Young entrepreneurs in the wedding scene
The Bangladeshi wedding scene has exploded with Bollywood-style productions replacing the simpler weddings our parents' generation had. With that, businesses focused on weddings have also taken new forms, making room for young entrepreneurs in old well-established fields like photography, catering and event management.
Wedding photography has come a long way from the awkward footage of people eating at weddings that we grew up watching. But even modern wedding photography and cinematography have become so saturated that it's quite difficult to have a presence in this world as a young entrepreneur.
Ayna Mahal has recently made a solid footing in the world of wedding photography by going back to where it all started. Najmul Nahid, photographer and co-founder of Ayna Mahal, shared his experience saying, "It was not and still is not easy for us to find clients. It's not that we think generic wedding photography is bad. But we as a team believe that the product we create is intimate, meant to be watched with family at home, not on a big screen."
What initially made it hard for Ayna Mahal to get clients is also what's creating a brand identity for the team. "We want our photos to reflect a 90s photo album, which is why we focus more on the emotion behind moments that take place in a wedding," says Nahid.
Md. Anik Faysal, founder of Palmera Events & Catering shared a similar story, saying, "It is not easy to get into the catering business in Bangladesh. Especially considering most catering businesses have decades of experience under their belt which makes people trust them. But the difference in our approach to catering is what's drawing clientele for us."
Faysal graduated with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering but decided to follow his passion and work with food. His business started with him being disappointed with the quality of ingredients and concerned about the hygiene protocols in Bangladeshi catering businesses.
Faysal shares, "Food is related to people's health and I do not think that is something you should mess with. But many of the established catering businesses in our country do not follow any hygiene protocol, nor do they ensure quality ingredients. With a vision to change this and make health a priority while preparing food, I started my catering business."
"I let my clients see the ingredients beforehand. They are also welcome to go grocery shopping with us. Additionally, we have a hygiene protocol that we maintain strictly. The transparency we maintain with clients throughout the whole process is what's helping us create a presence in the catering scene."
It is not only entrepreneurs offering newer services in previously established businesses that are allowing newcomers to enter the scene. It's also a fact that the wedding culture in Bangladesh is changing altogether.
The bride and groom now have a more specific idea about what they want from their vendors thanks to social media. Nowrin Amin, mehendi artist and founder of Mehedi by Nowrin says, "Previously brides would just go to their local parlour and get their mehendi done. But now brides want very specific designs like a Pakistani bride inspired mehendi look. Some brides go the extra mile and want an actress or celebrity's mehendi design copied. Even the type of mehendi they want to use is customised now. Recently, the concept of mehendi night has been popularised by social media. We often get booked for mehendi nights where the bride and her friends or cousins all get their henna done."
Media influence and clients who are aware of their preferences are also visible in the makeup industry. Rubaiyet Kabir Rabita, makeup artist and founder of Glamour Beats by Rabita says, "When I started my business, brides rarely had an idea about what they wanted. But brides these days are aware of different looks, styles, makeup products and techniques. I have loved observing this change as a makeup artist."
Additionally, the need for more creative vendors is giving space to small businesses. Spilled Ink is one such business owned and founded by Fareeha Emdad Kamal. Fareeha is putting a new spin on the old-fashioned wedding invitation cards by offering minimalist designs that are popular abroad.
Nahian Ibnat Beg, co-founder of an event management firm named Trivents also noticed a change in her field. "The industry is moving from conventional packages to customised ones. People are appreciating minimalism," says Nahian.
This has worked well for Nahian and her business partner Shanila Ainab who strongly believe in "less is more" and "balance" in their approach to event decor.
With inspiration and knowledge available thanks to the internet, brides and grooms have a more curated preference specific to their needs. These preferences are often influenced by western, Indian, and Pakistani wedding trends as well. While newer trends are replacing old traditions, some old traditions are being revived by young entrepreneurs.
Alpona used to be rather common in Bangladeshi weddings. But now families are showing a renewed interest in this lost art. Munmun Paul, founder and owner of Alpona, did not know her side hustle that she did out of passion would turn into a small business. But with her creativity, she has managed to secure a solid clientele.
"At first I barely charged any money for my work. But I started getting bigger projects which took hours of hard work to produce. This is when I had to turn it into a more professional endeavour. I am pleasantly surprised with the positive response I am getting and people's renewed interest in the art of alpona." says Munmun.
Most businesses that centre on weddings see a significant surge in demand during the wedding season. However, people now prefer hiring professionals for other functions and parties as well. This is why these businesses get clients all year round.
Shanila Ainab, co-founder of Trivents, says, "The fact that we are offering a wide range of services keeps us agile throughout the year. Although the wedding season is hectic and mostly consists of wedding functions, off-season however comprises birthdays, anniversaries, proms, graduation ceremonies, etc."
While Bangladeshi weddings are becoming more elaborate affairs with every passing season, it is also becoming more individualised and creative. Thanks to this creative flair, young entrepreneurs are making headway into a field of business that used to depend mostly on traditions, and is now becoming a fast, exciting, new industry.
Tazreen is a freelance journalist and social science researcher struggling to find her footing in this world. Find her at [email protected]