Parthip Thyagarajan, Founder, WeddingSutra.com was our Lumiere Learning Monday guest speaker on 6th April 2020. It was our first ever Zoom Learning Monday. We first met Parthip in 2011 when he came unannounced to our Lumiere – Punit Park office one sunny late afternoon. I saw his silhouette through the frosted glass of my office. “I saw the board that read Lumière Business Solutions. What kind of services do you offer?”. WeddingSutra.com is a wedding media company Parthip founded in 2000 with his batch mate Madhulika Sachdeva Mathur.
The Entrepreneurs Meet up:
Some months after our meeting, Parthip invited me to an entrepreneurs high tea. Five of us meet at the Four Points Sheraton, Vashi in 2011. Pankaj Bhargava, an L&D professional, ex-Marico, who had worked closely on the Marico change management piece. Rashmi Bansal, IIM-A alumnus and bestselling author on entrepreneurship, Neeraj Gupta who had set up a training company focused on retail, Parthip and I. Parthip wanted us Navi Mumbai entrepreneurs to meet and explore ways of working together.
Rashmi reached out some months later asking if she could interview me. She was interviewing women entrepreneurs and said she found my Lumiere story that I had shared at our meeting, powerful. Her 2013 book, ‘Follow Every Rainbow’, has me as a chapter, all because of Parthip’s high tea invite. I invited Pankaj to our Miras office on 31st December 2012 to explore associating as a domain expert on HR projects. In August 2013 we engaged Pankaj as our organisational coach to lead us through our change journey.
Parthip and I chatted occasionally when on happenings at WeddingSutra.com. He gave a top jewellery designer a platform. He crafted an opportunity for a new generation of photographers with an unlikely background of IIT/ IIM to tag and write about their photographs. His engaging social media posts on celebrity and destination weddings in an English castle created buzz. He shared the link to his new wedding charity registry, WeddingSutra.com Engage. Creating events with the prestigious WeddingSutra.com influencer awards in collaboration with the Taj Mahal Hotel was the highlight of 2018. “The best ideas come from partners” says Parthip, generously giving credit to their PR partner, Nikhila Palat who curated “one of the most elegant evenings”.
The Wedding Sutra Diaries:
“Life is full of irony”, says Parthip, talking of the WeddingSutra.com journey. From being an early mover in the digital media space, Parthip has seen hesitant brand managers and business treading cautiously around the dotcoms of the times. Today digital makes life and work possible in the these unsettling times of social distancing. Parthip recalls the early movers. “In 2000 Fulcrum took care of the HUL digital media and there was one person working. Today there are 100 people working in digital”. He recalls a leader of IMG have his wedding telecast live from The Oberoi Hotel for overseas family and friends, making it the first “live” wedding telecast”.
On Relationships – Brands and People:
A believer in nurturing relationships, Parthip has taken care to keep in touch with friends and associates. Groomed in the ‘Times of India’, he looks at the world from the lens of media, consumer, partners and alliances. “Times of India – King of Barters”, was Parthip’s training ground. “When WeddingSutra.com started in 2000, top brands did not have a fully functioning website”. The big insight and business opportunity was to create a micro sites for beauty and skincare brands, fashion, and apparel who were early adopters of the WeddingSutra.com wedding media brand. The Wedding Sutra team tied up with brands like Lakmé, Sunsilk, Stayfree, Neutrogena and Kaya. Brands created content for the consumer – the bride.
On Consumer Insight:
Parthip is an expert on consumer trends, especially strong in the beauty category. Astute, his decision making is rooted in personal observation, listening and insight. He has a ringside view on the big fat Indian wedding. Wealthy Indians save for a lavish wedding for their son or daughter. The value derived from the experience is both, a “sacred giving back” to the cultural roots, valuing creative expression, and supporting the traditional roots in the eco-system that depends on these weddings. “Vendors are chosen by the family”. Each community has its own signature requirement and goes on to share community stories. WeddingSutra.com brings in the modern touch to the traditional blueprint of the wedding. “We have a few international wedding planners as partners. But guess who is the wedding planner in Indian weddings? The mother of the bride. She is expected to take this responsibility”.
Jewellery design for weddings was introduced by a top designer who partnered with WeddingSutra.com. A graduate from a prestigious college in Mumbai, she did not belong to the traditional Palanpur diamonds merchants clan. She was the first designer who started selling her jewellery by charging for her designs. The trend for destination weddings started with Thailand morphing from a bachelor destination to a wedding destination. There are about 200 Sindhi families in Hong Kong who realised that Hong Kong is very expensive and they saw they could travel outside. 15 affluent Sindhi families from Hong Kong had weddings in Thailand in 2010 – 2012. Thailand, the land of smiles, welcomed them.
They could offer service with a smile and work their magic. The hotels learnt the ways of their Indian wedding guests quickly. They also figured that one family will provide a network to a 100 families. The government also eased customs norms, to make carrying valuables and jewellery to and from weddings easy. Women entrepreneurs are a part of the Indian wedding eco-system. Customised, specialised well-crafted products and services, ranging from costume jewellery, to gift packaging, and calligraphy, “there is at least one women in every posh building offering some unique wedding craft.
What will the future of wedding business be?
The future of the world is uncertain. The wedding industry has not known recession. What will it mean for WeddingSutra.com? What will it bring with the re-prioritising for brands and business? How will people celebrate weddings? What will be the impact of social distancing be? The impact on spending and saving? What will young people hold dear? And what will they forego? What will the new bride-to-be’s dream? What will families spend on? We are taking a day at a time, thinking of necessities, of staying safe and staying afloat and managing life and business in the times of lockdown.
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