Mobile will disrupt matrimonial space in India, says Gourav Rakshit of Shaadi.com

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Among matrimonial websites, Shaadi.com claims to have the world's largest matrimonial service available across internet, mobile and offline retail channels. Part of Anupam Mittal's Rs 350 crore People Group, Shaadi.com was launched in 1996 to provide a 'match making experience' to Indians. The site has a presence in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Dubai. The matrimonial online market is pegged at approximately Rs 500 crore and is growing at 30 percent annually. What brings people to an online portal to find their life partner? What are the trends in this market? Gourav Rakshit, Chief Operating Officer, Shaadi.com decodes the market.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What do you think attracts people to look for their future spouse online?

The Indian looking to get married has a very different outlook compared to those a decade ago. A very high emphasis is placed on compatibility than on conventional criteria. The traditional ways of finding a life partner through offline channels limits the options available to the potential bride or groom and so is now becoming obsolete. Though people travel to different places to study or work, some still prefer to marry within the community. Finding such a partner has proved to be difficult to some in the past, thus leading people to search online. The Internet has truly revolutionized the way match making is carried out.

 Mobile will disrupt matrimonial space in India, says Gourav Rakshit of Shaadi.com

Gourav Rakshit, Chief Operating Officer, Shaadi.com Image courtesy Shaadi.com

What do you think motivates people to put up their profiles on matrimonial sites?

In the pre-Internet era, the choice of a life partner was determined by how far your matchmaker could travel and the weight of the paper-based bio data he could carry. We took away the spatial and geographical limitations and added privacy and free choice to the process. The one potential stumbling block was people's reluctance to put up their profiles and photographs on the Internet. However, that concern was put to rest by the wide-scale adoption of social media. Today almost everyone knows at least one other person who has found a match online. This positive reinforcement of results has done more than a decade worth of advertising in driving people to embrace Shaadi.com.

Shaadi.com was founded on six Cs—compatibility, commitment, chemistry, community, communication and compassion. Which among these scores high for applicants?

All of them play an important role in the identification of the right life partner, and so any ranking does not do justice to the complex interplay of these factors. What we have seen is that over the course of the last five-10 yrs, the relative importance assigned to community has declined in favor of inter-personal compatibility. Community is still a gating criterion for certain segments of match seekers. However, there is a strong trend to spend more time engaging with a prospective match, instead of relying on purely demographic information to make a decision.

Have you seen a shift away from the 'caste no bar' status ads?

The emergence of a large group of users who opt for 'Caste no bar' within their preferences indicates a shift from previously held rigid definitions of community. In most cases, persons are still looking to connect with someone who shares a common value system and upbringing, but that is no longer being defined by caste and is being replaced by lifestyle, career and social information. It is heartening to note that today a majority of our members mention 'Caste No Bar' as an explicit preference, and many more exhibit it in their match seeking behavior.

Why don't you have a code for pictures? There are complaints about men wearing caps for instance, and when the girl meets the guy, has found him to be bald or having a receding hairline.

We have noticed that people have a clear affinity to profiles with photographs.  While we have started accepting photographs with shades, we continue to encourage users to share multiple pictures that show their complete personality.

The other complaint is of fake profiles. Don't you have a screening process to avoid this?

Every profile that is created on Shaadi.com is screened for irrelevant, inappropriate or misrepresented content. To address the needs of a large and growing member base, we deploy a combination of supervised and unsupervised algorithms for reviewing profiles, manual screening and digital verification to protect our ecosystem.  In the few instances where we have found individuals who have circumvented our system, we have created a strong and credible deterrent by working with the Cyber Crime cell and local law enforcement agencies.

How many members have you acquired in 2014? What has been the year-on-year increase since inception?

Over 15,000 new members register each day, growing at approximately 20 percent a year, broadly in line with the growth in internet penetration in the country. When we began the service, the number was in the low hundreds, since the only people that would give us a chance were the early adopters. We don’t really focus too much on page views any more. Instead, we obsessively track the number of mutual connections established, which is our raison d’être.

What are the other things that you envisage for the site?

Over the years, Shaadi.com has played a pivotal role in facilitating millions of marriages. I'd like to see us do more to stay in touch with these individuals through all stages of their lives by celebrating key milestones – birthdays, anniversaries, birth of babies, job changes, housewarmings, etc. We do try this in a small way, but there’s much more we can do.  I would love them to stay connected to us.

What are your future plans?

I think you can expect us to do something disruptive in the mobile space, since most of our consumers are here. The mobile just overtook the web. Mobile and especially apps have a huge potential that no one has really tapped into. The companies that will be disruptive in these two areas will succeed. There is a massive opportunity here for people to explore.

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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2015 12:49:32 IST