I spent the holiday season in Lahore, Pakistan for my cousin’s wedding. If you have ever been to a South Asian wedding, you know how incredibly crazy and fun they can be. To begin, its not a one-day affair. South Asian families prolong the celebration as much as possible till there are back-to-back events that can run up to ten days. Having spent time at a startup and in the Silicon Valley bubble, I noticed ways technology could eliminate repetitive pain points.
Arranged Marriages: Only a South Asian can tell you the science behind an arranged marriage. Its a long and often painful process that begins with awkward introductions, family-engendered stalking, and chaperoned visits. Parents play as much of a role in the courting process as the two individuals getting married. Bharat Matrimony, a BVP portfolio company, uses a web platform to streamline the process. It personalizes the entire process by arranging in-person meetings with families to dilute the impersonal web process. Pakistan has a similar website “Pakistan Matrimony” but there is room for more competition/innovation in the market. Weddings have also become a great “rishta scouting” platform. A rishta, in Urdu, means a proposal. Mothers go to weddings to find pretty girls or handsome boys for their own children. Often they see someone they don’t recognize and they have to go through the embarrassing process of going up to them to ask them their name/background. Sometimes, they proceed to take out their feature phones and physically type in the name in order to save it for later use. (I wish I was kidding.) There has to be a social app that could service this scarily large population. A quick photo with an easy-to-use note interface would do wonders for the awkward 10-minute rishta hunt.
Testing Hair & Makeup: I visited a lot of salons during the wedding and realized there was a real need for visual examples of hair style offerings and makeup selections. For brides, this is even more important. Brides have trial appointments beforehand but visual examples are a much better use of time and money. There was only one salon I visited that used an iPad to show customers the different makeup and hairstyle options it offered. I thought it was a great investment - much better than the tattered magazines in the corner that were years old with makeup smudges on the corner. I digress, but you get the point.
Mehndhi: We take “getting our hands dirty” very literally here in the subcontinent. Henna, as it is often referred to outside of the Middle East, looks beautiful when it is fully dried but the process is long and very messy. Henna has a very strong smell and when used out of a traditional henna cone can take a long time to produce intricate designs. Henna takes at least one hour to dry and if you touch anything by mistake for the next three hours (inevitable, really) it will have a dirty orange stain for life. Exciting. This winter, we refused to go through the dreaded mehndhi process and tried something new- mehndhi application via a syringe. Henna artists break off the tip of a syringe for precise henna application which is much more effective than a flimsy plastic-wrap henna cone. Artists have also stopped using organic henna. Hennotannic acid (the dye in henna) is hydrophobic which means that water is not the best way to darken henna. Instead, terpineol, a type of monoterpene alcohol is infused with the henna. Terpineol is found in Tea Tree and Cajeput oils. The infusion of this oil allows the henna to darken quickly and dry within 5 minutes. No flakes, no smell - just beautiful, intricate, wedding-ready designs. Source: The Henna Page
Service Professionals: The best season for hair salons and spas in Pakistan is wedding season (December-February) but the number of salons to customers is disproportionate. Pakistan’s population is approximately 180 mm - people need jobs that are sustainable. The salon skill set is a fun/relatively easy skill set to acquire for young women seeking upward fiscal mobility. Women would make a lot more offering their services individually, at the homes of clients, rather than at a salon. The salon offers structure and limited training but the freedom and high price range of serving high-end clients at their homes may provide higher fiscal incentive in the long run. This is obviously something that needs to be modeled out but it could be an interesting idea to explore.
A Staged Wedding: One of the things I’ve always hated about South Asian weddings is the limited movement of the bride and groom. The bride and her groom are expected to be ornaments on a stage in one corner of the wedding hall. People take turns to come and greet the new couple. Women in saris have trouble climbing up the stage - there are long lines all the way to the buffet table of people waiting to say hello and get their picture taken with the couple. It just seems incredibly inefficient. I am not exaggerating when I say the new couple is expected to sit on a sofa for 3+ hours, smile for the camera and pretend to know relatives they have only met 1-2 times in their entire life. Its no fun. The easy answer would be: go against the norm, walk around, dance - who cares about tradition. This is true but what if we change the whole idea of a stage? What if the bride and groom sit on a rotating platform in the middle of the hall? No one would come up to get pictures taken - pictures of the bride and groom could be taken before or after the ceremony. Instead, the bride and groom would be equally close to all guests and able to walk around and greet friends and family.
An App World: The wedding industry in Pakistan is a rapidly evolving, high margin industry with remarkable potential - but a successful wedding has little to do with effective management or precedent in Pakistan. Everything is done in a very haphazard, last minute way. Event managers in Pakistan should use the web to streamline the planning process in a solidified way: registries should be utilized, wedding portfolios should be shared online, ideas should be exchanged with the planner via the web. This would not only limit meeting/transportation costs but would also allow an increased flow of information exchange (increasing the potential for success/fulfillment.)