Varun Todi surprises people for a living with Oye Happy

The next time you want to surprise the music aficionado in your life with a guitarist at her doorstep playing her favourite songs, or charter a private flight ride for that special someone, or just make a loved one smile – think of Oye Happy. What, you haven’t heard of them – that Hyderabadi startup whose intended purpose is solely to surprise people? Varun Todi and his cousin Harshvardhan Khemani had the crazy idea to make a living out of making people happy back in 2009, and this became Oye Happy.  In their first year of existence, they had completed more than one hundred surprises across India – and then in 2014 took their operations online.  So now they’ve got a team of fifteen in Hyderabad, with freelancers scattered across the country – going from word of mouth references and phone call orders and a tiny shop at the Hyderabad airport to a fully fledged online portal.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to wake the friend who is a Bollywood fanatic to a call from her favourite celebrity on her birthday? Better still, have a guitarist over to sing your dad’s favourite Beatles song? Or just tell your fiancé how special she is in a private flight chartered just for the two of you?  That’s where Oye Happy comes in – tell them about your loved one, choose something surprisingly unique and customise it to make it super personal.

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Harsh and Varun have always been great at making special occasions extra special for loved ones. Once, a friend of theirs requested Harsh to surprise her boyfriend at the airport as he was flying in from the US.  And so they actually held a mock swayamvar to welcome him! Harsh and Varun had such a blast getting it together and the couple couldn’t have been happier. So that was when they decided that they had to this for a living. People are very accustomed to traditional gifts like cakes, flowers and chocolates. Sending over a Harley-Davidson for a day as a birthday gift instead of a bouquet is quite a leap for many. But once convinced enough to place an order with Oye Happy, their customers have always returned to arrange for other surprises. And these satisfied customers also make sure to refer them to all their acquaintances! The Indian customer has evolved and no longer looks just for an expensive gift. Creating memories and enjoying unique experiences are valued much higher than material presents. Unfortunately, there is a gap in the market and this need is not being addressed sufficiently.

Oye Happy has introduced not just customisable products that emphasise the personal touch but also a wide range of experiences that loved ones can take part in together or a person can treat him or herself to. There are currently very few companies in India in the experiential/ customised gifting space and none offer the kind of products that they do. Exciting Lives and Giftxoxo are probably the only big players attempting to change the perception of gifting in India. Oye Happy has already starting launching experiences in Bangalore and they are working towards having a physical presence in every city very soon. Apart from expanding retail operations, they have also introduced “experience boxes” for businesses. This will allow companies to gift a memorable experience to their employees and clients instead of just conventional gifts. The target audience is people who want to do something unique and different for their loved ones. While most of the orders that Oye Happy receives are from metros, they’ve also had a fair share of orders from smaller cities like Guwahati, Raipur, Indore, et cetera. They’ve seen that clients are willing to pay a premium for products which create an emotional connect. At this stage, there isa comprehensive mix of products which are both designed in-house and sourced from gifting and experience partners. Because of the customisation that they add and the quality of experience that they provide, Oye Happy enjoys a good margin on every product.

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 As for books that Varun has looked to for inspiration, there’s of course The Lean Startup,  since he believes that methodology is effective once you customise the principles to fit your business, and Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.  The latter was particularly inspirational, since Varun himself is an avid runner, and since the philosophy behind the “endurance running hypothesis”

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