KOCHI: Leaving behind profitable and respectable jobs, a swanky house, and lives that could not get more comfortable in Washington DC, Nitin Sood, Sana Sood, and their two little boys moved across seven seas to Delhi to start their entrepreneurial venture Happy Shappy, which is India’s own social media portal. On the sidelines of TieCon Kerala 2018, Express talks to Nitin and Sana.
Q. Was shifting base to India, a planned or spontaneous decision?
Sana Sood: Up until two-three months before we moved to India, we never fathomed we would. I was in the US for 27 years, Nitin for 13. India was not on our radar; we had great jobs, a house, and a routine.
Which is precisely why we felt that we had to do something more. The startup space in India was encouraging and we wanted to be part of India’s growth.
Q. Why did you decide to title your venture Happy Shappy?
SS: When we tell people the name Happy Shappy, it immediately evokes a reaction. You don’t forget such a name. It always brings a smile to one’s face. And happiness is an emotion you want to summon. Though, it’s more from a marketing perspective. From the viewpoint of an entrepreneur, you tend to pivot at a certain point. We started off as a wedding platform and now we’ve crossed over to social media. And we wanted a name that was a happy, positive name which would give us the flexibility to pivot, simultaneously giving us the freedom to be creative and flowing in different directions. Now we do fashion, lifestyle, travel, food, basically everything anyone would love. Overall, we want people to know that it’s an absolutely happy space.
Q. Why did you decide to get into the wedding arena? And why pivot to social media?
Nitin Sood: Weddings are probably the most emotional events India sees at a magnanimous scale. The percentage of life savings that we put into two-three days of celebrations, is mind-boggling. We contemplated that if this is what India loves so much, and this brings immense joy to people, we can surely find a way to make it happier. Happy Shappy is the superlative degree of happiness. As for developing it to a social media platform, it was the next logical thing to do.
SS: Wedding content is extremely popular in the country. But now we capture a wider audience with wider options like office wear, travel goals and gifting choices.
Q. Being entrepreneurs, how would you market your product?
NS: We would say that it’s a must-have app, second to food and water. (laughs)
SS: Back in the day, we would collect cuttings and snippets of things we liked, from magazines. Now, people take numerous screenshots which would be harder to find in the end. I feel there are two kinds of social platforms; one where you double click and scroll your life away. For the things that you genuinely like and want to save, there has to be more. On Happy Shappy, you can create dream boards for your favourite shoes or clothes; one place for everything you love. With the added option of buying them.
Q. What’s the team of Happy Shappy like?
SS: We have about ten people. They’re all fairly young. I’m the oldest. We leverage college kids. So, our team grows to a hundred during summer. They get to learn and engage with us through content, business development and marketing. The product we’re building is a young one for a young audience.
Q. In the wake of the recent floods, a lot of startups have started booming. Do you think such a situation calls for innovation?
NS: Most definitely. Necessity is the mother of invention. And I believe entrepreneurship is about finding opportunities that don’t have to come from happy times. Such openings will have a social impact associated to them, holistic and sustainable in nature. I think it’s natural for such progressions and we must encourage it.
Q. What do you envision for Happy Shappy in the future?
NS: The future is to grow the hell out of it.
SS: Behemoth is the word we would use. We want everyone to know about Happy Shappy, to be on it.
NS: There are two sides to Happy Shappy. You have the users and the vendors. I feel there is no dearth of talent in the country. Whether it’s clothing, gift ideas, travel experiences, people are doing amazing things and all they require is a platform. So, I think we must support those home-grown plans and efforts. Happy Shappy is the perfect place for it.
Q. The one thing that drives you forward?
NS: Freedom is intoxicating and the highs they bring are super high.
SS: The fact that we get to experience different things; being in Kerala, meeting new people, all of it propels us forward.
Q. The most difficult thing you faced together?
NS: When you build a new business, acquiring capital is difficult. Our most stressful days saw us unsure of the things that were coming. It’s a sine wave, with crests and troughs.
Q. What is non-negotiable to the both of you?
SS: My co-founder. Anything that would interrupt our personal lives. We are a husband-wife team and we’ve loved working together. It’s because we come from two different places with varied experiences.
Q. What makes you Happy Shappy?
NS: Raising our two boys with good heads on their shoulders and good hearts.
SS: Sharpened pencils, and a clean notebook. On a serious note, I want to leave India a little more happier than I found it.