Mumbai: Online matchmaker SecondShaadi.com was launched by Pahwa Knowledge Business Solutions (KBS) Group last year, targeting the potentially lucrative remarriage market of people who have been divorced, separated or widowed and are looking for partners with a similar background.
In another example of hyper-targeted online matchmaking, GovtShaadi.com was founded by Strikeone Advertising to help government employees find spouses. Strikeone also has a site called BPOshaadi.com meant for people who work in business process outsourcing firms.
Partner prospects: Sites such as Metroshaadi.com and Metromonial.com are targeting city slickers
And sites such as Metroshaadi.com and Metromonial.com are appealing to city slickers to find prospective partners in their city.
Shaadi is Hindi for marriage.
Super-specialization is increasing in the booming Rs200 crore-plus online matrimonial market, with new sites connecting people to potential life partners based exclusively on yardsticks such as geography, profession and marital status.
Their marketing ploy is to use their niche to differentiate their brands from mainstream sites and market leaders such as Bharatmatrimony.com and Shaadi.com.
Bharatmatrimony’s mass-market approach is also evolving, with its umbrella site hosting subsections related to religion, caste, and profession. And, though its approach is pan-Indian, there are many websites under Bharatmatrimony.com targeting different states, such as Keralamatrimony.com for Keralites.
Vivek Pahwa, chief executive of Pahwa KBS which launched SecondShaadi.com, says niche sites are becoming common in the matrimonial space because they perceive a genuine gap in existing online models.
“Over 60,000 people have already registered on our matrimonial website,” Pahwa says. “In most other matrimonial websites, the growth rate is 20-30%, whereas in this niche that we are operating in, the growth rate is 40%.”
The higher growth could of course be explained by the fact that their registration base is much smaller than mainstream sites.
“From a consumer’s point of view, it’s more convenient to do a search under a certain segment. It’s easier to target,” says marketing consultant Ramesh Thomas, president and chief knowledge officer of Bangalore-based Equitor Management Consultants Pvt. Ltd. “I think that a site such as SecondShaadi.com is a fantastic idea. It’s an accepted fact that in countries such as the United States, one out of two marriages fail. Ten years ago, if you started such a concept as SecondShaadi.com in India, people would have asked you if you were mad, but today they don’t”.
Mainstream online matchmakers, however, see meagre business prospects in micro-targeting. Specialized matrimonial websites account for barely 5% of total online matrimonial revenues, by one executive’s estimate.
Data compiled by the Chamber Research Bureau shows online matrimonial ads raked in Rs58 crore in 2005-06 which rose to Rs85 crore in 2006-07. The survey projected the business to grow by 60% and touch Rs136 crore this year.
Mass market websites, however, say that their business mainly comes from subscriptions, with advertising contributing very little to revenue. They believe that audience numbers and hence business follow the traditional mass-market mechanisms of caste, language and community.
“A doctor may not always want to marry a doctor. Similarly a divorcee may not specially seek another divorcee,” Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and chief executive of Bharatmatrimony Group, says. “As for BPOshaadi.com, attrition is extremely high in this sector and no one regards BPO as a long-term career anyway. Most employees in BPOs are college students and do not want a long-term commitment such as marriage.”
Sanjeev Bikhchandani, chief executive of Info Edge (India) Ltd, which owns Jeevansaathi.com, dismisses super-specialized sites as “irrelevant”. “Many of the existing portals already have profession search features and the ability to find out whether a person’s been married earlier, so where’s the differentiator?”
Shaadi.com is concerned that some specialized websites are mistaken as its brand extensions because their domain names end in shaadi.
Vibhas Mehta, business head at Shaadi.com, says most niche websites leverage the shaadi brand name and address a small audience. Like Bikhchandani, he says, the niche search features on mainstream sites restricts the business potential of match-makers that target a single group.
“Shaadi.com’s been here for 10 years, and has 12.3 million subscribers. The product allows users to search niche, or broadbase their search as per their requirements. For instance, a lot of communities need to look at astrological matches before anything else and Astro Soulmates on our site allows this,’’ he says.
The specialists aren’t deterred. Pahwa of SecondShaadi.com says his site will sustain itself because it addresses a genuine need. “We found that many of those who’ve been divorced do not get much of a response in ordinary matrimonial websites, and hence we initiated SecondShaadi.com.”