Economy

Business of finding the life partner

N. Ramakrishnan | Updated on August 11, 2013

J. Murugavel of Bharatmatrimony

Bharatmatrimony now gets a quarter of a million new profiles every month



What would be Murugavel Janakiraman’s advice for budding entrepreneurs? First and foremost, have a burning desire to do something, says the Founder and CEO of Consim Info Pvt Ltd. He makes it clear entrepreneurship is not a substitute for employment.

“If you don’t have an idea about what to do, start somewhere. Keep experimenting. Eventually you will find something that you will be passionate about,” he says. He should know.

Murugavel was working in the US in the 1990s when he wanted to do something. An MCA graduate from the University of Madras, Murugavel says he had no clue as to what to do. He started a portal aimed at the Tamil population in the US, providing them with information like a daily calendar and festivals; matrimony was just one component.

But when he saw “many people coming to the matrimony section on the portal,” he smelt an opportunity.

“That was the first insight I got. That would be the business model of the matrimony site,” says Murugavel. He started Bharatmatrimony.com, with separate sections targeted at different linguistic groups. That he got laid off from his consulting job in late 2000 or early 2001. This, for him, was Godsend. He used the unemployment allowance to run his Web site, even as his online matrimony business was starting to take off.

Leading by example

Now 42, Murugavel says he found his life partner through Bharatmatrimony.com. He had been corresponding with his future father-in-law, who was based in Gujarat, over e-mail. “My father-in-law was particular that the horoscopes match. Luckily they did,” he says. Murugavel was visiting Chennai and his future father-in-law and wife-to-be also came to Chennai. “We met at a hotel. Because the correspondence had been going on for some time, it was more of a formality that we met. Within three weeks we got married,” recalls Murugavel.

What better testimony to his fledgling online matrimony business? His own experience helped him introduce a number of features. Apart from their profiles, users can post their photographs on the site and password protection was enabled so that privacy was ensured. From the start, Bharatmatrimony has been a paid service. Initially, users could post their profile for a fee of Rs 300 for one year. Now, 13 years after it started, it will set you back Rs 3,290 to post your profile on Bharatmatrimony for three months.

Apart from the numerous groups and sub-groups, the company has premium services such as Assisted Matrimony where, for Rs 19,000 for three months, Bharatmatrimony will short-list profiles and send them to you, based on your preferences. There is also EliteMatrimony, targeted at wealthy individuals; for Rs 50,000 for a three-month period, Bharatmatrimony helps find life partners. Bharatmatrimony now gets a quarter of a million new profiles every month. It is the first choice for matrimony classifieds, not newspapers, says Murugavel.

With an urge to move into other areas, Murugavel started a whole lot of online e-commerce sites — to sell used cars, real estate, jobs … This was in 2006, when Murugavel raised the first round of funding of $8 million from Yahoo! and Canaan Partners.

The next round of funding of $12 million came in 2008 from the two existing investors and Mayfield. It was also when the global financial crisis happened and developed economies went into a tailspin.

Murugavel decided that, instead of being in too many businesses, he would focus on just matrimony and real estate. Indiaproperty.com has become a separate entity and he says both the businesses are a success. Bharatmatrimony is trying out a service in Chennai targeted at the poor people — an offline marriage bureau — and depending on its success, will expand it.

IPO plans

On exit opportunities for his investors, Murugavel says it will happen next year, through an IPO. In his view, an IPO is the best form of exit for his investors. Many things have changed as far as Bharatmatrimony and Murugavel are concerned over the last 13 years. But “one thing that has not changed,” says Murugavel, “is the relentless pursuit to evolve and grow.”

> ramakrishnan.n@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 11, 2013

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