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BharatMatrimony turns to brick-and-mortar

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MR MURUGAVEL JANAKIRAMAN
MR MURUGAVEL JANAKIRAMAN

Sudha Menon

Pune, Aug. 29

Seven lakh online marriages organised at last count, a $8.6 million in funding from Yahoo! Inc and Canaan Partners and at least half-a-dozen more enthusiastic investors queuing up to shell out money for a slice of his business.

It would be a very gutsy person who could suggest to Mr Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO of BharatMatrimony.com, that marriages are made in heaven!

And having set a generation of mobile-flaunting, laptop toting denizens of the information highway on the on-line path to marital bliss, this software consultant-turned-entrepreneur has now decided that there is much more to the business of matrimony than the information highway. A foray into the matrimony market for persons not of Indian origin perhaps, which he says is an as yet untapped market and eventually look at tapping the $15-million market for wedding planning and managing, Indian style. "There is no organised player in that market and it is definitely an exciting opportunity though not on my immediate radar,'' says Mr Janakiraman.

Which is not surprising considering that over the next two years, the company is firming up plans to set up at least 300 brick and mortar matrimony centres across India and other parts of the world, where trained counsellors and tech-savvy staff will provide the same services that the friendly neighbourhood marriage bureaus currently do. "Not everybody is tech-savvy and know how to use the Internet to scout for a life partner. The service will especially be targeted at parents and the elderly who often have to do the scouting for spouses for their children and visit countless numbers of marriage bureaus,'' says Mr Janakiraman.

Visitors to BharatMatrimony Centres would, however, find the experience very different from the ordinary marriage bureaus in that they would have a computerised database of over 200,000 prospective brides/ grooms to search from for the right person. "While the on-line product is our high-tech model, this is our high-touch model for customers who like to have face to face interaction, says Mr Janakiraman. "We are planning to develop these centres into one-stop destinations and solutions providers in the matrimony business and will have an array of services from horoscope matching to other value-adds,'' he says.

That there is money in matrimony is a proven fact. Revenues for the on-line matrimony business are expected to be Rs 80 crore this year, growing 70 per cent over last year. And Mr Janakiraman is determined to have a bigger slice of the cake. Next month, he plans to open shop in the UK, adding to existing destinations of US, Dubai and Canada. "But it is not money that drives my business, it is the urge to achieve something that will find application for the maximum number of people,'' says Mr Janakiraman who feels the services will soon also head to other parts of the world including South Asia and North America.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 30, 2006)
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