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Getting married the snappy, global way

Annie Philip

Posted: Oct 17, 2005 at 1232 hrs IST

Pooja met her life partner through shaadi.com. Once she clicked the 'search' button, her Mr Right was 'found' and then rang the wedding bells!

Pooja is one among the many, who feel matrimonial sites have made the search much faster and the wait much shorter. With the total number of Net users in the country crossing millions, Internet has also seen the remarkable growth of matrimonial and job websites. Viewing profiles from all parts of the country and the world was never easier.

Everyday the number of people registering with the Indian matrimonial websites is somewhere between 4000 to 5000, which amounts to a staggering 1.5 lakh people a month, said Hitesh Oberoi, Director of Sales and Marketing, Jeevansathi.com. He adds that there are more than one lakh registered users from Delhi alone, who use the services of jeevansathi. Shaadi.com claims to have 50 lakh registered members.

Squadron leader Sumit Anand chose to search a website over print classifieds. It gave him wider arena to interact with the prospective people.

Space is not a constraint on the Internet. So there's space to tell the world pretty much all about yourself. People are not reduced to statistics like 26/ 5'3, B.E... Screening thus takes place at many levels, thus ensuring that the prospective groom/ bride is looking at profiles they would be genuinely interested in.

'Fast' is definitely the keyword here. While the whole process of posting an ad in a paper, getting the responses, zeroing in on the 'right' person and finally marriage can take anything between an year to an year and a half or more, matrimonial sites smoothens the ride.

The matrimonial website may be a new medium but factors like caste and religion still pull the strings, when it comes to the Indian matrimonial scene.

Matrimonial sites also work out to be cheaper than other mediums are. Even the shelf life of these ads are longer. Registration with most matrimonial sites are free and once users are convinced, they become paid members with extra benefits like e-mail alerts, astrology matcher, facility to post personal messages, contact details etc. These web exclusive features enable a higher level of interactivity. And of course, the facility to post and view photographs is a huge draw of the matrimonial website.

In fact, the matrimonial websites draw their revenue from such paid memberships and features and because the numbers are so large, the websites manage quite a fortune even though only a portion of people use the paid services.

Interestingly, the more the people from a certain community the more are the number of paid users from the same community, says Oberoi. On a national scale 8 to 10 per cent users go in for paid services on Jeevansathi, about 15 to 18 per cent of people from certain communities like Marathis go for paid memberships simply because there is a wider choice of profiles from the particular community, said Oberoi.

He attributes the growth of the concept of the matrimonial website to the NRI community, who are looking for brides/grooms in India. Today, 30-35 per cent of shaadi.com's users are NRIs, says Vandana Assija, PR and Business Development Manager.

The Internet and Online Association's (IOA) study on "Online Matrimonial Search" in October 2004 has found that the estimated market size for the financial year 2004-2005 is a whopping Rs 20 crore and that it is set to cross Rs 80 crore by 2008. There is no dearth of Indian matrimonial websites. Other than shaadi.com, jeevansathi.com, bharathmatrimony.com, other sites include matrimonialsindia.com, allindiamatrimony.com, rediffmatchmaker and dozens more. Each trying to get a bite off this growing market. Many national dailies now have online versions of their matrimonial classifieds.

Smaller cities and towns are also catching up with the metros in the online hunt for brides and grooms. 30 per cent of users at jeevansathi.com and shaadi.com are from places like Indore, Baroda and Cochin. With increasing net access, these numbers are expected to grow.

A matrimonial website can at times be the playground for mischief-makers. The IOA study found that the male: female ratio of matrimonial sites' users is 69: 31. Oberoi observes that many young men users are not serious about marriage and in cases of misuse, many such users had to be barred from the site. He added that women surfers are generally serious about the whole process.

*Ramesh once posted his friend's profile on a matrimonial site "mainly for fun just to check out what kind of women" his friend can get". He adds that he later deleted it when it "became too boring." So if you are looking for a bride, consider yourself lucky, there are less chances of coming across false classifieds.

As Anand puts it, "male abuse" is yet to take off in India. Interestingly, the men themselves submit most male profiles, while it's mostly parents/ relatives that post the profiles for women, says Oberoi.

Most matrimonial sites have a facility to report abuse or misuse. Sites like shaadi.com and jeevansathi.com claim to have teams to screen every profile that is posted. On the Internet, where credibility is still unsure territory, matrimonial sites are striving to build trust and enhance user satisfaction.

"Success stories" can be found on most matrimonial sites. 500,000 is the number of such stories quoted by Assija of shaadi.com, adding that the numbers are higher as not everyone, who finds success with the site report back. She says that customer satisfaction surveys and ISO certification are measures the site has taken to make it efficient. 'Shaadi Seal', a new feature is given to profiles of members whose personal key information has been authenticated. This, she says, will take "authenticity of online matchmaking to a new orbit."

"It's less expensive, it's fast and it's global," says Oberoi about the matrimonial site and it sure looks like they are here to stay.

(*name changed on request)

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