Nitin Sood is 34, his wife Sana Hoda Sood is 35, and their two children are two and four years old.
With young kids, it wasn’t an easy decision to shift back to India. For Sana it was tougher, she had spent 27 years in the US, Nitin had been there for 13. He was working with the World Bank, and Sana was a consultant with Gategroup.
Far away in India, the startup ecosystem was buzzing. India has more than 10,000 startups, next to the US and China, more than Israel.
Nitin thought that there was a market for luxury products. The couple, who hardly understood Indian behaviour wanted to set-up a Guilt.com-like company selling luxury goods for the local consumers. A few months of research showed that the market was small, with many players.
By this time, the couple had decided that it was time to quit their jobs, come back to India, and build a business. Then came ‘plan B’, a wedding facilitating app, barring finding a bride or a groom. That’s a problem Nitin and Sana believed was easier to solve.
Nitin met Sana during a networking event in the US. It was a group of forty people. Somehow they clicked. Sana wasn’t expecting much, though. Nitin was the conventional Indian male, pursuant – he texted her and asked her out. After many phone calls, meetings and sessions of coffee, Sana finally fell for him.
The marriage though was unconventional. Nitin is a Punjabi from a village on the India-Pakistan border, Sana is a muslim from Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh. Nitin’s parents had never met a muslim before Sana, still they did not oppose to the marriage. After all Nitin was the first boy from his village to work in the US. That was a big achievement. His parents considered him intelligent and independent, who could take wise decisions, even if it was finding a bride for himself.
Nitin and Sana booked a beach in Hawai for the wedding; they wanted to stay away from the crowd – one of those private moments, a rare thing in Indian marriages, where it is an affair of family, friends and fools.
That lack of experience hasn’t been a hindrance in starting Happy Shappy, the wedding management company that the couple has founded. They have shifted to Delhi.
Nitin had studied the market by now. There are quite a few wedding planners, and inspiration sites such as Wedding Sutra. There are listing companies such as Wedmegood and Urban Clap, too. But, still there was a space for Happy Shappy. “The problem of wedding doesn’t change… People spend up to a couple of crore, sometimes more, and still they are not happy,” said Nitin.
However, for someone who can splurge, managing a wedding is easy. “But saving money, while spending on a marriage – that’s our pitch, its simple,” Nitin said.
At the heart of the company Happy Shappy is an aggregator of vendors – from decorators, card designers, mehandi artists, bridal makeup, and even finding a venue.
While Happy Shappy looks for all its customers online, it works with 1,800 vendors, offline. Once a customer enquiries, staff at Happy Shappy work closely on budget and needs to close the bill, explains Nitin.
“We are targeting working professional, however, we do serve everyone who comes to us. We negotiate the deals for them,” Sana said. Happy Shappy has already helped with about 50 marriages in six months.
To Happy Shappy’s credit, it has the ability to bargain deals, because of the large vendor base the company works with. It also has the ability to give repeat business to the vendors.
For the customers, there are multiple online tools – to start with, a wedding calendar. The app also doubles up as a guest coordinator, sends reminders, and syncs with the contact list on the phone. That allows just picking up numbers on the phone list and sending invites. “We want everyone to invite people from the app,” Sana said.
Once the guests and the customer have downloaded the app, Nitin and Sana want them to use it beyond the wedding. “We want people to sort out invites for a lifetime – for every birthday party, marriage functions, and even social, cultural and business events, that follow,” said Sana.
The couple said that there are more features coming up. “This is just the beginning… There is a lot more on offer, and we will slowly launch those features,” Nitin said.