Why the hell do Indians use matrimony sites?

For the uninitiated, most Indians go through an arranged marriage. Before you reach for your gun, not all arranged marriages are forced marriages. Indians are way too lazy to ask someone for a date and see if a relationship develops to something more than a one night stand! We explore the curious case of online matrimony sites that millions of Indians rely on for finding their soulmates.

What are matrimony sites?

Matrimony sites are online portals that facilitate arranged marriage matchmaking for Indians and South Asian populations. These sites are used by individuals who want to go through an arranged marriage as well as parents who are looking for suitable matches for their sons or daughters. Matrimony sites are religion or community-based as most Indians who prefer arranged marriages tend to marry within their religion or caste.

According to KPMG, India has approximately 356 million who are in the marriageable age group of 18 to 35 years and 93 million of them were unmarried!
That’s not all. KPMG estimates that 71 million marriages will take place in India between 2015 to 2020. For comparison, imagine a population that’s large than the entire population of Thailand or UK or France!

And when you have millions of marriages to arrange, guess who stepped up to the plate?

Online matrimony sites in India have mushroomed from every corner of India to help Indians (and Non-resident Indians as well) set up arranged marriages.

It is estimated there are over 2600+ matrimony sites in India with a combined active user base exceeding 7 million active users and over 50 million profiles. That’s a lot of people looking to find a match online.

Here are a few reasons matrimony sites are popular.

The rise of nuclear families

Nuclear families have lost social connections needed to find suitable matches for their children.

Families in India have been going through major changes as a result of urbanisation and changing economic profile.

The median family size in India has come down in urban areas and even rural areas are seeing similar trends.

In the early 1900s, the joint family system was common in India. Since travel and economic opportunities were local and driven by agriculture, population movement and relocation were not as common as it is now.

The end result was that you had community members belonging to the same caste / religion living in close proximity. It became easy for people to find matches through their “old-fashioned” social network.

Shaadi, one of the largest matrimony sites in India conducted a survey among over 8000 respondents in the age group of 24 to 34 years. 64% of women surveyed wanted to “live separately with husband” after marriage. Among the male respondents, 44% wanted to “live separately with wife” after marriage.

The survey proves the point that the joint family system in India has been slowly giving way to the nuclear family model. The joint family system not only meant living with extended family in the same house, it also meant having most family members living in the same street or town.

The implication of not living in close contact with extended family members automatically imposes limitations of the ability of parents to find suitable matches from the same community.

Matrimony sites help parents improve their ability to locate prospective matches from within the same community or caste and that’s one of the reasons why parents prefer to sign up with matrimony sites.

Everybody loves choice

There is yet another surprising aspect that has contributed to the growth of matrimony sites and i.e the ability to actually look beyond caste and community preferences!

There is a new breed of urban matchmaking apps that provide young men and women opportunities to find someone with compatible lifestyle and interests.

This trend has rubbed on traditional matrimony sites as well. While a majority of profiles you will find in matrimony sites place emphasis on caste and community, you will also find a group of users who exercise choice based on other parameters.

This trend has rubbed on traditional matrimony sites as well. While a majority of profiles you will find in matrimony sites place emphasis on caste and community, you will also find a group of users who exercise choice based on other parameters.

Specialised matrimony sites for divorcees, matrimony sites for second marriage, matrimony sites meant for physically challenged people, matrimony sites for doctors or even matrimony sites for people who graduated from elite educational institutions are some of the additional options that attract a lot of people who otherwise found it difficult to find matches through arranged marriages.

3. Matrimony sites are time machines

Matrimony sites are essentially taking you back in time. You can call them matrimony time machines.

Just Google “<name of your religion / caste>matrimony” and let us know if you can’t find a matrimony site that fits your search criteria.

Essentially, they are providing an online version of your home town or village where you can find people who trace their ancestry to your hometown or nearby places and belong to the same caste or religion!

For example, Google “Matrimony sites in Chennai” and you will find local matrimony sites that cater to the prominent communities in Chennai.

Of the 2600+ matrimonial sites in India, over 700 of them are extensions of community associations.

Leading matrimony sites have implemented micro-market strategies for offering matchmaking services for every caste / community throughout India.

For example, Bharat Matrimony declares “We offer products and services that are tailored to meet the requirements of customers based on their religious, linguistic, caste and community preferences.

That’s not the only way matrimony sites reinforce age-old traditions. Here are some interesting insights presented by Livemint in an article titled “Who’s searching for whom on matrimonial websites.

A majority of Indian men prefer to marry younger women. Via Livemint
Men and women prefer to marry from within their caste. Via Livemint
Men with masters degree prefer marrying woman with a bachelors degree. Via Livemint

Indians have not yet embraced dating sites

Dating sites have taken the plunge in India, but Indians are still waiting and watching!

Millions of Dollars have gone into funding a flurry of dating sites targeting the young, urban Indians. Even Tinder has launched its India operations.

Yet, none of these dating sites has challenged established online matrimony sites in the sheer volume of marriages that matrimony sites spawn off.

The intent of dating may not be marriage from the get go, but Indians have not embraced the idea of using dating as the stepping stone to marriage.

Check out this brutal take-down of the dating scene in India!

Dating using online sites or through offline connections is not a culturally accepted practice in India yet. The idea that men and women will deliberately meet with just romance as the outcome is not something Indians accept readily.

In fact, Dating apps in India position themselves as matchmaking apps! Case in point is Vee which has now relaunched itself as Wedlock.

Until and unless there are credible alternatives, Indians will continue to rely on online matrimony sites for arranged marriages.

Commerce has gone online!

India is experiencing an Internet boom. The numbers are staggering in fact. As of November 2016, India has over 460 million Internet users accounting for over 13% of internet users in the world.

According to Deloitte, mobile internet spend has risen from 54% to 64% of smartphone users from 2014 to 2015. This is due to an availability of high-speed 3G & 4G internet connectivity at affordable prices which has led to an increase in transactions done via mobile.

The outcome of the changing behaviour is the increasing growth of e-commerce / online transactions.

The rapid growth of e-commerce industry indicates changing online habits of Indians.

One of the casualties of the changing consumer habits has been the traditional matchmakers or marriage brokers. They are now a vanishing tribe as prospective customers find it lot more convenient to just register with any of the matrimony sites online instead of venturing to matchmaking melas (mass events that for face to face interactions with prospective matches).

The St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral Church in Chennai has a matchmaking centre just for it’s members. Church members have to fill out a detailed form to register their son / daughter / relative for matching. The Chruch has a small team that matches the profiles manually and connects the prospective matches by sending out snail mail postcards. If the match results in marriage, they collect a fee from both the parties.
The advent of online matchmaking has disrupted setups like these. People who register with community brokers (like that in the St. Mary’s Church) find it easier to go through the process online and in some cases refuse to pay the matchmaking fee based on the claim that they found the matching profile through a matrimony site!

First published here. For more interesting insights on love, marriages and relationships in emerging urban India, check out the official Jodi Logik blog page.

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