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  • 1. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – ADetailed View of the Indian Matrimonial Process NILESH OAK SEPTEMBER 3, 2007
  • 2. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial ProcessIDENTIFICATION OF THE MARKET MECHANISMThe search and matching mechanism is a fundamental component for serving society’s needs –whether it be for goods or services. Historically, the search and match mechanism has served toconverge buyers with a set of requirements with sellers with a set of capabilities and features. Alongthe same vein, albeit more interesting, is the search and match mechanism’s evolution and rapidgrowth in serving another major human need – personal relationships and life partners. Although aconventional search and match mechanism paper may focus on the mechanism at a very generic level(i.e., its general use across various categories of transactions), this paper will focus on themechanism’s evolution specifically in the partner/mate search and match into an online forum – as itswidespread use warrants a focused analysis.Perhaps the most renown partner search and eventual marriage “transaction” has historically transpiredin Asian societies; perhaps the best illustration is how the institution of marriage is facilitated acrossfamilies, friends, and even match makers in India. Of course, self-identified partner matches are also agrowing and common force in today’s Indian society. Taking this into consideration – the historicalfacilitation by families, friends, and other match makers combined with the contemporary generation’squest for a self-identified match – it is evident that a powerful enabler has been technology and itsability to link this web of individuals together in unison. Those who wish to go solo and search forthemselves online may do so; at the same time, those parents, friends, or siblings who wish to give ahelping hand may interface online in any one of the numerous match-making sites.Marriages may be made in heaven, but they have to be realized on Earth. Before, we in the Westernworld dismiss this cyberworld search and match mechanism, let us pause and remember therelationship enabling sites as eHarmony, and even FaceBook and Friendster for other youths. Evenmore, the Indian marriage process is often ostracized as being an “arranged marriage” with no consent;however, quite the contrary, it is more so a facilitated partner-seeking process that eventually leads tomarriage when agreed to by both parties. Given the population of Indian in the world, the practice ofIndian marriages affects approximately 20% of world population; however, of course, even so, not allIndian marriages are facilitated by family or friends as more youth seek their own process andmatches.Therefore, this paper examines the human life partner/mate search and match mechanism and thepossibilities the Internet brings. More specifically, it profiles the Indian matrimonial process tohighlight this mechanism’s evolution and current enablement through the online forum.HISTORICAL PRACTICE AND KEY ELEMENTSTraditional Indian arranged marriage involved parents choosing their daughter’s or son’s future spousewith some key criteria input from the bridegroom or bride to be. In almost all cases if either son ordaughter refuses the choice, the parents tend to respect their wishes and choose another possiblespouse.Nilesh Oak Page 1
  • 3. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial ProcessHISTORY OF PRACTICEIn India, arranged marriage is a tradition handed down through many generations. It is true thatancient literature of India going back to 7700 B. C. recognizes other forms of marriages; Swayam-var(bride making her own selection), Gandharva-vivah (love marriage), Rakshasa-vivah (marriage byforce), Nisarga-saksha vivah (Nature as witness), and few others. All these forms were considered andare still considered inferior to an arranged marriage – one that is viewed as worthy and acceptable byboth families as a whole.ROLES, RESPONSIBILITIES AND PROCEDURESThe essential marriage broker comes in two forms: professional and altruistic, who used to be involvedin most arranged marriages. At some level, members of society as a whole consider theirresponsibility to ensure that the proper bride or groom is arranged for someone they know and thusactively solicit and communicate information.The professional marriage brokers receive honorary compensation as deemed appropriate by partieswho benefit from their services. Altruistic marriage brokers consider their work as repayment of theirsocial debt – they are often extended family members, friends, and other well-wishers for the families.Beginning in 1970, the print matrimonial (requests for suitable match under matrimonial section ofclassified ads in newspapers and magazines) became popular. Parallel to print matrimonial was thedevelopment of “marriage bureau.” A marriage bureau was the creation of professional marriagebrokers. A marriage broker, instead of walking from house to house with a huge diary with tucked inphotographs, now sat in his/her office accepting registration for prospective brides and grooms.Marriage bureaus are operated similar to ‘staffing companies’ and maintain lists of suitable brides andgrooms based on criteria demanded by their clients.With the Internet boom in India, the concept of a marriage broker walking from door to door is isslowly fading out, and has given way to online matrimonial sites. The first to jump on this bandwagonwere owners of marriage bureaus, who converted their paper database into computer one. Internetsavvy professional organizations have eliminated the hold of marriage bureaus and now dominate thebusiness of online matrimonials.PROCEDURES AND BASIC ELEMENTS OF PRACTICEProcedures for selection and matching of brides and grooms vary widely across India, especially whenone gets into the details of protocols to be followed. In general, every marriage is its own microcosmwhen one takes into account numerous variables: language, religion, caste, sub-cast, education, andother factors.Nilesh Oak Page 2
  • 4. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial ProcessSearchIndia has always been rooted in tradition and religious beliefs. A marriage in India is both a religiousand social ceremony. The duration of a search may run anywhere from a few months to many years.Leads are generated through multiple processes: marriage brokers, relatives, friends, well-wishers.Marriage ceremonies are attractive venues for screening of prospective brides and grooms. As the oldIndian adage goes, “A single marriage sets the stage for dozen additional marriages” can be takenliterally.Due DiligenceParents initiate the process of due diligence (the process is elaborate and complex and would not onlyrival the process of due diligence exercise carried out by corporations before mergers andacquisitions, but the latter may look trivial in comparison).The exercise aims to look at such traits as:1. Family reputation2. Prospective bridge/groom’s profession3. Financial stability4. Family values5. Other physically desired characteristics (age, height, etc)Significant deviation from the desired level in the above characteristics would terminate the process offurthering any prospects with the groom/bridge under consideration. This due diligence is carried outin a low-key manner to respect social norms since any decision by one family to not proceed furtherwith a specific individual of another family, will be seen by the other party (if they come to knowabout it) as an insult. Maintaining this confidentiality is critical since Indian society as a whole is wellconnected, especially when the target group is screened based on religion, caste, sub-cast, languageand region. Lack of sensitivity may create a disadvantage for future marriage alliances.If the outcome of this exercise is positive, an informal discussion between the two parties will begin.Of course at this time the other party would initiate its own due diligence, with roles reversed. If theother party is satisfied in its own due diligence, the photos of the prospective bride and bridegroomsmight be exchanged.Matching: Phase –IAn informal meeting is set up between the two parties. The goal is to agree on a high level regardingcompatibilities. The objective of this meeting (never explicitly stated but understood by all) is tovalidate the information gathered during due diligence phase. In addition, the goal is to understandspecific matching requirements of both parties. Non-verbal negotiation, judging of mutual familyattributes and values take place during these meetings. This is also an opportunity for the couple tounderstand more of their potential partners, by asking questions about their values, likes, dislikes andNilesh Oak Page 3
  • 5. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial Processlife preferences – basically an opportunity to have a private and informal meeting. This is a free-flowing discussion and may includes their likes and dislikes of books, movies, vacation destination,dietary preferences, future ambitions, pet peeves and list is endless.Families would enlist the additional matching criteria (this assumes what they know so far isagreeable) which may include horoscope matches, family tree assessments, and other perceptionsregarding the health of the desired individual.Matching: Phase -IIThis step constitutes the negotiation of terms and conditions rather than matching. I have included it aspart of matching because negotiations not covered so far still have flavor of matching the two sidesbased on wealth, reputation and social status. This includes the details of the wedding arrangementsand anticipated number of attendees and other special events.PROFILE OF MARKET PRACTICEThe dominant form of searching and matching among the global Indian community today is via onlinematrimonial. All traditional forms of match-making are still in existence and active in India,especially in rural parts of the country. In Indian cities, the matrimonial style of online dating isbecoming more prevalent, where many websites vie for clients. The larger websites have their ownservice centers around India.CURRENT BEST PRACTICE: ARRANGED MARRIAGES, MINUS THE PARENTSWith the Internet boom in India, online matrimonial is becoming a best practice and one that is highlyprofitable. These sites have mushroomed like crazy. There is not a single state in India which doesnot have one or more matrimonial sites dedicated to serve the region, apart from the big players whotarget the entire nation with the concept of the Indian wedding.Indian marriage requirements, as described in previous sections can be very specific in religion, cast,sub-cast, language, and ancestral links. Internet based solution such as online matrimonial fits thisneed best. For instance there are 15 sections for different languages on the BharatMatrimony.com andother similar sites. Potential brides and grooms can select from 10 different languages, 8 religions and7 different countries.PERFORMANCEAmong the scores of business ideas out there, online matchmaking has continued to see phenomenalgrowth. The global Indian online matchmaking and matrimonial business has carved a niche for itselfin the cyberspace, and alongside, has lead to a small revolution in the way the tech savvy youth ofcurrent Indian generation are contemplating finding a match. The internet-matrimonial andmatchmaking industry is grossing billions of dollars a year and the Indian wedding market isexperiencing a boom. The Economist magazine estimates the market to be around $11 billion with aNilesh Oak Page 4
  • 6. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial Processgrowth rate of about 25% per year. Indian matrimonial sites and portals have created successfulbusiness by blending personal touch with technology, grossing millions for the entrepreneurs behindthe scenes.“We feel like we are helping Indians and Indian-Americans help qualify or reject potential mates fasterthan ever before,” says Nahrain Bhatia, who founded Suitable Match, a heavily visited site with10,000 registered members.BharatMatrimony.com, which is actually a collection of regionally focused matrimonial portals with asimilar operational engine, claims that they have matched over 60,000 marriages, including that ofMrugavel (Muruga) Janakiraman, founder and chief executive officer of BharatMatrimony.com.ASSESSMENT OF PATHOLOGIESMoral basis of traditional Indian arranged marriageI am tempted to compare Indian arranged marriage with carrots and nylon, the comparison I derivefrom two of my numerous hobbies – nutrition and science of polymers.In Indian moral system, ‘Individual’ sits at the top of moral hierarchy. Society is next in line followedby all organic matter (living world). The inorganic matter sits at the bottom. However ‘individualfreedom’ is nowhere to be seen in Indian society, and the odd occurrence of it is treated with scorn.The modern western civilization is to be credited with making individual freedom a reality. There is aclear gap between Indian philosophical thought and actual workings of society. Before we judge thisas hypocritical, and rightfully so, I advise looking at empirical experience of both Indians and the restwith different marriage systems.In principle, Indian thought claims to respect Individual good as supreme and thus we should haveobserved self-selection of marriage partner. Though this factor has been under-researched, proponentsof arranged marriage attribute near zero percent divorce rates (to somewhere around 4% suspected) tocouple that have arranged marriages (in contrast to a 50% divorce rate for US). The debate surroundsone main question: can an individual be trusted to make his own or her own decision about choosing amate, and if not, can the parents do a better job of it? Elders think that young individuals are prone tolisten to voice of enthusiasm (hormones, external looks) rather than voice of reason (attitude, maturity,financial stability). The main argument of society over individual refers to immature individual whomay give in to his/her basic instincts (organic and thus inferior to society). Curious readers may wantto read “Lila- An inquiry into Morals” by Robert Pirsig, well known author of ‘Zen and the art ofmotorcycle maintenance’ for further exposition of moral hierarchy.So what does Indian arranged marriage have to do with carrots and nylon! None of them are bestalternatives based on any single criteria, however all of them are second best alternatives when itcomes to multiple criterion: arranged marriage (social stability, lower divorce rate, pre-screeningNilesh Oak Page 5
  • 7. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial Processleading to increased mutual satisfaction), carrots (second best nutrition after Yams, however readilyavailable and can be eaten raw or cooked) and nylon (does not offer single best property amongengineering polymers, however second best properties on practically every aspect of polymerproperties – strength, chemical resistance, impact, ease of processing)Modern Indian Arranged Marriages in the Global VillageThe online matrimonial sites are particularly useful for Indians abroad. Every year 40,000-70,000Indians move to Unites states alone, most of them singles, who turn into potential marriage-worthymaterial in a few years. Online marriage sites cater to a technologically sophisticated population.According to Forrester research, 69% of Asian-American households are online, compared with the43% of the general population. Most of the Indians in India as well as Indian Americans who areonline are young and educated. Young working Indians in India are earning double digit salarygrowth every year and in the United States, Indian-Americans have the highest per capita income, afinancial factors that makes them quite an attractive pool of marriage candidates. They are generallybusy professionals. They need the process to become more efficient and more effective. “If we canreduce a six-month process to six days, think of how much easier we can make finding a mate,” saysMr. Manglani, president of Asian Matches (www.asianmatches.com). “Wouldn’t it be better to be upfront whether or not a bride or groom won’t work as quickly as possible? Then our clients could moveon and just get that much closer to finding the right person, get married and get on with their lives.”Young Indian adults tend to view arranged marriage as an option they can fall back on if they areunable or unwilling to spend time and effort necessary to find a spouse on their own or even a superioralternative to seeking a spouse than social dating. The parents then become welcome partners in ahunt for marital bliss.The key word is “efficiency” without loosing effectiveness, especially for Indian-Americans. Manyrealize that without their parental buffers, it may not be as easy to find another person (Indian orIndian-American) who is genuinely considering marriage to another Indian-American. Many get tiredof offline meetings with marriage candidates who, after formal introductions with both sets of parentsand other relatives in the same room, would admit that they were only there out of obligation to theirfamilies.The online option of finding a mate might seem very modern, but it represents an acceptance of theprejudices of previous generations. Looking for a spouse through such strict criteria as caste or sub-caste, postgraduate degree or even of the tone of the person’s complexion (common fields on mostmatrimonial sites) echoes the same categories that traditional Indian parents and marriage bureaushave used for centuries. Many feel that they are engaging in a meat hunt, like one would in a bar, eventhough that is what one is theoretically trying to avoid, at the same time trying to meet people onlineby prescreening them - ironically using the same biases of their parents.The biggest benefit is the expansion of range of available prospects around the world beyond existingnetworks, existing networks being the only traditional method of finding a bride or groom. Indianparents who are immigrants might not have the network in their chosen country of residence necessaryNilesh Oak Page 6
  • 8. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial Processto arrange a marriage easily. These portals help because they offer a controlled environment, in termsof a somewhat screened community.Online sites have their peculiar vocabulary. If you see ‘Issueless divorce’, you may translate it as ‘nochildren’, while ‘innocently divorced’ may mean ‘still a virgin’. Both terms can easily be searched foron most sites. However do verify since lot can be lost in translation.Innovative Use of Technology: East meets WestTechnology is cutting though traditional avenues of matchmaking for Indians, following the westerntrend where dating sites are among the most highly ranked internet portals. Educated urbaneyoungsters contemplating matrimony are increasingly using the power of the web to not necessarilyfind the “one” but at least to get a few referrals that they can vet. The use of the Internet and the webis therefore the next evolutionary step in the match making process.Developing a matrimonial portal is not rocket science per se since the technologies to integrate search,posting, validating, etc. exists; however, the power of such portal is in the human angle of controlling,coordinating and managing the operations. Most online portals employ individuals who vet eachposting for photograph, content accuracy to ensure that bad apples stay away.Competitive LandscapeBefore you think of jumping in to rake in the big bucks, let me make you aware of the challenge mostportals face: managing customer expectations. The ‘product’ these portals are dealing with is thehopes and expectations of individuals. Though most of these websites have automated registration andpayment processes, they try to build manual checks and balances. Says Muruga of Bharat Matrimony:“Ours is a technology driven company but we manually authorise the profiles to make sure the profilesare genuine.” Sure, you want to make sure that the Sridevi or Amir’s profile you are looking at doesnot have the actor’s picture next to it; that is, Amir is an architect based in Boston, not Amir Khanfrom Bollywood. Also, individuals have a wider choice when it comes to online and offlineadvertising, and posting one’s details on the Internet is just one of the several medium available.The big players in this market—including BharatMatimony.com and Shaadi.com—have cornered aniche for themselves in the cyber world, ranking high in search engines. BharatMatrimony.Com alsohas an alliance with MSN.Com so all Indian Hotmail users see ads and text links of this websitewhenever they login to their Hotmail account. They also have huge advertising budgets, given that adsfor matrimonial portals regularly appear in TV, radio and print. Alongside, the traditional avenues formatrimonial advertisements—newspaper classifieds, continue to eat into the overall market share.Interestingly, most newspapers also post their print adverts free in their online editions, furthercompeting with pure-play online portals.Lower barriers to entry have lead to intense competition in this space, especially because of thenumber of players who have jumped the bandwagon.Nilesh Oak Page 7
  • 9. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial ProcessFORCES OF CHANGEIndividual winning over SocietyGlobal modern influences are having its impact on Indian parents. Indian society is becoming moreopen to individuals selecting their partners, at least creating a slate of candidates. This is a win-winsituation, where the individual gets to select who they are comfortable marrying, whereas parents getto have their say on the “pros” and “cons” of the slate of candidates identified.Globalization of Indian diasporaAs the population of Indians outside India grows, many Indian marriages are in fact internationalmarriages, where potential matches may reside half way across the globe, but satisfy the desired“criteria” for consideration.Time value of MoneyAs the earning potential of the Indian singles population continues to increase, time spent looking for aspouse is more valuable. Thus, the growing Indian youth – primarily the highly educated and earningsegment – desire both efficiency and accuracy in their quest for ideal partner candidates. Therefore,systems which facilitate criteria-based matching provide a bigger “bang for the buck” by increasingthe probability for meeting better-suited individuals.IDENTIFY LEADERS AND REFORMERSMatrimonial web sites seem to strike a compromise between ancient Indian social traditions and thecontemporary attitudes of many Indian Americans by cutting out the intermediary of arrangedmarriages: the family! Just as online trading is starting to cut out the middleman in the investingbusiness, the Web is being used to help arranged marriages without relatives or marriage bureaus.Most sites offer free services such as letting people search their bride and groom databases (They getthe point – Context is King!), and allow users to post photos and descriptive paragraphs aboutthemselves for prospective marriage partners. Leaders in the worldwide quest for Indian matches areShaadi.com, BharathMatrimony.com, and JeevanSaathi.com. Just These sites offer simple, advancedand keyword searches. Users enter or search for information in fields like “age” and “caste”, but theycan also search for more detailed information like “vegetarian”, “non-smoker”. Many of these sitesare capable of analyzing horoscopes (either by computer programs or by priests hired by thesebusinesses).FUTURE MARKET POSSIBILITIESNilesh Oak Page 8
  • 10. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial ProcessYou Tube and Second LifeYou Tube and emails are already being explored by key matrimonial sites. The next wave would bethese portals setting their marriage bliss islands on Second life. Let’s say the man is an American ofIndian ancestry and the woman is an Indian living in India who will move to America after themarriage. The parents of the man will be happier and feel secure knowing that their son is to marry aperson of their own country and culture rather than one ‘corrupted’ by western influences. The parentsof the girl hope that their daughter enjoys a higher standard of living. However couples may beincompatible due to cultural differences. This can be extremely significant, and sometimes insurprising ways – many Indian families settled abroad tend to have frozen Indian values and mindsetswhile the home country has moved on and adopted more progressive values. It is not rare to findtraditional Indian families in the west that look down upon western values as ‘immoral’, while Indiansin India have become more westernized and permissive.Online communication (Second Life) can not modify this situation, however the prospective couplewill be able to resolve these issues upfront in a neutral setting and possibly without disclosing theiridentity.Criteria is changing, complexity is notThere are still niches waiting to be explored. For instance there is a marked vacuum when it comes tosites catering to remarriages. With the changing demographics, divorce and remarriage is on the rise.There is a void for portals and cyber-entrepreneurs to target this niche by providing a comfortable, safeatmosphere where those looking for a “second chance” can do so. Concedes Vandana Asija, publicrelations manager of Shaadi.com: “Shaadi.com has several members who are divorced or looking toremarry. We do not explicitly target members who are divorced but do provide fields in our searchengine to make it easier for members to find divorced singles if they are looking for them.”Interestingly, the management of GaramChai.com has also already identified this as a niche and hasbuilt two niche portals:• http://www.garamchai.com/BridesForDivorcees.htm• http://www.garamchai.com/BridegroomsForDivorcees.htmThe emerging tech-savvy generation is definitely considering online portals as a viable option to scanfor suitable alliances. Whether they are made in heaven or not, marriages are definitely getting madeonline!REFERENCESLila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert M Pirsighttp://www.matrimonialsindia.com/http://merasathi.com/Nilesh Oak Page 9
  • 11. Search and Match Mechanism of the Market – A Detailed View of the Indian Matrimonial Processhttp://www.jeevansathi.com/http://www.nikahsearch.com/http://www.indiamatch.com/http://www.walsha.com/http://www.myforeignbride.com/http://www.garamchai.com/mohan/The Economist, October 25, 2006. "Made for each other"Peeyush Agnihotri. "Shehnai please, it’s Webbing time", The Tribune, 2002-05-06Gitanjali Sharma. “ The mating Game, The Tribune, 2004-12-18Mohan Babu. "The business of online matchmaking", GaramChaiNilesh Oak Page 10