Much like the country itself, the old is meeting the new in India, as their largest arranged marriage service enters the dating app world.
Dating apps: they’re a thing. What else is a thing – at least in India – is arranged marriage.
What do those two things have in common? Well, until recently, not a lot. Sure, I suppose you could argue that marriage is an extension of dating – albeit a more loveless and much less liberating extension, when they’re arranged.
But that sort of loose tangent will only get you so far. Say, as far as three paragraphs into an article.
No, for India’s traditional process of matchmaking to compete with more modern swipe-friendly outlets, it needs to modernise – and it looks like that may just happen.
17-year-old Matrimony.com is looking to raise a cool US$78.3 million by going public, helping to repay bank debts, buy land for new offices in Chennai, and strengthen its presence in the booming Indian wedding market – currently valued between $40 and $50 billion.
The website is the nation’s largest matchmaking service by number of visitors, attracting over 3.2 million users across its 300+ websites, according to analytics firm, comScore.com.
This is not its first time at the (arranged) rodeo, however. It made moves to publicise in December of last year, but pulled the plug among what it called unfavourable market conditions.
Despite the shift to more free-willed dating apps, Matrimony.com’s founder and CEO Murugavel Janakiraman believes arranged marriages are still the norm, and that there is still room to grow. This is especially the case as more and more of India is hooked up to the online world.
“India is a strong matrimony market,” Janakiraman explains, adding that modern dating apps will likely struggle to make substantial profits, due to the difficulty found in getting women to sign up.
Or at least, women in the sub-continent.
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The website was birthed in the 1990s, when Janakiraman was working in the United States. He set up a community website to connect with other expatriated Indians, and noticed that the wedding section was attracting the biggest clicks.
This led him to focus his attentions on the matchmaking scene, returning to Chennai in 2000 to launch Matrimony.com.
In hopes of setting his venture apart from other online services, and the traditional offline networking options, Janakiraman focused on the customisable aspect of searches, allowing users to search from a range of religions, castes, languages, and other categories.
His hundreds of websites now includes specialty services for divorcees, mangliks (an “astrological condition” believed to be unfavourable for marriage), doctors, and defence personnel. He has also recently opened up services for society’s richer members, ensuring ease in finding sweet, sanctimonious sugar.
In a nation still struggling with online infrastructure, Janakiraman says matchmaking websites now account for 10 percent of the romantic market.
“We have been tracking data since 2006, and since then, we have had 26 million users of our sites.”
A mobile app, launched in 2011, has also reached five million downloads.
Not content with cornering a typically offline affair, Matrimony.com now seeks to go beyond the world of matchmaking.
Earlier this year, it began offering wedding photography, videography and catering, and hopes to expand these services nationwide once all the kinks are ironed out.
Precedent is not on its side, however: its previously attempted online gift store, Tambulya – and dating app, Matchify – both went down in an (un-arranged) heap.
But, maybe, just maybe, this time will be different. You might not be able to choose your perfect partner with Matrimony.com’s services, but you will at least be able to choose the perfect cake.
In the end, isn’t that what marriage is all about?