The global digital space, today, is all about the survival of the fittest. And in India, it’s a race to the finish. Either you capture a loyal audience or you’re out of the game. So in the unfiltered world of the internet, how do you make your mark? How do you make sure your platform garners the following it rightfully deserves?
Well, these women we feature in our Women In Digital series this month can teach you a thing or two about that. Having founded and established popular content platforms with high traction, these smart, sassy, digital natives are putting India on the global map. If you want a piece of the digital pie, we suggest you take notes.
The first site you are bound to open if you’re a bride-to-be is WedMeGood. India’s largest wedding planning portal, WedMeGood helps you discover, book, and review vendors, find inspiring ideas, and stay on track with a unique checklist. Basically it’s your maid of honour on-the-go.
Founded in 2014 by Mehak Sagar Shahani and her husband, Anand Shahani, the portal has, today, become a go-to for every Indian bride and her family. Plus, have you seen their gorgeous photos on Instagram? With 528k followers on Instagram, 13k on Snapchat, and 1.5 lakh followers on Facebook, it’s clear that the Shahanis have got this right. Read about WedMeGood’s and Mehak’s journey in her own words.
Walk us through your career trajectory, and what led you to start a digital media company.
I am have a Masters in economics and, in terms of education, am very far removed from where I am today. However, I’ve always had a creative side and was part of the editorial team in college, etc. I was working with American Express when I started blogging on the side. When the blog, Peaches And Blush, took off, I realised that I could probably do this at a bigger scale.
One day, while talking about the lack of online wedding content with my husband, I told him I wanted to start a wedding content portal. He nudged me to think bigger — a product with technology that not only gives content, but also helps users plan their wedding. Hence, WedMeGood was born. I handle content and digital marketing, he handles business.
The website was born out of a personal need — when I was getting married, it was in a new city and I had no idea who to hire. I knew there had to be a better way to solve this problem and, therefore, we started WedMeGood.
Tell us a little bit about what makes your company special/different.
At the heart of it, I think we understand our users implicitly. We understand the working of a bride’s mind and what makes her tick. So that reflects in every aspect of the company — whether it is the product, the content, or just how we communicate with them.
More objectively speaking, 2 things really stand out for us — a large amount of user-generated content — whether it is reviews written by brides for vendors, or stories and weddings they submit — one of our biggest achievements has been the volume of it on WedMeGood.
The other is the product — we put a lot of thought into all the features, and the designs that would appeal to brides, which reflects in our app.
At what point in your journey did you realise you had something special on your hands?
I think it was about 6 months into building WMG. I was at Chandni Chowk (New Delhi) and I saw a bride next to me flip open our site to explain to the guy the outfit she wanted. The guy actually knew about WMG and mentioned he gets business from it. That’s when I realised we were making a difference to peoples lives.
Starting a company is no easy feat. What’s been the most rewarding part of the process?
Feedback. It is the single-most rewarding thing ever. Every single email from an ecstatic bride, every message on our Instagram page telling us how we helped them on the biggest day of their life. It sounds clichéd, but it really is the only thing that keeps us going. Once your customers love you, everything else falls into place.
Where do you think you’ve had your biggest struggles, and how have you overcome them?
I think early on, technology was a struggle. Both my husband and I aren’t from the tech space, and you need a solid tech person to really build a great product. But now we have a good tech team, of which we are super proud.
In the startup scene, our struggles change every week, honestly — whether it’s scaling revenue, or ensuring every type of culture across India is represented on the platform.
Any challenges you face as a digital company versus a legacy media publication? How do you think you score over legacy media?
I think both types of media have their own space, honestly. Being in the wedding space, one struggle we face over a legacy media publication is definitely that most of our vendors (eg: designers, decorators, etc) are still old-school — so converting them is hard. Even though we might have higher reach in terms of numbers, there is a tendency to trust an offline publication more. But it’s changing quickly, and we are glad.
What, in your opinion, is the best thing about being a digital company?
I think the fact that you can personalise your offering. I can figure out when a bride is logging in from Hyderabad and show her relevant content versus one who is logging in from Delhi. In the same way, I can customise my offering based on preferences — something a legacy media house cannot do.
I also think digital is more ‘real’, in the sense that we tell stories of real people, ones that can connect with the average bride-to-be. And we receive instant feedback, so we know what works and what doesn’t, and can change quickly.
Lessons you’ve learned along the way that hold you in good stead today?
No matter what anyone else says, do what’s best for your customer and what your customer wants. You will be sorted in the end. And, as you grow, rely more on data. It will surprise some of your initial assumptions.
Do you think building a business as a woman — raising money as a woman — has more challenges?
I think the startup space is a great levelling field — that’s what I have seen in my experience. Building a business is an extremely hard thing to do but, at least for me, I think the challenge is equal for men and women.
If you had to go back and start over, is there anything you would do differently?
We kind of jumped right into WMG when we started, without knowing anything about the tech space. If I had to start over, I would ensure I had a tech co-founder onboard already, and do my research about it.
What else can we expect from your website in the future? Where do you go from here?
There are so many exciting things you can expect. I think a lot of classified portals are, right now, trying to figure whether they want to be just a classifieds portal or more of a recommendation or booking engine.
You will definitely see WedMeGood transitioning into one of the latter two in the time to come. We are also working hard to personalise our content so that everyone sees what they want to.