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Striking gold with designer wedding cards

December 28, 2005 13:04 IST

The high-pitched nasal whine is that of a pampered brat. "This is so tacky," she's complaining, "and the interleaves aren't what I wanted. This," the grating voice climbs a few octaves higher, "will just not do."

It's getting on the nerves of two young men who're in the same store shopping for engagement and wedding cards at Delhi's - and India's - first retail outlet for designer cards and stationery. And they're a mite upset too: Dad isn't there but, finally, he has to approve the designs, and no, they can't take samples out of the store.

Kapil Khurana of The Entertainment Design Company is finding that handling upmarket clients isn't an easy kettle of fish. He drops celebrity names as a reassurance of his firm's quality and creativity, but it sounds like bravado.

If the cheapest cards start at Rs 75 each (and typically, you'd order a thousand for a wedding, he estimates), that's serious money a client is dropping.

And that's not counting the engagement cards, the matched boxes and packets for dry fruits or chocolates, the wine bags and shagun envelopes and other paraphernalia that goes into making the wedding package.

Fortunately, the retail end of the business is a small component of the Khuranas' printing press operations, and the Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million) Solar Print Process is where the big bucks are. That's where the so-called "couture" line of wedding cards (customised at Rs 300 onwards on average) happens. "With three or four couture line wedding cards, I'm okay," grins Khurana.

Kapil and brother Sandy Khurana decided to move into "pret" line retail, spotting an opportunity in the invitation business at the high-end. "People fly down from Mumbai and Pune to discuss cards," Kapil Khurana insists. That's a reason they're looking at possible stores "in Mumbai, somewhere in the south, and in London".

For now, though, he's more concerned about kicking off an in-store creative shop, a gift-wrapping division, and vertical integration with event managers, caterers, florists and the like to be part of the great Indian wedding tamasha.

Khurana isn't daunted by the prospect of me-toos popping up next door because even the pret line, he says, has small runs and new designs replace them "every week". But even so, aren't the retail overheads high? No, says Khurana, because the resources are all in-house. "The only thing we spend," he says a mite smugly, "is our time."

But with the kind of pampered clients the store is beginning to attract, Khurana might find time is his most valuable resource after all.
K S Shekhawat in New Delhi