The Wedding Planner

Janelle Kalliappa is a name to reckon with in the wedding and events space. She had to cope with tragedy before she found success bringing joy to the people

10/3/2017 6:05:06 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

It is popularly said that marriages are made in heaven, which we solemnise and celebrate on earth. Gone are the days when things were simpler – contractors and cooks managed the event. Today it is all about Band, Baaja and Baraat – the bride and the groom expect nothing short of extravagant and that’s when wedding or event planners become very important.

Janelle Kalliappa (37), Director of SoUnique Wedding Styles Pte Ltd., seems to have been born with a talent for hosting great soirees. She was just 10 when she and her sister organised a grand party celebrating their parents’ wedding anniversary that coincided with their father’s birthday. Her talent for organisation and successfully co-opting other family members ensured that this party was not just a grand success, but also a memorable one leading her on to her career path.

But life was not a party during her growing-up years. Tragedy struck the family when their father suddenly passed away. Janelle was only 16. With the three women left to fend for themselves, the youngster had to wear the pants and take charge of family and business affairs. Her father’s company was not in the best financial shape, running up huge debts, which the women managed to clear, bringing the firm back on track. 

At 23, she ventured into the beauty business and later forayed into the weddings and events space where she has managed to make a mark for herself. Her forte includes themed events, destination weddings and capturing moments through memorable photographs – all managed by three separate entities: SoUnique Wedding Styles Pte Ltd., SoUnique Event Solutions and SoUnique Photobooth.

Here are excerpts of an interview where Janelle shares her story and success.

India Se: Tell us a little about your background, childhood and education?

Janelle Kalliappa: I had a very happy and carefree childhood. My dad was a businessman who provided us with everything a child would want and love to have. We are a small family which consisted of my parents Mr Kalliappa and Madam Devi,  my elder sister Ms Kavitha and myself. My father passed away when I was a teenager, but the three of us are extremely close.

I hold a diploma in Accountancy after which I equipped myself with skills related to my business. 

India Se: What drew you to entrepreneurship and why did you choose to specialise in weddings/events?

Janelle Kalliappa: I have always admired my dad, who ran a successful cleaning business. I have always been very ambitious and a risk-taker. I like to take the lead in everything. Probably that nurtured me to be an entrepreneur from the early age of 23.  

For 13 years, I ran a successful beauty salon, which later gave me the opportunity to enter the wedding and events planning business.  

India Se: Could you tell us a little about the wedding market in Singapore? What are some of the trends?

Janelle Kalliappa: Weddings are a big deal in Singapore. Almost eight out of 10 couples have a fairy-tale wedding in mind. They love to explore and are open to new ideas. Couples love to have unique events and always expect something different from others. 

The trend is changing from a big luxurious wedding set-up, to couples now going for simplicity that is classic, unique and special.  

India Se: What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome them? Is it a very competitive space?

Janelle Kalliappa: Finding manpower is the biggest challenge in our industry. As one requires to put in long hours and the work is tedious, the turnover rates are high. Getting good reliable manpower is always a challenge. Hence, I work with institutes like ITE, polytechnics to get the students to work on weekends. This adds to their experience and income while also keeping them occupied.  

India Se: What are some of the most memorable projects that you have handled so far? 

Janelle Kalliappa: I organised a birthday event for a 10-year-old child who resides in Bombay. The little girl wanted to have a party in Singapore. With just one month’s time to plan, we executed a five-day bash at Capella Singapore. There were five different themes and venues. She wanted an ice-cream theme for the party held in her villa, Emoji theme for her dinner, balloons for the Kidzania bash and ‘grand fabulous’ for her ballroom dinner. It was really memorable as we had about 45 students, florists, balloonists and other support staff working on this project under my company, SoUnique. 

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