The pandemic is forcing many industries to innovate and come up with ideas that help them stay relevant in the “new normal.” One such seemingly small innovation is proving to be extremely effective in India’s online matchmaking sector.
On June 22, Shaadi.com, one of India’s most popular matrimonial websites, launched a video calling feature that potential brides and grooms can use to interact with each other at a time when people are avoiding in-person meetings due to the coronavirus outbreak. On the first day of the launch, the service was used by almost 75,000 users, and on the next day, over 100,000 people tried the feature.
In less than a month, over 500,000 users have made video calls on Shaadi.com, according to the company.
“In chats, you have the time to think about certain answers, (and) put up a show. But video calling is real-time, there’s no hiding, there’s no ‘BRB moment’,” Adhish Zaveri, director of marketing at Shaadi.com, told Quartz. In addition, video-calling lends personality to one’s profile, he said.
Shaadi.com is not the only matrimonial portal that has launched the video calling feature and benefited from it. Bharat Matrimony, part of India’s largest matchmaking company Matrimony.com, and Jeevansathi.com, owned by internet major Info Edge, have also witnessed significant traffic to their video calling service as people try to reconcile with their upended lives through technology.
Indians stuck indoors and working from home amid the pandemic, have more time than before to browse matrimonial portals. And matchmaking portals are cognizant of this opportunity.
“People who did not have the time to look for marriage partners now have the time to do so due to Covid-19,” said Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO of Bharat Matrimony. “They want to use this opportunity to shortlist matches and continue finding their partner until they are able to physically meet each other.”
Video calling can take these discussions a step forward, however, not many would be comfortable in sharing their Skype ids or WhatsApp numbers with complete strangers. That’s where the option to see and talk with a potential suitor within the matrimonial app comes handy.
Another privacy control, which makes the feature a safer option than other video sharing apps is that “you can block people and choose the kind of people you want to talk to,” said Zaveri of Shaadi.com. “For instance, you can just keep your list restricted to the people you have matched with.”
Bharat Matrimony takes it one step further, allowing women to call whomever they want to while restricting men to only receiving calls and calling people with whom they have matched. Experts say this added feature will help empower women. “It might address the phenomenon of men stalking women. Restricting men’s ownership of communication is very welcome,” said Madhavi Menon, director of centre for studies in gender and sexuality at Ashoka University.
Besides users, there are several benefits for matchmaking companies, too.
This feature can help matchmaking platforms deepen their engagement with users, experts said.
“It works out to their (matrimonial sites’) advantage if they control the platform rather than letting people contact each other. It won’t be profitable for them otherwise,” says Ravi Patnayakuni, associate chair of the information systems department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Already, several matchmaking companies in India are highly profitable, unlike most other homegrown internet businesses.