INTERNET: NRIs desert these websites in large numbers after job losses in the west.
The global economic slowdown and job losses in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom have found an unlikely victim — the Indian matrimony websites.
Industry sources say there has been a drop of 15-20 per cent in the paid applications uploaded from non-resident Indians living in the US, Canada and UK in the past three months, ever since the economic meltdown hit the western world. The top matrimony portals in the country are Shaadi.com, Bharatmatrimony.com, jeevansaathi.com and Simplymarry.com.
The NRI community seeking a match from India through matrimony websites has grown rapidly in the past five years with nearly 50,000-60,000 paid subscribers signing in each year.
Industry numbers say that of the 1.2 million applications that are uploaded on these portals annually, including those from within the country, only about 10 per cent are for paid services. That means around 120,000 applicants actually pay money to take their annual subscription services, the fees for which vary from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. Clearly, these numbers are driven strongly by the NRIs.
As a result of the NRI exodus from these websites, there has been a significant cut in marketing budgets, salaries of top executives, and in some cases, a revision in the business projections for the next financial year.
“Marketing budgets up to 30 per cent or so have been cut, while senior executives across matrimony firms have been asked to take up to 15 per cent salary cuts. There have been lay-offs too in the past 3-months,” a senior executive working for a leading matrimonial portal says, requesting anonymity.
Agrees Sanjeev Bhikchandani, co-founder and CEO, Info Edge, which owns sites like naukri.com, 99acres.com, jeevansathi.com and shiksha.com: “Those matrimony portals that drive significant overseas traffic will see an impact on their margins for sure. We may not get impacted from global slowdown as jeevansathi.com is mainly focused on the domestic market.”
Industry estimates peg the size of revenue from matrimonial websites to be in the region of Rs 120-130 crore for 2008-09, at least 20 per cent more than the business generated by the matrimonials published across newspapers and magazines.
“For 2007-08, the combined losses of the top-four matrimonial portals stood at about Rs 270 crore. For 2008-09, the combined losses of such portals are expected to cross Rs 350 crore,” the executive adds.
Shaadi.com, the leader among all matrimony websites, has witnessed up to 40 per cent decline in its overseas credit card transactions used by NRIs while paying for these paid services, an executive working with People Group, the company behind Shaadi.com, said.
“The biggest challenge for the online matrimony model is crossing 100 million internet users, from about 60 million in India which will lend a J-curve impact to the customer-to-customer (C2C) exchange. In China and US, where C2C models have exploded, the J curve has come have come only after countries have crossed 100-150 million internet users,” says Sandeep Amar, business head of Simplymarry.com.
Currently, there are about 12-13 million Internet subscribers in the country and each Internet connection is usually used by at least five family members taking the internet surfing population to about 60 million users, industry experts say.
To tackle the slowdown impact on business, Shaadi.com has launched phone-based and elite matrimony services — the higher subscription models offering exclusive services including personalised consultancy targeting the upper layers of the society. Such services can cost the potential candidates anywhere between Rs 20,000 (for phone-based services) to over Rs 100,000 (elite services). Matrimony portals are also looking at taking their business to the consumers across smaller towns that are still dominated by family pundits and local match-making centres.