the response been since the pandemic was announced?
Rishika: Since we just launched pre-COVID, we have been using the COVID times to get our names there and increase our presence, and it has actually helped. A lot of people have reached out for weddings that are scheduled to be held in the future.
Navam: Responses have been interesting; people have been reaching out more, frankly speaking during this time. We have been trying to establish in the minds of the people so that they know that we are here and available. At the same time, we are full power ahead in adding new functionalities and features right now. It's been fun!
Are there any new plans in the pipeline?
Rishika: So, we have essentially divided our entire platform into three subsets, there are three key areas we intend to focus on. One is the entire social aspect the youngsters today or old folks, they are online and on social media all the time, so we plan to create a personalised social engagement platform for your wedding which done by sharing photos -- which is already an existing feature on the app. Several guests might not be able to make it to your wedding -- for whatever reason -- say they live overseas. Just keeping them engaged, connected and making them feel a part of your wedding via some social interaction, live activity walls, hosting games, quizzes, polls -- that is something we plan to add in the near future. Then the entire logistics aspects of guest management- arranging for your pick up and drop off from the airport, railway stations, arranging your hotel stays.
Another key area is the tooling/tuning app where we plan to introduce tools like your budget calculators, importing, printing and exporting your contact list, providing you with a checklist, separation of tasks.
Is there a specific target audience you're looking at right now?
Rishika: Broadly, our target audience is pretty much everyone from the family of a couple getting married including their parents, siblings, cousins, friends, entire ranging from youngsters to the older generation as well as wedding planners. Based on our research and surveys, in India, 27 per cent of the people who use/hire wedding planners, rest 73 per cent manage everything on their own. So, even the 27 per cent who are using a wedding planner is our target audience.