Matrimony websites go the whole hog to attract more ad campaigns.
Faltering ad revenues are forcing online matrimony websites to devise new strategies to tackle the problem. Most online matrimony brands are investing Rs 1-5 crore this year to improve their online presence and add new features and services to their sites. Besides, they are also shifting their focus towards the micro-user.
A number of matrimony websites confirmed that user subscription was still the biggest source of their revenue while online advertising accounted for a negligible portion of it. But this has not prevented these sites from becoming the largest online advertisers themselves.
The Nielsen Online AdRelevance report said that India’s matrimonial websites remained far ahead of all others in online advertising for the period June-August 2009. In terms of number of campaigns, the top-two advertisers were Consim (which owns www.bharatmatrimony.com) and People Interactive (that owns www.shaadi.com). Consim accounted for 8 per cent of the total number of campaigns, while People Interactive accounted for 4 per cent during the period. Info Edge (the owners of www.jeevansathi.com) was the third-biggest player with 3 per cent, advertising mainly for its employment business.
Sanjeev Bikhchandani, the co-founder of Info Edge, says: “We intend to set up offline centres across India to increase our subscriber base. We have begun with 15 pilot centres in Mumbai and Delhi, 10 of which have already broken even. Depending on the success of these pilots, we would go for a nationwide rollout.” Bhikhchandani estimates that it will cost the company “a few lakhs” to set up such centres across the country.
Shaadi.com too is looking to reach out to rural audiences through its offline centres. “We already have over 100 offline centres in India and will double the number in three years,” says Anupam Mittal, the founder of People Interactive. “Our focus would be on innovations, both online and with partners. So, we have already tied up with Dish TV to make ourselves available and are also looking at newer ways, such as taking to the mobile route, for a more holistic presence,” he adds.
Shaadi.com claims to have 20 million members (both offline and online) and is expecting to grow its subscriber base by 30 per cent. Currently, around 70 per cent of shaadi.com’s revenues come from online subscriptions, 25 per cent from offline centres and the rest from advertisements. An online membership at shaadi.com costs Rs 2,201 for three months, while for registration with offline centres costs Rs 15,000 for one year.
The matrimony site has also revamped itself, adding new features and services. Gourav Rakshit, business head of shaadi.com, claims: “We will introduce more local languages on our website. Right now, we are only using English and are in the process of filing intellectual property rights for the software that we are using for the local language service that we are going to offer soon.”
Among other investments, shaadi.com intends to invest heavily in new online services. For instance, on its revamped website, it has added ‘SecureTalk’, a new service to enable consumers to connect with potential partners anywhere in the world on their registered phones numbers (mobile or landline). This service uses a unique technology called ‘click-to-call-back’, which enables a user to initiate phone calls on the website without divulging his/her phone number.
Likewise, jeevansathi.com too is investing in enhancing convenience on its website while securing user privacy. At present, jeevansathi.com users pay Rs 1,400 for a two-month subscription and Rs 4,800 for an unlimited period till a match is fixed online. Its offline services, on the other hand, are in the range of Rs 5,000-6000, in addition to an online subscription. Vivek Khare, the business head of jeevansathi.com, informs: “We will soon introduce a service that will allow our paid users to call any listed profile without revealing their phone numbers. This service is aimed at ensuring privacy.” The company plans to launch this as a free value-added service, but it may later consider a membership fee, depending on its success.
Bharatmatrimony.com, which too claims to have around 20 million subscribers, is hoping to grow its revenues by streamlining the matrimony market on religion, caste and income. Murugavel Janakiraman, the founder and chief executive of Consim, highlights the example of www.elitematrimony.com, their latest venture targeting celebrities and high network groups. “We have roped in 300 paid customers on elitematrimony.com, even though the subscription fee for this site starts at Rs 1 lakh for six months,” he claims.