VoxTalks With Varun Todi – ‘We Are In The Business Of Making People Happy And Excited’

What is better than giving your loved ones a never-before-seen gift and making them happy? But who’ll come up with the ideas and execute them?

Well, we have come across a team that does exactly that! From simple greeting cards to private plane experiences, they’ve covered it all, to provide the perfect surprise. Oye Happy, a startup based out of Hyderabad, is winning hearts along with making a living out of surprises. With their exceptional “Marwari” skills and a team that holds a PhD in jugaad, Oye Happy is taking the trend of personalised gifts to another level. Starting their journey in 2009, giving over a hundred surprises in that year alone, they went online in 2014 and there’s been no looking back ever since.

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In our quest to bring out interesting stories, we are in a quick chat with Varun Todi, who along with his cousin, Harshavardhan Khemani, set out on a journey to make your loved ones shout out loud, ‘I am on cloud nine!’

Let’s start from the beginning, what is the idea behind ‘Oye Happy’?

Oye Happy was started with 2 simple thoughts. First, people today are too busy for the very reason they stay busy for – to be happy! Second, we Marwaris can make money out of anything! And so it started in a 100sft room in 2014 and since then we have only been adding more craziness.

We found the name really cool, what is the story behind that?

There’s a nice ring to it, isn’t it? We were very clear about not having the term ‘gift’ in the name because you never know what we might evolve into. We are in the business of making people excited and happy. ‘Oye’ and ‘Happy’ just fit.

Every client is different and unique, what is the process behind coming with unique ideas for them?

The team who works on surprises is quite unique (and borderline insane) as well. Today, we take a very data-driven approach to developing new ideas. We listen to call recordings, read reviews, look at sales data, etc. to understand what else could make customers happy and create ideas accordingly. Of course, a lot of coffee, cupcakes and beer is consumed in the process.

The company needs to seem personable to the clients, how do you achieve that with your team?

We try to achieve that with the website and our social media platforms. We have over a million followers on FB and IG put together and we try to be as ‘human’, ‘relatable’ and ‘interactive’ as possible in our communication channels, to create a personable experience for clients. If, after that, people choose to call us instead of ordering straight from the website – then our happiness consultants are the most talkative people on the planet to reinforce that experience.

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Have there been situations where the client has been unhappy with your ideas and how do you remedy that?

It’s a ruthless industry. Even a day’s delivery – be it in Kashmir or Assam – is enough to make a client unhappy. We have developed a whole bunch of virtual surprises so that even if the clients are unhappy with a delayed delivery or a damaged product, we can at least save the occasion from being ruined by offering something else immediately.

Have you experienced any mishaps during the execution of your idea? How did you deal with it and maintain customer satisfaction?

We do have our bad days as well. As mentioned above, the main focus is to make sure that the special occasion is not ruined (and a refund is not enough for that). Plan B is always to plan something else in real time and make sure we don’t leave the customer with a bad taste in their mouth.

You must have come across many interesting stories in your journey; would you like to share any anecdotes with our readers?

We know we are doing a good job when a guy we helped propose 2 years ago comes to us for his wedding surprise, his first-anniversary surprise and, very recently, a gift for his new-born. Frankly, there are lots of stories and every day over lunch, that’s what the team is often heard talking about. Last Christmas, a woman wanted to cheer up her mother-in-law at a hospital, who was in her 3rd stage of Cancer. I personally volunteered to be the Santa and we did a whole bunch of silly little things to make her smile. Watching her sing Jingle Bells with us and getting excited at the sight of gifts being pulled out from the sack was one of our warmest moments.

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But what stands apart is the CSR (Community Surprise Responsibility) initiatives we take up once in a while. For instance, last Rakhi we organised India’s first rakhi event for dogs which also doubled up as an adoption drive. We created really cute rakhis for fluffy paws, encouraged dog owners to walk in with their pets to a shelter-cum-cafe and educated them about the initiatives.

What are the challenges you faced so far in your journey?

The main challenge in the initial days was to change the perception people have towards gifting. We knew that we didn’t want to just improve or mildly tweak what’s already out there, but instead create new product verticals which otherwise never existed. ‘Social Surprises’ and ‘Naughty Surprises’ are 2 such examples.

Today, the challenges are different. Thankfully, because we are profitable and are able to achieve quick organic growth, at least money isn’t any more a concern. But we have to work really hard to continue staying ahead of the curve. There are over a dozen companies in India who have copied our ideas, our content, our images and even our marketing posters. We try to exceed our own benchmark by creating better gifts and experiences which isn’t easy for competitors to get ‘inspired’ by.

Do you have any strategy to manage the waste produced as part of the surprise?

The only waste generated is in terms of leftovers in packing materials. We focus on minimising it as much as possible.

What changes have you observed in the customer’s taste over time?

People are looking for emotional connect over materialistic gratification and that has been the biggest evolution in behaviour, which has contributed to our growth too.

Did you encounter any crazy requests from your customers challenging your “Marwari” skills?

Apart from being Marwaris, the entire team has a PhD in Jugaad. Crazy requests are often also the most exciting and we try our best to figure out ways to fulfil them.