Most entrepreneurs are seeing a drop of 30-100 percent in business and no visibility on future bookings. They are staring at dozens of refunds and payments
Weddings, with all the extravaganza, could be one of the most profitable businesses. But since the start of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, weddings have been shorn of all their paraphernalia. Worse, many have been called off, leaving wedding entrepreneurs at the altar.
For most, business has plummeted by up to 100 percent, and there is no visibility on future bookings. They are staring at blank balance sheets, but still have dozens of refunds and payments to make.
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The coronavirus breakout that intensified in March led to nationwide lockdown for 21 days, which in all probability is likely to be extended further. While marriages were allowed during this period, it had to be scaled down. Many couples, who chose to cancel weddings, are yet to set a date, further adding to the uncertainty.
“So far there are no confirmed orders or any leads since no one knows how long it will go on,” said Kaviya Kamaraj, who runs Tamil Brides Guide (TBG), an online platform that offers services for brides such as makeup, jewellery, fashion designers and floral accessories.Pressing concerns: Refunds, paying employees
The immediate concern right now is refunds. While these entrepreneurs have cash flows for the next couple of months, there is not enough to refund all the cancelled weddings and then pay their employees.
Entrepreneurs handle anywhere between three to eight weddings per month on an average. Now all the bookings till June are cancelled. “So with no cash flow, how will we refund everyone?” asked one of them.
Another is paying salaries. Three entrepreneurs Moneycontrol spoke to said that they have no plans to lay off their workforce (10-15 of them each) right now and are paying their employees in full. But if the situation prolongs, all of them said they will have to lay-off their workforce or reduce their pay.Who are affected?
Entrepreneurs that cater to destination weddings and luxury market have been the most impacted. In the last few years, destination wedding in places like Pondicherry, Rajasthan and Goa had become quite popular. Most of these weddings now stand cancelled.
Ram Karan, a Bengaluru-based wedding photographer, had two destination wedding lined up in Pondicherry and Goa, both of which now stand cancelled.
Many couples have chosen home weddings with a small gathering, which entrepreneurs fear could become a norm at least in short-term. “Weddings with 1,000-2,000 people will definitely change,” said Tania Quadros, founder, Banquet18, a luxury catering firm.
Quadros is already seeing a few of her clients downsizing their wedding. Take for instance Smruthi K*, whose wedding was scheduled in March. It was supposed to be a grand affair with over 1,000 people. Now, her plan is to have a wedding at her farm house with just her family and close friends.
This trend, which is influenced by the virus outbreak and lockdown, could continue even in the post COVID-19 world, entrepreneurs fear.Overcrowded wedding scene
This situation comes at a time when entrepreneurs are struggling to sustain and grow their business in the overcrowded wedding industry.
The Indian wedding industry is worth $50 billion and is one of the fastest growing. While the industry continues to be dominated by traditional businesses such as marriage halls and contractors, the last few years saw weddings entrepreneurs emerge.
Many had left full-time jobs. Kamaraj quit a well-paying IT jobs to start wedding-related business, aided by social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. However, as more people jumped the bandwagon, prices fell and growth slowed down. Some shut shop as the business became highly unsustainable.
For instance, if candid wedding photography, which was once a luxury, cost you Rs 2-3 lakh three-to-four years back, it costs Rs 1-1.5 lakh now or even less at Rs 80,000.
Kamaraj, who runs TBG and has been able to sustain the business, pointed out that the business growth has been much slower despite the huge potential. Others have started different business.
Most agree that it is better to have an alternate revenue stream. Karan, the wedding photographer, is now looking at animation. Anand K*, once a popular wedding photographer in Chennai, sold his private studio and is dabbling in few other businesses such as ad film making.
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