We are publishing an interview of Mr. Rahul Rupani, Founder of VenueMonk at Gurgaon, Haryana.
Please tell us about the founders.
VenueMonk is co-founded by 3 BITSians:
- Rahul Rupani – The Marketing Guy
- Ritwik Sahoo – The Tech Guy
- Aditya Goyal – The Ops Guy
As the newest member as Operation Trainee in Jabong in 2013, I was given the task to find venue for Director’s Birthday Party. I searched for some online option to make venue discovery easier, but I couldn’t find any! Once I realised the scope of the problem, I discussed the idea for VenueMonk with people who had planned events before for their friends and family. They all agreed that the current way was time consuming and frustrating. Finding the correct venue with all that you want and the vendors who perform according to expectations is really tough to find.
I consulted the then Operations Director Pratik Gupta (currently founder at Wadi.com and advisor at VenueMonk.com). He also loved the idea as he could relate to the problem personally having faced many issues planning his own wedding. I was convinced with the idea, so kept learning more and more about the industry.
Meanwhile, I took a job at ZS associates. In November 2014, I learned bit of coding and launched a website for finding a venue. With a little bit of promotion, I got my first enquiry within 2 days of the website launch. That’s when VenueMonk got it’s first order – a 15 year old girl’s birthday party. I searched for the venues myself best matching the parent’s requirements, called up shortlisted venues, customised the package for the customer and suggested the best offer. The customer booked a venue from the suggestions given within 24 hours and VenueMonk got its 1st customer. The highlight of the process was that every step was done online! That’s when I decided to pursue this idea seriously.
Give us a brief background of what founders were doing before starting the venture.
1. Rahul Rupani – After earning top honours in Mechanical Engineering & Post Graduation in Physics, Rahul was inspired by the entrepreneurial ecosystem at BITS Pilani. Extensive experience in Operations and Business Development at Jabong, ZS Associates and Wadi gave Rahul in-depth understanding of these business functions both in Indian ecommerce and global consulting markets. With these experiences, Rahul equipped himself to start his own venture VenueMonk.
2. Ritwik Sahoo – Ritwik is a self-taught web-developer who co-founded two previous early stage startups – Horizons India and CGShack. It gave him the opportunity to learn fundamentals of running a startup and building technology ground-up. The BITS Pilani Mechanical Engineer worked in mechanical design in Construction and Heavy Engineering division at Tata Technologies. At VenueMonk, Ritwik works as a Full Stack Developer leading web app development, devising back-end architecture and developing user experience.
3. Aditya Goyal – With his family owned banquet business, Aditya has overseen planning and management of events for clients. Armed with insider’s view, Aditya brings in his sales experience at OE Exports sales handling Bosch customers in Asia Pacific. Having worked at Essar Oil and Tata Autocomp System, he has worked on numerous company-wide initiatives. Also a Mechanical Engineer from BITS-Pilani, he joined his batchmates at VenueMonk to oversee operations.
What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
When you are planning any event you would mainly face these three problems:
- Finding the right venue & vendor – Of over 5000 venues present in Delhi NCR, finding that perfect venue for your event is really difficult.
- No standardization – Pricing can very drastically (upto 30%) from customer to customer even on the same day for the same venue. Our experts get the venues at the best and the lowest price and we offer the same to our customers.
- After shortlisting and before you book the venue, certain critical things need to be verified to avoid last minute hassles which mostly people don’t know. Eg. Parking, Power Backup, Food Tasting, etc.
Events industry in India is above $50 Billion which indicates that large number of people face this problem. So as a solution, we launched venuemonk.com
What challenges did you face when you were starting out?
The major challenges faced when starting out were:
- The chicken egg problem – We needed customers to onboard venues and we needed venues to get customers
- Building the founding team
How did you get the initial capital? What returns does it have? Tell us about the investors (if any).
When we started, we put in our savings from previous jobs into VenueMonk. We started getting revenue from the very first day and kept using it to grow the business. We later got funding from private investors.
Please tell us about the Product / Solution.
VenueMonk works in a fairly simple way, so that anyone can easily book a venue online for their celebrations.
- First, visit venuemonk.com
- Then, discover venues based on your event, shortlist & send enquiry
- Get negotiated quotes for shortlisted venues + additional venue suggestions
- Book venue with secure online payments.
We kept iterating the product continuously as we learnt more and more about what the customer is looking for and the way venues would like to work to get the product market fit.
What is the strength of the startup and the scale of operations? Who do You Perceive as Your Competition?
Getting the best venue’s matching the customer’s requirement at best prices in minimum time is our strength. Currently we operate in Delhi NCR and cater to around 900 events every month. Our competitors are Venuelook and Bookeventz.
What is the revenue model? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ?
We charge our venue partners a marketing fee on quarterly/annual basis for providing them more business.
Who are the consumers that you are targeting? How is this going to affect them?
We target people who are planning an event and are looking for a venue. Using venuemonk.com they can find the best venue at the best price in minutes making it very convenient for them.
How did you get your first customer?
After launching a single page website with a google form to submit an enquiry, few emails and some social media posts, we got our first customer in 2 days – a 15 year old girl’s birthday party.
What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Aim is to become the leading event planning platform in India. Currently we just have venues, but soon we will be providing one stop event planning solution and add other services like decorator, caterer, etc.
Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture?
More than 1100 venues comprising of 5 star properties, banquets, farms, resorts, restaurants, clubs etc., in Delhi NCR, are currently on our platform and we help find venues to around 900 events every month on VenueMonk.
What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Starting up is really hard. You face some or the other problem everyday, and sometimes nothing seems to go right. To keep myself focused and defend from negative thoughts in such situations, I repeat this sentence in Gujarati “karis toh thase” which means “It will happen if you work on it and not worry about it”. Doing this really helps me focus on the execution and keeps my mind away from negative thoughts. I believe having a go-to-inspirational sentence which you can remind yourself of during tough times, is really important.
If you are facing any problems, try it, it really helps!
And if you need any help regarding your startup, feel free to reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you need help to plan your event, visit venuemonk.com!
Thank you so much Mr. Rahul.