With millennials taking on to social media to fish for wedding ideas, several wedding service providers have also turned social-media savvy to market their services. Platforms such asare helping them get recognition and gain traction, says Satya Raghavan, director, YouTube Partnerships, India. “One thing that is consistent with creators on YouTube is that their success opens up many new doors and opportunities for them in the offline world.”
Nidhi Sharma Chadha, who has been running wedding planning outfit Memories for over a decade, has first-hand experience of how the market is turning. “For the last two years, I post a lot on Instagram. It is essential for our business. Earlier it was, but now Instagram is all important for wedding planners.” As she looks out for the colours of season and the latest styles, she is also keeping a close watch on hashtags such as #bigfatindianwedding and #trendingweddingsof2020.
In the age of social media weddings, we track a few wedding service providers whose businesses have gained traction due to social media.
What started as a family affair has become a full-fledged business for Eshna Chopra. And she credits social media for helping her reach a wide audience in a short span.
In 2013, Chopra choreographed the sangeet numbers at her brother’s wedding. Before she knew it, people in her social circle were asking her to choreograph wedding dances. Four years ago, the response encouraged her to start Dancamaze — a studio offering dance tutorials, wedding choreography and corporate dancing workshops. The 31-year-old erstwhile film production professional starts giving rehearsals to the bride and groom a month before the wedding. She spends several hours with them four days a week during this period. “You end up forging a bond with the family,” she says.
Chopra’s YouTube channel bolsters her social media presence. Over the past year and a half, 60% of business enquiries have come either via her Instagram account or through her YouTube channel. “Social media has fast-forwarded the initial negotiation process. People see your videos and directly message you to check for charges.”
It is great for business — Chopra says she makes Rs 18 lakh a year and weddings contribute to 40% of the revenue between November and March.
Her increasing popularity on social media has also attracted a lot of brands. “We end up refusing most brand collaboration offers because they don’t tie in with the videos seamlessly. But we actively reach out to fashion brands on Instagram for collaborations,” she adds.
As a master’s student in Sydney in 1995, Neeta Desai Sharma used to earn good pocket money by applying mehendi at various events. Later, when she got married and moved to the US in 2001, Sharma realised that her work as a mehendi artist was fulfilling and lucrative. “My henna art style is unique and has many admirers across the US. I travel not just across California, where I live, but also to other states and to Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic for destination weddings.” Sharma charges between $300 and $800 per bride.
First, business came through family and friends’ networks. Then she got onto Facebook and today she relies a lot on social media. “For the last two years I have been using Instagram a lot to connect with clients, especially the younger ones. Earlier it was only through Facebook and friends’ networks. Instagram is now the biggest platform for me,” says Sharma.
She herself manages her social media engagements. “I had tried to work with a young woman for a few months but found that it was much better to control one’s social media personally rather than depend on anyone else.”
A decade ago, she created 20 ebooks of her mehendi designs to promote her own style. Not only Indian weddings, she gets called even for mixed-race marriages. “Here in the US, there is no specific wedding season and I am very busy through the year. Often I have to do the mehendi art for two or three brides a day.”
Mahima Seth and Sakshi Budhraja Kochhar were schoolmates and collegemates. So it was only natural for them to come together to start a business. They were drawn to the event management and wedding décor space, and so decided to start by targeting small and medium wedding functions.
They joined Facebook groups that had people looking for wedding services. A year after setting up Pretty Much Décor, they landed their first major gig in 2015. “Our first big break came through a group on Facebook. We had posted a photo of our work on the group. A few days later we get a call for a family asking us to meet at a wedding reception in the Oberoi Trident, Gurgaon. We only had a photo bank of small wedding functions. We remember being so nervous. The meeting went off well and we landed the job,” Seth says.
Even today, they say, clients come after word-of-mouth referrals but they check out Pretty Much Décor’s Instagram page before contacting them. “Also, as social media space is so open, it reduces the chances of somebody showing someone else’s work as their own,” Seth says. They have an annual turnover of Rs 30-40 lakh.
Presence on Facebook and Instagram have given them better returns than paid promotions. “Social media has helped us expand our reach and create a network of associate and clients,” says Seth. They handle their social media themselves and try to post photos of their work as regularly as possible, which during the busy wedding season is at least three to five times a month.
While preparing for her chartered accountancy exam, Nitika Duggal wanted to find a way to destress. So she started blogging about her interest, Indian fashion. By the time she cleared her exams in 2016, her blog Indianstreetfashion had become a larger project on Instagram and she was getting a lot of queries on fashion wear, mainly for weddings. “I was talking about artists and wedding vendors whose work I admired and people started asking me to help them find vendors for their wedding within their budget or at a specific locations. I realised that I loved doing this more than tallying balance sheets and auditing.”
Her journey as a wedding vendor took off, building
the business by leveraging her social media influence. She uses Instagram andavidly to showcase her work. “We are always flooded with online queries and about 30-40% of those develop into conversions leading to business. Some queries that are not converted in terms of money always add to the credibility of our brand.” Duggal says a lot of brides have come to her with screenshots from Instagram or Pinterest boards to give her an idea of their requirements. “Social media is an excellent way to promote one’s work. The investment is next to nothing and the content and curation speak a lot about the brand.”
Duggal spends 1-2 hours on social media every day. More so as the Indian diaspora, particularly in the UK and the US, is a big market for her.
Till four years ago, Shveta Chandra was practising property law. But her first love was something else. “I was always good with decorative packaging. I would do stuff for friends.” Her mother encouraged her to take the leap and set up a home studio for wedding-gift packaging. “The first order was for a family wedding,” says Chandra, who has never looked back since. She had converted a large part of her three-storeyed home in Gurgaon into her studio and workshop.
For the first couple of years, orders trickled in through direct messages from her Facebook page and through client referrals. “But the past two years, since I started actively posting on Instagram, orders started pouring in. Customers are from India and also from Dubai, Kuwait and London,” says Chandra. Social media is the only marketing tool she uses. These days her Instagram account is always abuzz. She says she receives at least 50 direct messages within a few hours of putting up a new photo of her work.
Her product line is extensive: small decorative envelopes for gift money, guinea boxes for coins, large baskets of fruit and sweets, fancy platters for rings and car keys and even offbeat items such as mehendi hand corsages and hashtags monograms for brides and grooms. “Even when I am very busy in the wedding season, I still post on Instagram myself. I use photos clicked on my phone as I believe in my work and don’t want to use professional photography.” Costs could range from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh.
Jasmeet Kapany is a believer in organic growth through social media. An advocate of subtle shades and natural tones, the bridal hairdresser and make-up artist uses photos from her phone for her Instagram handle. “Makeup was always a passion for me and after I did a short course, I gave up my job in a travel company and took up full-time bridal make-up assignments five years ago.”
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She is not comfortable doing videos on YouTube. But the active Instagrammer has 29,000 followers. She also uses social media to browse the work of make-up artists across the world. “It is
important to stay updated through social media. While I find it to be a great tool for marketing my services, I restrict myself from posting not more than one photo a day during wedding season.” She says satisfied clients help her expand her business reach. During the wedding months, her calendar is filled with assignments for destination weddings in India and abroad.Kapany charges Rs 30,000-2 lakh depending on various factors.
Kapany cites the example of a client who recently found her because of her Instagram profile. The client, Sanam T, says was looking for someone to do the make-up for her sister’s destination wedding in Jaipur next year. “We recently moved to India after living overseas for many years. I contacted Jasmeet Kapany because of she focussed on an understated look and because I saw good reviews on social media.”