Hoping to spark a new trend for travellers, Australian start-up co-founders, Orsi Parkanyi and Marta Matesca discovered a desire for deep cultural experiences and launched Join My Wedding in April 2016. And boy, did it appear that they struck gold: media traction around their idea was notably widespread. It seemed the two founders had answered the cultural curiosity of many by founding a company that allows you to attend an Indian wedding as a guest for a small fee.
The idea was sparked for Orsi and Marta after attending a Tamil wedding a few years prior, with Marti discovering how enriching such an experience could be.
“We talked with a lot of people when the idea was born,” she tells Collective Hub. “There was no question around travellers being interested in such a unique value proposition, a real once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The reality of the venture has proved popular but tricky. Although interest is strong, one of their earlier challenges was getting willing couples on board to host their clients at their special day.
“We launched the site in April 2016, however at that time, we got two-four new registrations per month only,” Orsi tells us.
With faith in their offering and confidence in their business model, the JMW team watched as the power of media and convenience of their online platform attracted more couples; now with more than 1,000 tickets for sale, with a cumulative value of near $300k.
“Since mid-July… when a major Indian daily newspaper featured us, we got 100+ registrations, not only from India, but from Hungary, US, Russia and Vietnam as well.”
In August, the start-up landed their very first customers. Namrata and Nitin, a young couple from Bangalore in India’s South, welcomed six complete strangers to join them throughout their three-day wedding celebrations. Excited by the prospect of sharing their traditions and opulent rituals with people from around the globe, the loved-up couple were the first to welcome travellers as a part of the Join My Wedding experience, listing their nuptials online for prospective guests just one month before they sealed the deal. Paying $50 per day to attend, travellers from Australia, Ireland, France, Spain and New Zealand leapt at the opportunity to immerse themselves in the marital festivities.
Although the start-up has had around 600 requests from those keen to work a wedding into their travel plans, the supply aspect of the business is admittedly hard to pin down.
“Even if the number of weddings listed on our site is high from a new venture’s viewpoint, it is still relatively low to make it always possible to match supply and demand,” cofounder Orsi explains. “We have a lot of requests where either the date or the location is not matching.”
But the founders are already developing solutions.
“We are now scaling up our team to launch the new version of JoinMyWedding.com,” Orsi tells us. “Our aim is to have this new version out by early 2017, providing a much better user experience for both couples and travellers, as well as new functionalities. We also hired our first dedicated customer success manager – so far, we called each couple by ourselves – to handle our growing couple and wedding database. In India, we are working on more strategic partnerships to secure a steady flow of customers coming to our site.”
And it’s not just the vibrant Indian wedding that this start-up is working on growing.
“After building up the concept in India, we want to roll out JoinMyWedding.com to more markets, first in Asia then beyond – as a venture, we are now considering emerging investment options to accelerate our growth, as so far JMW was bootstrapped,” explains Marta. “As we’ve learned from best practices in developing a double-sided marketplace and a global venture, we started with a specific focus. We selected India as our first target market, as Indian weddings are already famous and there is existing market validation – but just imagine joining a traditional Greek wedding in Crete where usually over 1,000 people attend, a Chinese wedding where the brides are shielded from their future husbands until the ceremony, or a wedding Niger where a dance is done at the desert reception by a real camel.”
All that’s left to say is: we do.