The Indian wedding industry, worth around $50 billion, is among the sectors that has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. We caught up with wedding photographers Ankita Asthana and Akash Agarwal of WeddinNama to find out how the industry is bouncing back now that restrictions have been lifted.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
How has the pandemic impacted the wedding industry in India?
Ankita: Oh, it’s been like a pause button. Weddings thrive on social gatherings and human interaction and that is exactly what got affected by this pandemic. So it is no surprise that the industry has got severely hit. Not only did the weddings planned this year get postponed but even people who wanted to plan one next year are not able to do so because of uncertainty and risk factors.
Akash: Almost everyone in the over-a-crore people who are involved in the wedding industry are jobless right now. The industry, which is estimated at 4-5 lakh crore, is at a standstill. To add to that there are no specific relief packages that are targeted towards the wedding industry. The positive thing is that a lot of people have just postponed their plans without substantial reduction in their budgets. So there will be more business for everyone from next year.
How has it changed the way you work?
Ankita: Our team has been working from home for the past seven months, and we are thinking of continuing with it for some more time so ensure the safety of all the employees.
Akash: The size of weddings has gone down so naturally we had to reduce the team size allotted for each wedding. We used this time to improve our processes and increase the skills of our employees by having regular webinars and group activities.
Read: Glamp It Up
Have you shot any wedding in the post-COVID world?
Ankita: We haven’t shot any destination weddings post COVID-19, just one home wedding. But in November and December, we will be shooting weddings in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, and Goa.Akash: We took up one wedding during the lockdown. The experience was good. We like intimate weddings because the focus shifts from just the grandeur of a big fat Indian wedding to the special moments shared with your close ones.
Which are the favourite wedding destinations in India in the post-COVID world and what makes them fit the bill?
Ankita: People are preferring luxury hotels that they can trust, ones that have big enough banquets and open spaces to ensure sufficient distancing can be maintained.
Akash: We will be shooting weddings in Umaid Bhavan and ITC Jodhpur, Leela Udaipur, Taj Lands’ End and Four Seasons in Mumbai in the coming months. The guests lists will all be small. Some people are planning just two days of events, instead of three, to keep the budgets down.
Some of our favourite wedding destinations are Udaipur, Jaipur, Kerala, Mussoorie, and Goa. With limited number of guests, couples can also look at some nice heritage properties apart from the most famous ones which were not preferred for big fat Indian weddings earlier.
Read: Small and Distanced: Indian Weddings after COVID-19
How did you spend the lockdown?
Akash: Ankita and I ended up doing things for which we never had time before. We spent time with our plants. We tried cooking different recipes, and spent time with family. Our entire team was working from home, but we did a lot of catch-up sessions with them. We also conducted a lot of online learning sessions for photographers in WN School which is the educational wing of WeddingNama.
Ankita: All the weddings that we had taken up during this period got postponed so there was no new work but we spent time on the post production of the projects that we had done till March this year.
What, according to you, is the future of destination weddings in the post pandemic times?
Ankita: Destination weddings will be back in full swing, in no time. In fact we are doing quite a few in November and December this year. Most of the hotels were quick enough to incorporate changes to ensure the safety of guests. The size of the weddings will still be small for some more time but people will go ahead and plan weddings that they had always dreamt of.
The pandemic has left many photographers jobless and out of work, especially wedding photographers. What would your advice be for them?
Akash: This year is all about surviving and not about making money. Weddings are an integral part of our culture so they will be back in no time. So have faith and patience. Don’t lose hope because this is a beautiful industry to be in. It is only a temporary phase which shall pass soon. Meanwhile cut down your unnecessary expenses and work on upgrading yourselves.
Tell us about your experiences of shooting weddings at international locations before the pandemic happened. Which has been your favourite destination, and why?
Ankita: We love to travel! Recently a lot of international locations have opened up for Indian weddings. The entire process has also become much simpler and smoother. What we like about international weddings is the uniqueness of different places.Akash: We have done assignments in USA, Mexico, Paris, Turkey, Italy, Kenya, Scotland, India, Thailand, Middle East, and Philippines. Even though we had a great time in all our projects, I think we enjoyed the weddings in the Middle East the most because of the ease of travel and hospitality of the people there.
Read: Coffee in the Hills
Where do you want to travel when the pandemic is over?
Ankita: Everywhere!! There are so many places that we want to go to. We can’t wait to travel again.
Akash: We want to travel to Europe, specifically Turkey. It has some of the most beautiful places and variety. Some of our favourite places are Istanbul, Cappadocia, Antalya, Bodrum, and Pamukkale. The hotels have the capability to accommodate big fat Indian weddings and the entire process is very smooth.
Read: 10 Stunning Heritage Homestays in India