Special connections

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By Virtual match- making goes a step further with niche websites playing Cupid for singles left behind in the mating game, says Chitra Papnai
  • Published 28.03.09
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Are you over 30 and Desperately Seeking the perfect match before you get dumped firmly on the shelf? Or, have you been putting on hefty amounts of avoirdupois and want someone who’ll love all of you just as you are? Alternatively, do you work in a BPO and would you like to find a mate who works the same hours as you do?

Once upon a time a team of industrious aunties and uncles would have been pressed into battle to find spouses for just about any niece or nephew — even those who tipped the weighing scales at 100kg.

Times have changed, and aunts and uncles don’t have the links and networks that they once had. But in their place are a host of specialised websites offering marriage bureau services to every niche group from the over-30s to the overweight.

“Niche websites are getting popular because they narrow down the partner search which saves a lot of time,” says Sanjeev Pahwa, CEO, Strikeone Advertising, which runs a string of specialised matrimony portals like bposhaadi.com, mangliks.com, thirtyplusshaadi.com, specialshaadi.com and govtshaadi.com.

SITE MAP

“Those looking for their Mr or Ms Right in a certain segment can simply log on to these websites which give exclusive options for a certain category,” says Aditi Gupta, co-founder of overweightshaadi.com.

So, anyone hoping to be married can make their choice from sites like govtshaadi.com (for people who want to marry into the security of a government job), secondshaadi.com (for people who are hoping to be second time lucky, as the name suggests) positiveshaadi.com (for those who are HIV positive) and others like mangliks.com, thirtyplusshaadi.com and overweightshaadi.com.

For the well-heeled who need help spotting a bride or groom, there are sites like elitematrimony.com, recently launched by Consim Info (formerly known as BharatMatrimony Group) for the affluent.

This by-invitation-only website targets civil servants, industrialists, celebrities and individuals with a personal net worth of Rs 10 crore and senior managers of corporate houses. But hunting for a spouse on elitematrimony.com can be expensive: the membership fee is Rs 1 lakh for six months. The price also includes a personal relationship manager who will help to find the prospective partner to match the client’s preference.

The website offers a high level of privacy to members who prefer not to reveal their identity. But Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Consim Info reckons that the select clientele (40 registered members as of now) offers a degree of safety anyway. “On elitematrimony. com, members do not have to mask their identity to look for a partner as compared to the regular matrimonial services. One can search among select segments like themselves in terms of status and wealth,” says Janakiraman.

INSPIRATIONS

For the founders of overweightshaadi. com, sisters Aditi Gupta and Megha Singhal, the idea for the website came after attending the wedding of a cousin who was overweight. Singhal says everyone in the family had concluded that the cousin wouldn’t be able to find a husband unless she lost weight but she found a husband who accepted her the way she was.

“We are not promoting obesity but what we are trying to convey is that finding a partner should be no criterion for losing weight,” says Gupta. The website was launched in October last year and gets about 500 to 2,000 hits per day. People don’t have to state their specific weight but are encouraged to put in classifications like ‘bul-ky’ or even ‘fat’.

So far the website has had success stories like Delhi-based couple Dipti and Rajat and Chandigarh-based Gaurika and Abhishek. It has more than 300 members not only from India but also from countries like the US, France, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The portal currently doesn’t charge for its services — it originally started as a sort of social service — but its founders are now hoping to convert it into a viable business.

Another popular portal like mangliks.com has about 14,000 members and bposhaadi.com (for youngsters working in the BPO industry) has more than 8000 members.

The sites thirtyplusshaadi.com and govtshaadi. com have about 2,000 members each.

CLIENT PROFILE

It has been a happy ending for Dipti and Rajat (top) and Abhishek and Gaurika who found their partners at overweightshaadi.com

It shouldn’t be difficult to guess who these sites are aimed at. But the business brains behind the sites say there are specific reasons for launching these sites.

Strikeone Advertising, for instance, said it saw tremendous profile uploads at mangliks.com for men and women with Mangal Dosha — an astrological condition believed to be devastating for marriage. “In India it is believed that one Manglik should only marry another Manglik which cancels each other’s negatives and makes the marriage work,” says Sanjeev Pahwa.

Similarly, bposhaadi.com aims to bring together call centre employees who work long hours in the night and don’t get enough time to search for a partner. And thirtyplusshaadi.com is obviously for those who’ve crossed into the 30s. Sanjeev Pahwa says this website is for people who prefer to marry only when they are well-settled professionally and don’t mind a late marriage. The fee for registration varies from Rs 1,590 and goes up to Rs 5,000 depending on the services you take.

What do these charges include? The package costing Rs 1,590 allows simple facilities like e-mailing and chatting while the package worth Rs 5,000 gives special preference to the candidate. “In the search results the website displays the picture of the candidate in the first 10-15 members which increases the chance of getting more hits and responses,” Sanjeev Pahwa. The agency also verifies the contact details of the prospective partner for you.

For divorcees and widowers secondshaadi.com gives a second chance with a new companion who has undergone the same fate, says Vivek Pahwa, founder of secondshaadi. com. The site charges a registration fee of Rs 2,500 for three months. “People come to such sites because they are more comfortable about sharing their thoughts with someone in the same boat and don’t want to announce it to the whole world,” says Vivek Pahwa.

These portals also direct their clients to companies that offer special wedding services like the wedding planners and so on.

ALL FOR A CAUSE

Most of these specialised sites are purely business ventures aimed at earning a profit. But there are some that view bringing together special groups as a social service.

For instance, specialshaadi.com was launched for differently abled people with special needs. “Usually people with speech, hearing or any other impairment have special needs which only a partner from the same impairment would understand,” says Sanjeev Pahwa. Registration is free. There are others too, like positivesaathi.com and idontwantdowry.com.

For Anilkumar Shamrao Valiv, an officer in the Maharashtra motor vehicles department, the reason for starting positivesaathi. com was a personal loss. A close friend of Valiv’s from college was infected with HIV and he had hunted unsuccessfully for a partner till he died.

After his friend died, Valiv was haunted by the lack of communication between people infected by the HIV virus. He strongly felt that many of them would have been happier if they had been able to spend their lives with a companion. He started the portal some 18 months ago and has seen 10 success stories. “Apart from candidates from India there are a number of NRIs and people from different nationalities who’ve uploaded their profiles,” he says.

In fact, the first success story was of an HIV-infected Indian man living in Singapore who found an HIV positive Indian girl who lived in England. Valiv has also left his phone number on the website and takes personal interest in getting the candidates to meet and interact.

“In most cases women only realise after they are married that their husband has infected them and it leads to divorce,” says Valiv. One such case was Supriya (name changed). She divorced her first husband who was HIV positive and infected her. She wanted to start life afresh but couldn’t find anyone till she got herself registered at positivesaathi.com. “I met and interacted with a couple of people on the website till I found someone I thought I could spend rest of my life with,” she says.

The website charges no fees and conveys the message: Being HIV positive is not the end of the life but is a beginning of a planned life with a more positive attitude. “An HIV person can live up to 20 and 25 years so why not get companionship,” says Valiv. At a slightly different level, the founder of idontwantdowry.com Satya Naresh was looking for a niche business venture and settled for something which could be a money-making proposition and also bring about a positive change in society. “The website is a platform for men willing to marry women for what they are and not the amount of dowry they will get,” says Naresh. The website offers a six month membership for Rs 500 only and has about 9,701 volunteers.

BUSINESS PLAN

Inevitably, the number of niche wedding sites is about to go up sharply. Strikeone Advertising is planning a portal called sardaarshaadi.com (for people from the Sikh community) and profession-based web portals for engineers, doctors and people from the media. “There’s a great scope for profession-based websites for people who want a profession compatible partner,” says Sanjeev Pahwa.

As the spectre of recession looms, sites like govtshaadi.com, launched two years ago, are also becoming more popular. Apparently, many would prefer a partner with consistent work timings in a secure government job.

Is starting a specialised wedding website an easy business which anyone can play at? Not necessarily. You need to put together databases with the right names if you want to be successful at the marriage game.

Take Strikeone Adverting which specialises in SMS-based advertising. To promote mangaliks.com and bposhaadi.com it introduced a TV and SMS-based ad campaign. “We sent out a prize-winning question through SMS and a similar question was asked on the television campaign to popularise the websites,” Sanjeev Pahwa.

To attract more members secondshaadi. com banks upon Google search marketing and on word of mouth publicity.

Strikeone Advertising is involved in offline exercises as well for which the charges start from Rs 21,000 and goes up to Rs 50,000 depending on the time and resources used for the client. But users are warned against giving out their contact details to strangers and does not take the responsibility of running background checks on members. “If asked, we arrange a meeting between the two parties and this would also include house visits by our employees,” Sanjeev Pahwa.

It’s easy to figure out that more niche wedding sites are probably going to start up in the not too distant future. And, for the young and not so young, who’d like to get hitched it’s just one more way of meeting their match.