Do you know what defines an entrepreneur? I believe it’s the ability to create their own opportunities by doing things they truly care about by investing their life. While those things might seem crazy, they take pride in taking the road less traveled and then paving way for others to follow. The multi-billion dollar Twitter that we know of today was one such crazy idea and look where it is today.
While Varun Todi (@varuntodi) and Harshvardhan Khemani featured in here might not be building the next Twitter, they do take pride in their ability to make a living while making others happy which they have been doing since 2009. Let’s get the details in Varun’s own words.[hero heading=”Varun Todi, OyeHappy“]We are probably the only company in India where when a customer cries, we take it as a compliment – @varuntodi[/hero]
Oye Happy started as a crazy idea which evolved into a business in almost an autopilot mode. We wanted to make people happy. I worked in advertising as a copywriter and creative consultant. Harsh was a strategy and operational efficiency consultant at KPMG.
Harsh and I have always been great at making special occasions extra special for our loved ones. A friend once requested us to surprise her boyfriend at the airport as he was flying in from the US. We actually held a mock Swayamvar to welcome him! We had a blast getting it together and they couldn’t have been happier. That was when we decided we had to this for a living.
In a 138 sqft room, this took the shape of Oye Happy.
The Early Days
Clients would call and ask us to arrange for surprises for their loved ones. Our marketing was restricted to our Facebook page and word of mouth references. The viral nature of the concept often made people witnessing the surprise, google us and then approach us.
We dressed as fishermen to welcome a fiancé, hosted a surprise book launch and signing for a closeted poet, arranged for a proposal in the air and this doesn’t even cover all of our favorites. It didn’t take us long to realize that the Indian customer had evolved. We noticed that unique experiences were valued much more highly than traditional gifts and various studies backed up our observation. People chose to create memories rather than invest in expensive material presents.
The Big Leap
It was in 2014 that we took the big plunge and went online. From phone call orders and a tiny kiosk at the Hyderabad airport, we were now a full fledged e-commerce portal for surprises. We introduced not just customization of products that emphasize the personal touch but also a wide range of experiences that loved ones can take part in together or a person can treat him or herself to.
The leap to sending over a Harley-Davidson for a day as a birthday gift instead of a bouquet is quite large for most people. That has been our biggest hurdle so far. Even when people want to try something new, they can be apprehensive at first. But once convinced enough to place an order with us, our customers have always returned to arrange for other surprises. Word of mouth references and good reviews are still our biggest marketing tools.
There are currently very few companies in India in the experiential and customized gifting space and none offer the kind of products we do though the demand for it has been growing exponentially. This led us to enter the corporate gifting space this year.
As part of our growth strategy, besides expanding our retail operations, we have also introduced Oye Happy ‘Excite’ which are experience boxes for businesses. This will allow companies to gift a memorable experience to their employees and clients instead of conventional gifts. Employees can choose to do what interests them from a host of options like wine tasting, horse riding, zumba classes, etc available in the experience box.
We raised funds from 2 angel investors during our inception to help us launch the e-commerce portal and trigger the initial push. The experience of raising investment, especially during inception, was quite insightful as it made us ask questions which we otherwise may have ignored. We finally had to put pen to paper and define Oye Happy.
Our business is people-dependent. Being in a creative field, it is important for us to have people who do not confine themselves to just processes but are also willing to step out of it and look at things from a fresh perspective. Since the business itself is a lot of fun (who can resist making someone smile?), attracting talent was never much of a challenge for us.
In the last 2 years alone, spending in the experience segment has increased by 200%. Experiences have a high viral coefficient since this is the social media generation and it gives them talking points. Apart from experiences, gifts which help build an emotional connect are more in demand than regular flowers and cakes.
We are in an industry which is evolving really fast and since people are getting more expressive especially with a time constraint, they look for newer and better ways of making the expression meaningful.
Our immediate plan is to have a physical presence in every metro to enable quality experiences. We are already getting queries from across the country, including smaller towns, for experiences. A lot of corporates too have shown interest in Oye Happy ‘Excite’ and we will soon take that forward.
The only advice we have for entrepreneurs is that they should be truly passionate about the industry they are getting into.
[blockquote right=”pull-right” cite=”Varun Todi”]If you’re going to invest several years of your life in an idea, you need to enjoy every moment of it.[/blockquote]
We are probably the only company in India where when a customer cries, we take it as a compliment. What we believe makes us special is the sheer amount of creativity and newness you can find in our products. So the next time you want to make someone smile – think of us.
Be happy and make others happy with OyeHappy.
[Edited for clarity]
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