Sanna Vohra

Sanna Vohra, CEO & Founder, The Wedding Brigade.

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How the Indian Wedding Industry will Continue to Scale Despite Changing Economic Scenarios

A recent KPMG report estimated India’s wedding market at $ 50 billion, with a rapid annual growth rate

The Indian wedding industry has always been a robust contributor to the nation's business landscape. Given the size and scale of the average function, the sheer variety of services and products involved, and the number of people engaged in putting together this grandest of affairs, that's to be expected. But the past decade has seen the industry go from strength to strength, and grow to become a key linchpin of India's overall economy. And in the process, it's revealed itself to be a recession-proof haven of a sector.

That should hardly come as a surprise. A recent KPMG report estimated India’s wedding market at $ 50 billion, with a rapid annual growth rate. As with so many other things in our country, these figures can primarily be attributed to demographic causes. With close to half of India’s 1.3 billion-strong population under the age of 30, and more than 10 million weddings held annually, a steady flow of future nuptials seems assured.

But figures alone aren’t enough to tell us the whole story. After all, given the non-essential nature of the event, it would be reasonable to expect a nationwide economic slowdown to severely impact a wedding and its myriad ancillary expenses. But making that assumption betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the mindset behind India’s wedding culture.
A Cultural Phenomenon

Weddings represent an irreplaceable part of our cultural fabric, and many families are willing to go to any length to ensure that every aspect on these occasions is perfect. The cultural importance held by weddings also mean that they are planned well in advance, and frequently scheduled to coincide with auspicious dates on the calendar. Parents begin saving for their children’s weddings as soon as they are born, and allocate a significant portion of their life’s savings to the event. Certain quarters estimate that up to one-fifth of an individual’s total lifetime wealth is poured into this occasion.

The Indian wedding also plays a critical role in showcasing the social status and financial prosperity of the families involved. Recent years have seen the acceleration of this trend, with the glamourisation of traditional ceremonies such as the haldi and gharcholi, the incorporation of western wedding traditions such as stag and hen parties and cocktail evenings, and the increased popularity of destination weddings in foreign locales.

Indeed, India’s reputation for hosting extravagant wedding celebrations has become so widespread that the concept of the ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ has now transcended national borders and firmly embedded itself in the global zeitgeist. Ask anyone beyond our borders about the Indian cultural event they’d most like to experience and a wedding is almost guaranteed to be mentioned, alongside perennial favourites such as Holi and Diwali. The Indian wedding has truly become an experience unto itself, and this shift is here to stay.

Learning to Bend
However, an industry that assumes itself immune to the broader economic environment is setting itself up for failure. Thankfully the wedding industry is cognisant of this peril, and has taken steps to safeguard its unique and preeminent position in India’s festive calendar. This has been achieved by constantly seeking to diversify its offerings, while remaining flexible in the ability to service every need of any given wedding party. This trend is best manifested by an increased emphasis on customisation and personalisation.

Although we may not see an overall reduction in the size and scope of the average Indian wedding, an underlying concern over the state of the economy may prompt families to be more discerning in some of their choices. This will manifest itself through a series of adjustments and compromises across an array of options – a switch from luxury and couture clothing to ready-to-wear options for certain members of the bridal party; opting against a celebrity photographer; switching from a foreign destination to a local one, and so on. When combined all of these options result in a significant savings, while doing little to detract from the overall spectacle of the event. This is especially true of the Indian middle class, long renowned for their frugality and financial prudence. After spending the majority of their lives working towards this one pivotal moment, an economic slowdown is unlikely to hamper their efforts. In this instance, the only visible symptom of wider economic circumstances will be a reduction in the more frivolous expenditures, i.e. wedding exhibitions and the like.

Similarly, couples who are willing and able to opt for a no-expenses spared extravaganza face no shortage of options. The wedding industry – and its many niche fields – will provide as they always have. Through this adaptability comes the industry’s resilience and staying power. As the industry continues to mature and evolve down the path towards formalisation, these traits will only be strengthened. The disparate vendors and service providers will see their offerings coalesce under the aegis of overarching vendors, and the industry will enter an entirely new phase of professional expansion and growth.

Ultimately, the Indian wedding is ultimately a bread-and-butter industry in India. Come rain or shine, weddings will continue to take place, and forever remain a highlight in the lives of the families involved. So as we begin a new decade under the cloud of worry, I say, ‘Here comes the sun.’

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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