Faster, cheaper internet
access rolling out across provincial India is having an unlikely consequence: Matchmaking.
In a socially conservative nation where marriages are often arranged by relatives, mobile connectivity
is enabling rural families to go online to find matches from a wider pool of suitors. And that’s boosting demand for cyber services, like Matrimony.com, Jeevansathi.com
, which operate searchable databases of marriage material.
With an estimated 450 million mobile internet
users, India’s information technology
revolution is transforming the matrimonial market, traditionally dominated by marriage negotiators and intermediaries, and ads in newspapers. But online matchmaking services are encroaching. Revenue from the fledgling industry expanded an average of 21 per cent annually from 2010 to 2015, and will reach $322 million by 2020, Ken Research said in a report last year.
, which opened an initial public offering on Monday, added three million user-profiles last year, of which 40 percent were in semi-urban areas. Three-quarters of the profiles added to the Chennai-based company’s database in the quarter ended June 30 were uploaded from a smartphone, helped by cheaper handsets, faster internet
connections, and mobile-app enhancements.
“We expect that trend to continue and those reasons will help more people come onto our platform,” said Murugavel Janakiraman, Matrimony.com’s founder and chief executive officer. India’s wedding market, including matchmaking services, venue-hire, catering, decorating and photography, is worth about $54 billion a year.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio
Infocomm began offering data-enabled handsets, or JioPhones, for Rs 1,500 and monthly tariff plans from Rs 153 in July, bolstering connections to the fourth-generation mobile network in India’s hinterland. Bharti Airtel
also followed, slashing data charges.
“Very recently with the launch of Jio
we have seen a huge increase in penetration in the Jio
Senior Vice-President Rohan Mathur said. “This huge increase in internet
penetration is leading to a large number of users coming online.”
That has a compound effect, as more users mean more potential suitors, which attracts yet more users.
While “love marriages” are increasingly preferred by younger Indians, the lingering hold of caste and community in India makes it difficult for people to fall in love and marry, Sahoo wrote in a paper published in the Journal of South Asian Studies in June.
“The online matrimonial technologies transgress geographical boundaries and provide more autonomy to candidates in ‘arranging’ their own marriages,” he said. “The new technologies and online matchmaking processes defy the fixed categorisations of love and arranged marriage.”
That’s resulting in “self-arranged” marriages which combine “the best of both worlds,” Sahoo said.