OPW INTERVIEW -- Dec 1, 2006 -- Murugavel Janakiraman is the Founder/CEO of BharatMatrimony which is based in Chennai in Southern India. In India, matrimonials sites are the norm. Matrimonials sites allow users (and their families) to post their profiles and find potential marriage partners. BharatMatrimony charges $10 to $15 per month for its services and provides 40 physical stores for customers without Internet access. Muruga's service recently received funding from Canaan Partners and Yahoo. - Mark Brooks
What is Bharat Matrimony's Founding Story? Who inspired you?
In 1997, I created a portal in US primarily to cater to the NRI (Non-Resident Indian) community as a platform to stay in touch with their hometown traditions and festivals. The portal was well received by its members and noticed that the matrimony segment of the portal being used widely by the members. This triggered the thought of starting an exclusive matrimonial website. And then I came back to India and started BharatMatrimony.com. Over the years, we developed successful regional portals like hindimatrimony.com, tamilmatrimony.com to serve the select audience. Today, we are the largest matrimonial portal in India with 7.5 million registered users. We have created a world record in marriages by arranging 8 times more marriages than our nearest competitor. Recently we officially entered into Limca Book of Records for highest number of online marriages. Limca Book of Record is equivalent to Guinness Record in India.
How do the offices/agents help members? Where are the members located?
Though an online portal, we as an organization always believed in the brick and mortar model and had 23 offices set across the country. These support offices handled telemarketing, payment collections and also helped customers who walked in for registrations. This interactive model inspired us to start our offline venture – BharatMatrimony centres. Our BharatMatrimony centres are positioned as the network of match making centers that provide easy access people who do not access internet. At BharatMatrimony centres, members can walk into any of our centre, located at 50 centres across 46 cities covering 16 states in India, and access millions of profiles with the help of our associates.
We have also tied-up with Department of Post, Government of India, to provide a unique service called "Pay at Post Office", which allows members to purchase BharatMatrimony membership cards from any of the Head Post offices across 18 states to upgrade or renew memberships. This new service has strengthened our brick and mortar model. We aim to have about 300 BharatMatrimony centres by 2008 across India and in select markets around the world. So, we are looking at over 4500 BharatMatrimony footprints across India through 3500 sify i-ways, 160 payment associates and 700 post offices thus becoming the largest networked service provider in matrimony.
How is Bharat Matrimony different from Shaadi?
BharatMatrimony is perceived as a most trusted and successful marriage portal because of its unique features. Marriage itself is a very serious concept in India and by understanding the market so well, we have consciously developed this brand identity. We are the largest player in the market today. This is a result of long list of innovations that we have initiated since inception. We are the only portal to provide Verified Profiles, Verification Services, 15 region specific portals, free horoscope generation in 9 languages, real time horoscope matching in 6 languages, Multi-lingual interface, Matrimony Reference and Mobile Alerts to name a few. The number of marriages we have arranged is far higher than any other site in the world and created a world record. Agencies like JuxtConsult and Alexa have ranked us as the most visited and the best recalled brand name in India. Click on this link to check for more details.
What have been your biggest challenges with Bharat Matrimony?
The biggest challenge for any online portal in India was the level of internet and PC penetration. And initially people were not really looking at internet as an option to find their life partners. So, the challenge was to build trust on online marriages with the members.
What are your top three goals for 2007? What business deals are you seeking?
With global leaders like Yahoo and Canaan partners investing in our group, we have plans of expanding our network in parts of UK and South East Asia to cater to the Indian Diaspora.
We have plans to significantly expand our presence on-ground and will also invest in the global personals space. We are looking at increasing our offline initiative, BharatMatrimony centres from 50 to over 300 across the country by 2008.
We also have plans to foray in to mobile services and launch new matrimony services, which will make us stronger in the industry.