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Internet marraige bureaus thriving in India

April 4, 2007

Five years ago one would never have imagined that brick and mortar marraige bureaus would start to be replaced by online ones. Who would have imagined that families would start to trust a faceless matrimonial website and make do without the reassurance that a flesh and blood marraige broker evoked, which in part was due to his or her intimate knowledge of the families that were being brought together? But marraiges arranged by these brokers were often within a limited geographical area, and often limited to the same community.

The internet has provided choice. Great for those Indians who’ve moved away from home. For them, an arranged marraige had become a difficult proposition, specially if they did not have a large family back home to arrange it for them. Not that the internet hasn’t helped home birds to marry. Those Indians today who want more choice, are particular…sometimes so particular that they are even willing to marry outside their caste and community if they can’t get the right man in their own. They often register online themselves. A decade ago, society would have raised diapproving eyesbrows at registering on one’s own, but today its common.

My 30 year old cousin, a tall good looking girl, after seeing a range of unsuitable boys, finally found her partner on shaadi.com. Being well educated herself, she wanted someone equally educated and good looking, someone who would not mind if she worked. Plus she wanted someone in Mumbai, a city she loved and never wanted to leave, and not the least because her huge extended family was here. A huge extended family which had failed to find her a suitable match. She doubts whether she would have found her dream guy without the internet.

This is one story with a happy ending because she has been been married for over two years and is very happy. However, one also hears about the internet being choc-o-bloc with false profiles…but notwithstanding this fact, a record number of people are turning to matrimonial sites to find themselves a life partner.

A combined study from the The Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Cross Tab Marketing Services brings out this great surge in the online matrimony business. It concludes that:

Over the next two years we are expected to see over 50% growth in this segment driven largely by the need for a convenient matchmaking solution that works, the increased Internet penetration in India, as well as the demographic profile of India – almost 65% of our population is under 35 years of age.

In 2005-06, the matrimonial websites did business worth Rs. 58 crores (5.5 million users) and while conservative figures expect this figure to touch Rs 75 crores some website owners believe that it will touch Rs. 100 crores by 2007 (users expected to grow to 7 million).

Who is the typical user of a matrimonial site? Well, he or she can be either male (69 percent) or female (32 percent). Mostly young. The maximum (52 percent) are between the ages of 26-35, 37 percent in the age group of 18-27, and just 11% in the 36-45 age group, 9% in the 46-60 age group and 2% above the age of 61.

The heartening thing is that almost half of these people are well educated. 44 percent are either graduates or post-graduates in the general category (BA’s, BSc’s. MSc’s, B.com etc.), and another 35 percent are professional graduates and post graduates. 13 percent have a diploma of some sort. Only 4 percent are educated up to school level.

They come from a wide variety of occupations…students, clerks, sales people, officers, executives, self employed professionals, businessmen. Only 1 percent are from the skilled/unskilled category. A quarter of them own cars, but 33 per cent don’t have a vehicle. The rest own two wheelers.

Where do they come from? A quarter of them are located in Maharashtra, with 17 percent accessing the sites from Mumbai. 12% are from Tamil Nadu, 7% from Karnataka. UP and West Bengal both have 6 per cent each. The rest of the states have lower percentages.

As a city, Delhi has 16 per cent users. Only 5 percent of the users are from Bangalore. I might have thought that Bangaloreans don’t have much of a problem finding mates, but statistics show that Bangalore (as of Dec 2006) has only .97 million intenet users as opposed to 2.6 million in Mumbai and 1.80 in Delhi. The figures have a lot to do with the population of the cities in question.

The shares of Chennai and Kolkata are 6 percent each. The rest of the users of matrimonial sites are from non metro towns – and as many as 30 percent come from even smaller towns. This is believed to have happened because many of these internet companies opened offline offices to assist customers subscribe.

One needs to be careful though. If there is one thing though that online matrimonial sites can never guarantee you – its the character of the potential mate. I know of one case personally where the girl was met by an oft married man who used the matrimonial sites to have a bit of fun. His profile was finally deleted from the site…but this story is a fairly mild one. One hears of worse.

But then one has heard of horror stories even of marraiges arranged in the old way, after making the proper enquiries. Specially if the girl goes away to a far off place and no one has seen the boy grow up.

Actually a marraige arranged with someone who is from a distant area, his antecedents verified only on hearsay, is itself a risk. A risk when it comes to the character of the groom or bride. Even assuming that only truth has been told, one can never be sure whether the other person is kind or helpful, or whether the person is a decent human being. My neighbor in the previous colony where I was staying, told me the story of her daughter, whom she had married to the son of a colleague with whom she had been working with for five long years. But the boy had been living in the US for ten years and they really did not know too much about him, except his resume. Well, after a whirlwind marraige, and after they had shifted abroad, the boy became abusive, and now the couple are divorced. Many people believe that the character of the parents in some way guarantees the character of the offspring, but this is a fallacy.

I was chatting with a friend of mine about this a couple of days ago. She is a strong believer of the arranged marraige system, and believes that love marraiges can go horribly wrong, mainly because the backgrounds of the two people can differ widely and cause a rift. Also one does not know the parents well enough. She was not referring to extreme cases ofcourse, simply about two people not getting along. But I believe that today parents and children are not one strong unit. At one time the beliefs of the parents were automatically transported to the kids, but today it is not so. If it seeems so, it could be a pretense.

Also, what causes rifts are expectations, and one has higher expectations from arranged marraiges. An expectation that the boy will earn well for example. One of my good acquaintances married (an arranged marraige) a boy who had graduated from IIT Powai, and had completed his management from IIMA. Well, she thought she had a good ‘catch’, but the guy couldn’t stick to a job and well, now she is supporting him. Ofcourse they are very unhappy. In fact she told me that just after a month of her marraige she realised that the fellow couldn’t get along properly with anyone, fought all the time on petty matters… if she had known him earlier she could have found this out about him.

In a love marraige mostly one gets a sense of what the other person is all about without him or her being on his best behavior. One also tends to see him or her through the eyes of others in the friend circle, even before any love is in the air. And then if one still decides to go ahead, one is better prepared.

Related Reading: Matrimonial websites find niche markets
Dating often leads to marraige in India
A study on Indian youth reveals their conservatism
Why some people remain single
It is possible to arrange love
Teenagers defy their parents when it comes to relationships
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2007 12:51 pm

    Nita,
    very good insight in the state of matrimonial things in India.

    My recent post is about marriages as “dying out” institution in the West that needs to be saved.

    I see you suggest to go for love-marriage. Here in the West where most of the people never heared about arranged marriages, and love-marriage is as logical as that, the divorce rate goes up to 60%!!!
    What do you think of reliability of this concept?

  2. April 4, 2007 1:41 pm

    I think the divorce rate is high in the west because people are not looking at marraige as a permanent institution. Its not as if all the couples who stay together in India are always happy. Its just that for many people there is a belief that bad times will pass…but this is changing. People are not giving each other a chance. They feel that someone ‘better’ is around the corner.
    Actually I firmly believe that unless it is a case of abuse, couples can make a go of it. I believe that there is nothing as beautiful as two people spending their whole lives together. What you can get from that, you can get from nothing else. You think…I can’t possibly love this man more than that…but with every year you realise how wrong you are!

  3. April 4, 2007 2:53 pm

    Thank you, Nita, for this touchy explanation!!
    You met the point – it is because they “are not looking at marraige as a permanent institution” in the West – so true.
    I hope that India will keep its hight standards of maritual life and show it to the rest of the world!

  4. April 4, 2007 6:37 pm

    By the way, could you provide us with divorce rate statistics in India? thanks!

  5. April 4, 2007 9:31 pm

    Axinia, I found the divorce stats and decided to write a new post on it. Its there now.

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