Rural Indians look online to find marriage partners
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 Ltd., Jeevansathi.com and Shaadi.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 20.6 billion rupees (US$322 million) by 2020, Ken Research Pvt Ltd. said in a re- port last year.
Matrimony.com, which opened an initial public offering on Monday, added 3 million user-profiles last year, of which 40 per cent 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 mobileapp 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, in an interview. 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 1,500 rupees and monthly tariff plans from 153 rupees in July, bolstering connec- tions to the fourth-generation mobile network in India’s hinterland. Bharti Airtel Ltd. also followed, slashing data charges.
“Very recently with the launch of Jio we have seen a huge increase in penetration in the Jio markets,” Jeevansathi. com senior vicepresident Rohan Mathur said in an interview in his office near New Delhi. “This huge increase in internet penetration is leading to a large
number of users coming online.”
That has a compound effect, as more users means more potential suitors, which attracts yet more users.
The “arranged marriage” system, which is rooted in caste-based social divisions and patriarchy, is undergoing a transformation, according to Sarbeswar Sahoo, an associate professor of sociology at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
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 categorizations of love and arranged marriage.”
That’s resulting in “self- arranged” marriages which combine “the best of both worlds,” Sahoo said.
India’s information technology revolution is transforming the traditional matrimonial market.