The business of online matchmaking
matchmaking might be a moneymaking business, but is faced
with the greatest problem—managing customer expectations.
MOHAN BABU says that this becomes harder because the ‘product’
that portals are dealing with is the hopes and expectations
of people who are advertising
the previous part of this column, we looked at the growth
leading towards individuals considering online matrimony as
a viable alternative in their search for the ‘perfect partner’.
In this column we will follow that thread to examine the business
model and competitive landscape.
business model of online matrimonial sites is very straightforward:
Create a large database where individuals post their details,
including ideas on preferred partners. Individuals may also
be able to search online through the database to find and
screen suitable matches and then contact them. While searching
is generally open to public and is free, portals generally
require a subscription or membership if one wishes to contact
a person listed in the database. The subscription fee ranges
from $10 for a “basic” membership to hundreds of dollars depending
on the services being provided. Most Indian portals surveyed
charged anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. The subscription
fee model is a huge revenue-spinner for portals if one were
to consider the fact that most portals claim to have hundreds
of thousands of subscribers.
the online matrimonial business model were as straightforward
as I have made it sound, thousands of entrepreneurs would
be jumping in to rake in the big bucks, right? Well, the challenge
most portals face is from the human angle—managing customer
expectations. Though most of these websites have automated
registration and payment processes, they try to build manual
checks and balances. Says Muruga of Bharat Matrimony: “Ours
is a technology driven company but we manually authorise the
profiles to make sure the profiles are genuine.” Sure, you
want to make sure that the Sridevi or Amir’s profile you are
looking at does not have the actor’s picture next to it; that
is, Amir is an architect based in Boston, not Amir Khan from
customer expectations becomes harder because the “product”
or “commodity” that portals are dealing with is the hopes
and expectations of individuals. Also, individuals have a
wider choice when it comes to online and offline advertising,
and posting one’s details on the Internet is just one of the
several medium available. The big players in this market—including
BharatMatimony.com and Shaadi.com—have cornered a niche for
themselves in the cyber world, ranking high in search engines.
BharatMatrimony.Com also has an alliance with MSN.Com so all
Indian Hotmail users see ads and text links of this website
whenever they login to their Hotmail account. They also have
huge advertising budgets, given that ads for matrimonial portals
regularly appear in TV, radio and print. Alongside, the traditional
avenues for matrimonial advertisements—newspaper classifieds,
continue to eat into the overall market share. Interestingly,
most newspapers also post their print adverts free in their
online editions, further competing with pure-play online portals.
Large portals also have sub-portals catering to different
ethnic sub segments of the society; for instance, the BharatMatrimony
is actually an umbrella of 14 matrimonial websites based on
the major Indian languages.
barriers to entry have lead to intense competition in this
space, especially because of the number of players who have
jumped the bandwagon.
are still niches waiting to be explored. For instance there
is a marked vacuum when it comes to sites catering to remarriages.
With the changing demographics Indians, divorce and remarriage
is on the rise. There is a void for portals and cyber-entrepreneurs
to target this niche by providing a comfortable, safe atmosphere
where those looking for a “second chance” can do so. Concedes
Vandana Asija, public relations manager of Shaadi.com: “Shaadi.
has several members who are divorced or looking to remarry.
We do not explicitly target members who are divorced but do
provide fields in our search engine to make it easier for
members to find divorced singles if they are looking for them.”
Interestingly, the management of GaramChai.com has al-so already
identified this as a niche and has built two niche portals:
emerging tech-savvy generation is definitely considering online
portals as a viable option to scan for suitable alliances.
And whether they are made in heaven or not, marriages are
definitely getting made online!