Marriages are made in heaven, it is said. But the world over they are increasingly being facilitated by a very earthly medium, the internet. Matrimonial portals in India are experiencing an all time high, and some of them are highly specialized.
More and more Indian couples are turning to Internet for matchmaking
There are about a hundred marriage websites operating in India at the present time. The most popular ones are shaadi.com and bharatmatrimony.com. shaadi.com ("shaadi" means "marriage" in Hindi) claims to have over 10 million members. Having brokered a million matches already, shaadi.com says it is the largest and most successful website of this kind in the world.
Special website for call centre workers...
Besides these mainstream marriage portals, there has recently been an increase in the number of small websites catering to niche markets. Delhi based Strikeone Advertising has launched a host of such sites: thirtyplusshaadi.com is designed to help people over 30 find suitable partners.
There also is a site called bposhaadi.com. The term bpo means "business processing outsourcing". This site is aimed at helping call centre executives to find partners, since they work long hours at night, catering to customers overseas, and are looking for a mate with a similar lifestyle.
Sanjeev Pahwa, the CEO of Strikeone Advertising explains: "When we started to do more research, we found out that there are already big sites like shaadi.com or punjabimatrimony.com. They are the kingpins, and they are doing an amazing job. But there was still a need for having targeted and niche matrimonial portals."
...and HIV positive people
There are also some small matrimonial portals attached to social causes. positivesaathi.com is one such site for HIV positive people looking for a partner. The site was initiated in 2006 by Anil Kumar Valiv, an official with the Maharashtra state government. Mr Kumar runs the site all by himself from his small office in Ratnagiri.
"My close friend became HIV positive in his college days and he died a couple of years ago", he recalls. "I saw very closely whatever difficulties he was facing, and later on, I saw that he couldn’t marry because he was HIV positive. Then I realised that getting married is very difficult for HIV positive people, especially in India, where stigmatisation is very high."
Family is still involved
But whether fixed up in heaven or online, parents and family members often have a role to play in matchmaking in India. Rahul and Meghna, two Delhi-based call centre executives got engaged through bposhaadi.com last year.
"I saw a campaign on NDTV last year", says Meghna. "That is how I came to know about this website. My father did the registration and all the formalities basically. I used to check daily and express interest on the profiles I liked. It didn’t take long after that. We saw each other for two – three months and then we got engaged!"
And Rahul adds: "I kept listening to this radio campaign of bposhaadi.com; and then finally I logged onto that site and uploaded my profile. After a lot of profiles, I found this profile good. So, I just expressed interest and finally my parents did the deal for the marriage and all."
About 95 percent of marriages in India are still arranged. Online matrimonial sites haven’t drastically changed that but they are giving people a chance to get to know each other before their actually marry.