The search for one’s soul mate dates to antiquity. The pursuit for love has been a never-ending quest that only modified its means with changing time. The ancient scriptures mention 8 kinds of marriages! The evolution has been slow and steady with the recent addition in the list being the matrimonial websites. And these days, these sites are proving to be a quite popular means for finding one’s bride or groom, a crucial alternative to the offline methods.
Matrimonial websites are quite popular in India and sometimes substitute for the marriage broker offline or the dating sites in Western countries. It is interesting to note that dating websites were never been that popular in India, the cultural disconnect being one of the main reasons. In Western countries, love is considered the prerequisite for marriage, whereas in the subcontinent, love is taken as mutual dedication to grow after marriage. Here, the matrimonial sites step in to help the suitors find a suitable prospect based on his/her liking and interest.
When a would-be bride or groom or their parents think of choosing a matrimonial website as the mode of match-making, the first and foremost step is registering to the site. The registration process requires one to upload one’s profile to the site with all relevant info for a successful matrimonial alliance. This profile finds a place in the extensive database of the matrimonial website. That resultantly opens up possibilities for the newly registered member to find a suitor among all those who keep searching across the site’s database through advanced user-friendly customized search criteria like religion, caste, age group, region, gender, nationality, photograph inclusion in the profile, and so on.
Online matrimonial sites date back to late 1990s with Shaadi.com starting as Sagaai.com in 1996, and Bharatmatrimony.com in 1997. By 2003, around 200 websites mushroomed up, but the primary two still remain the big players in the online matchmaking space.
Most online matrimonial services initially focused on the field of matchmaking, but they later started to include services like wedding planning, horoscope matching, marriage gifts, etc., catering to almost every part of a wedding. The traditional matchmaking services lag behind the online matrimonial services in the range of the area coverage. This pan-Indian presence has given the online companies a competitive edge over the traditional means like putting ads in newspapers. Now, the news dailies too are going online to post matrimonial advertisements.
In the early 2000s, when there was skepticism regarding online transactions, the companies started door-step collections in India. In addition to the initial features more features like phone verification, creation of offline centres in cities and towns, creating the elite version of the service for a fee, etc., have been introduced. With times, the companies also introduced more features on their website like personalised horoscope matching, expression of interest, online chat, access to email and phone number of the prospective bride or groom, profile highlighting and more to help customers make the right matches.
Since India is deeply fragmented in various ways, religion, linguistic group, caste, community, etc., are considered important factors for arranged matchmaking. The matrimonial services introduced personalized searches on such different factors and even created different portals on this basis. Though English is a popular technical language not many people find it easy for regular interaction. Keeping in mind this aspect, certain sites introduced specific linguistic portals to cater to different language groups. This step has garnered quite a warm response as it reached the different linguistic sections, which were more comfortable with regional languages, resulting in the increase of overall footfall in their online sites as well as offline franchisees.
For the tech savvy generation, the matrimonial companies have also introduced mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Android users in India. The matchmaking sites use multi-channels for promotion of their brand. This includes TV commercials, newspapers and magazines, social networking sites, and also ads on the Internet. The companies produce quite a number of advertisements targeting the youth of this generation. The companies have tie-ups with a number of newspapers and TV shows too.
It seems that over time, online matchmaking will be the new norm, where the prospects themselves share their own interests and find the love of their life, their soul mate.