Sachin Singhal is harassed and overworked. The newly appointed chief executive of Special Occasion, a company owned by news broadcaster New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV), is busy gearing up for the launch of a wedding planning portal early next year. Armed with funding of $20 million from venture capital firm CerraCap Ventures, NDTV announced its entry into the online weddings market earlier this month. NDTV already runs Indian ethnic wear e-commerce site Indianroots.in.

According to Singhal, the name of the website—which will have weddings at its core—is still under wraps. The portal will be about all kinds of celebrations, but weddings in India are big. It will offer 360 degree solutions around weddings, he says.

NDTV is a late entrant in the wedding planning portals market. The market is already crowded, with nearly 50 sites, most of which have come up in the past 15 months. It is not without reason that entrepreneurs are rushing in. The wedding market in India is said to be worth nearly $40 billion a year and growing at nearly 20%. According to some reports, India is just behind the US wedding market at $50 billion and likely to overtake it soon.

Obviously, not all wedding planning sites are a hit, but a few are attracting investors. Anameha Infomedia Pvt. Ltd, which owns wedding planning portal WedMeGood, raised a seed round from Indian Angel Network and others in September. The company was founded in February 2014 by husband-wife duo Anand Shahani and Mehak Sagar Shahani. Sanna Vohra, CEO and founder of Indear.in, claims her company is in talks for its first round of funding, but declined to share investor details.

Currently, most wedding planning portals are more like vendor discovery platforms that offer detailed information on a wide variety of vendors, from caterers to flower decorators, from priests to wedding venues, from astrologers to shopping destinations and from photographers to make-up artists. While some sites make money from annual registration or listing fee, others rely on banner advertising and sponsored content.

At least one of the firms, Indear.in, hosts a shop as well where users can buy wedding fashion, jewellery and gifts. It has on board designers such as Falguni and Shane Peacock, Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Gauri and Nainika, and Shehla Khan, among others. Clearly, Indear.in earns revenue from its shop. Soon the firm plans to launch a service marketplace where consumers can book vendors too.

Some sites like WeddingPlz, co-founded by Manas Wadhwa, get close to 400,000 unique visitors a month. The site services the Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Bengaluru markets.

It’s easy to see why wedding planning portals are mushrooming and generating consumer interest. For one, they are like virtual wedding planners. They help save time as all the information is aggregated online at one place complete with pictures that help users choose everything from invitation cards to venues. It allows users the convenience of all the relevant information at their fingertips instead of relying purely on word of mouth or references.

But most of all, these platforms are gaining traction because young couples want a do-it-yourself wedding. They need to be in control of things. The days when parents planned weddings are passé. That’s not all. Increasingly, people want their weddings to be unique, and personalized, from invitations to decor to cuisine. Wedding planning portal founders have discovered that consumers want their special day to reflect their individual personalities. All of this is best done online. Consequently, even the weddings are becoming smaller and more intimate. And that’s the bigger trend. The guest lists are being trimmed from 800 people to 200-250 invitees so as to make it a private and cherished event with great attention to detail. It does not matter whether the budget is 5 lakh or 5 crore.

Wadhwa’s WeddingPlz, for instance, offers automated budget planning. So if you give them your budget, they will tell you how much money needs to be allocated to which head. They also send reminders on what you need to do when once you feed in your wedding date.

From the information gathered via their portals, the founders of these online firms point to interesting trends in this market. Those looking to get married are also looking for sports venues to organize football matches between their families as part of the numerous events. Getting the partner’s name tattooed on the ring finger is trending. Pre-wedding photo shoots at historical locations complete with props are also popular. One of the most searched sections is the big-bang entry of the bride at the wedding venue.

Eventually, not all the 50 or so wedding sites will survive. Wadhwa says not more than six-seven firms will be in the fray, with barely two-three winners. Yet, Singhal is bullish on the India market. “If in a much smaller wedding market like Japan there can be a wedding portal like Zexy that’s valued at $550 million, we have the right to hope."

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing, and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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