Marriages are created in heaven but they are designed by Meena Agencies

Ramu Ramanathan looks at how print trends are shifting due to the changes in the wedding market

11 Aug 2010 | By Ramu Ramanathan

It is an eye opener. A wedding trade show hosted by print-publisher Spenta Multimeda, which produces the bi-monthly magazine, Marwar. The three-day Marwar Mega Wedding show has a host of luxury and fashion labels, and beauty brands targeting big budget families and brides. In the midst of the high glitz stalls is, Meena Agencies, a Mumbai-based invitation card company.

"Nothing surprising," says Anand Thakker, who is heading the wedding card business at Meena Agencies. "We participate in three wedding shows in India, every year."

Thakker estimates the size of the wedding industry in Mumbai to be a whopping Rs 50,000 crore. "The game has changed and we realised this five years ago. Today, Indian weddings require wedding consultants and coordinators. We play a key role in conceptualising the theme. We work in close tandem with the client. Those few months are the most important in a family's life. We become an integral part of the family and get involved with details," informs Thakker.

The art of re-inventing
Meena Agencies reigned in the greeting card segment with their brand, Wishy Cards. But with the ascendancy of e-cards and sms, it meant a sharp decline to the traditional business, Thakker points out, "It was a question of being a slow adopter, or being alert and quick to change."

He eyed the wedding segment because "Indians are illogically romantic about weddings. People will continue to marry. They won't surrender their traditional values, whatever the rival attractions."

To tap this segment the company has created a range of exclusive items which could be customised for a high-octane wedding. Meena's four-theme classification includes: Bollywood (inspired from Bollywood films like Devdas and Jodha Akbar with laser die-cuts and high-end print), Premium (a range of invites that complements dry fruit boxes, bags and gifts), Bridal (special collection exclusively designed by the bride's family with invites that comprise jewellery, a dholi) and Traditional (with Radha-Krishna themes – a nostalgic favourite among Indians).

50% of Meena Agencies clientele are NRI who are based in UK or USA. And Thakker is full of stories about FedExing 600 kilos of pre-invited pieces to Atlanta.

The vicissitudes of the wedding market
Is there a danger of cut-throat wedding competitiveness? Thakker agrees: "There's a problem of sameness. If something is always available, like tap water, you tend to value it less. There is constant pressure to create something bigger and better, or produce innovation."

Then there is the ethical question about waste. What happens to the two-three millions cards per year which Meena fabricates – after the event? Thakker is keen to resolve this. He showcases convergence of pre-invite card, a multi-functional tray or dry fruit box, which can be re-used after the event. The company has a go-green initiative whereby they collect cards and recycle them in a proper channel."

Manufacturing new rules
Meena Agencies has been in business since 1964. Its head-quarter is located in Khadilkar Road in Central Mumbai, a bustling lane lined with a row of invitation card shops. Even today, one can source any type of card. Plus these shops provide an array of handbags and gift boxes in addition to invitation cards.

Meena was among the first few shops. They stocked a variety of cards ranging from textile design, embroidery and handicrafts to print. "Earlier, an invitation was a mode of information. Today, it is a style statement as the invitation creates the first impression of the event," says Thakker.

To prove this, Thakker shows a dazzling array of wedding invitation envelopes. These are: an outer envelope, an inner (sealed) envelope, an unsealed envelope that holds the invitation, a reception card, an insert that lists the reception time and location, a response set which is a small card and stamped envelope for RSVP, a map with a card which highlights transport and hotel arrangement, and a within-the-ribbon card which identifies guests and demarcates menus and wine preferences.

But more than print, where Meena scores is their market suaveness. He has myriad marketing tricks up-his-sleeve.

Thakker is bullish due to a long wedding season from November to March. Meena will participate in one more wedding show before that. And why not? With the big grand Indian wedding worth 12% of India's GDP, the market is king size.

Founded 1964
Specialty Premium wedding invitations, greeting cards, wedding accessories
Location Central Mumbai and Ambernath
Equipment Xerox 242, Universal laser engravers, GTP foil stamping machines, punching and binding accessories, Foil fuser, Darwin software for VDP, Polar cutting machine, screen printing kit
Staff 78 including contractors