RED HERRING -- Aug 2 -- Yahoo and Canaan Partners have invested $8.6 million in Bharat Matrimony, a leading Indian personals site. Canaan led the round, which was the first outside funding for Bharat Matrimony, a nine-year-old company whose matrimonial service focuses on serious relationships rather than dating. This is Yahoo's first investment in India other than in its own development center in Bangalore. Bharat Matrimony claims to have facilitated more than 500,000 marriages, including that of CEO Murugavel Janakiraman. "We will use the funds for expansion as we target the Indian diaspora in the U.K. and Southeast Asian countries," said Mr. Janakiraman. It charges $10 to $15 per month for its services and provides 40 physical stores for customers without Internet access. It also runs jobs, real estate, autos, and general classifieds sites, and will put the new funding toward developing these verticals as well as opening hundreds of stores. In March, Sequoia Capital India, then called WestBridge Capital, invested $8 million in People Interactive, which runs a matrimony portal, Shaadi.com. As of Tuesday night, Yahoo India Matrimony was still syndicating personals from Shaadi.com, even though it's a close competitor of Bharat Matrimony.
Mark Brooks: I'm most interested to see how Bharat's roll out of more physical locations in India goes. Singles will pay more to get more services. Great Expectations, The Right One/Together Dating, Table for Six and It's Just Lunch lead the way in high end service oriented matchmaking/dating services for the masses. However, they still only reach a small portion of the potential market that online dating sites are captivating. Online services fall short for service. Singles don't want online dating. They just want to date suitable, potential suitors. A sizable portion of the online dating market want a little more handholding, more service, and will pay for it if it leads to more (good) dates. I don't think they will pay $3000+ a year, en masse. I do think they will pay $500-$1000 a year. That price base would support some phone based assistance and matchmaking. Let's see what happens this year, with Yahoo learning from Bharat.