When 31-year-old Sabin Rodriguez’s cousin sought a banquet hall for a party for her dad, they went through a painful process of finalising a venue because the entire system was unstructured. To tap into this space, Sabin and Utkarsh Singhania (32) started BigFday, a start-up that aims to make a dent in the events space.
Their idea was further validated when another friend had a terrible time planning her wedding. Sabin, originally from Kanyakumari, studied engineering at St Joseph’s College of Engineering and after graduating, had worked with ADP (Automatic Data Processing) as Lead Implementation Consultant. Utkarsh was Sabin’s colleague at ADP and has a Bachelors in Computer Science Engineering and an MBA in Entrepreneurship.
Sabin says: “Starting up was not something I was planning to do. Born to government employees, it was expected of me to go for a 9 to 5 job. Within the first three years of my job, I succumbed to its monotony. That’s when the idea for BigFday came, staring me in the face and I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. I was looking for a technical co-founder for BigFday — since I realised the product was going to be tech-heavy — which was how I connected with Utkarsh, who quit his job a few months later, and joined me.”
BigFday helps connect customers and vendors for events. The company was started with savings from previous jobs which was exhausted even before they landed their first customer. Much like a marketplace, the services that customers require can be tweaked in many ways. A wedding venue can pass off as a conference room if the right arrangements are done. BigFday’s main market is Chennai, where spend on events exceed $300 million annually. Sabin says that only 10 per cent of the market in the city is ready to use a platform like BigFday, making the addressable market size worth $30 million. Extrapolating that to 10 other cities, there is a business that can be scaled to achieve massive traction.
“We started spending on paid marketing only recently, before which we pinned our hopes on marketing through word of mouth. We figured everything out, beginning from the product flow to the business model. We also put in an extraordinary amount of work to get customers and make sure they were happy. Since we were completely bootstrapped, the journey has been humbling. We have grown from thousands in revenue to being operationally profitable; from a team of three to a team of 14. This team has gone from working from my bedroom to getting office space. In the initial days, we used to clock a few lakhs a month in booking value; this figure has grown to over a crore now. All of this happened after we ran out of money,” Utkarsh adds.
The market that BigFday services is untapped and completely unorganised. The only way one can find venues in a city is either by visiting the venue in person, through Googling it, or by using a service like JustDial. The folks at BigFday travel to the venues and collect the details, which includes seating capacity, menu choices, area of the hall, amenities provided, which includes services such as photography. This is done so users can decide which venue to book online.
“We don’t have a specific client base that we’re targeting. What is unique to us is that the same supply can be tweaked for different types of customers. For example, a wedding and a conference can he held at the same venue, while the event planner’s services can be offered to a bride as well as a corporate,” BigFday says, adding that most of their clients are aged 24-34. “While we do plan traditional events such as bridal showers, naming ceremony and the like, we plan many new events, like pre-engagement parties, retirement events, alumni meets and kitty parties,” Sabin says.
BigFday has two revenue streams: a standard commission from venues and an advertising model for better visibility for venues. As for bringing in strategic investors on board, Utkarsh says: “At present we are in the final stages of raising our seed round. We expect to close the deal soon.”
BigFday wants to become the go-to choice for event planning. To that end, so far, they have tied up with over 500 venues which include restaurant party halls, banquet halls and star hotels in Chennai. Apart from this, they are also tying up with people offering other services that would be required while planning an event, for example, decor, photographers and event planners, to name a few. This essentially means that BigFday will turn into a one-stop player for all events.
Organising the sector
BigFday works with big brands such as ITC, Taj, The Leela Palace, Hyatt Regency, Marriott, and Hilton, to name a few. Each of the venues it has tied up with gets a dedicated webpage on the website that provides information that a prospective client would be looking for. Apart from helping build the reputation of these brands, it also helps track user behaviour and manage the prices. This helps them provide insights for demand prediction tools that would help venues manage their inventory.
All this also achieves one of BigFday’s goals — it structures an otherwise unorganised market while making it easier for customers to find venues and for the vendors to make sales. Major competitors for BigFday include Megavenues, VenueLook and MeraEvents.
The event market is gaining a lot of traction thanks to the advancement in technology, with augmented reality and 360° photos. The market has been plagued by zero transparency and the lack of a reviewing system which BigFday hopes to fix. It is building a network of professional vendors, complete with information such as the vendor’s portfolio, reputation and indicative pricing. This will change the market, further streamline it.
Sabin ends the interview with a piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs: “Just believe in what you do and stay focused. It’s often not easy to tell the world what you have in your mind, you have to show how it’s done.”