CEO | 07 Dec 2004
The potential of the Internet is such that it gives enormous flexibility and reach. We decided to leverage its power. Bharat Matrimony’s main service is to help one search for a prospective life partner but there are several allied services that we provide alongside which make it a desirable destination for making marital choices.
A Master’s Degree holder in Computer Science from the University of Madras, Murugavel Janakiraman started his career at the Chennai-based Nucleus Software, from where he moved to Singapore for a brief stint. He then shifted to te US, working as a consultant for leading software companies. It was there that he acquired valuable insights into Internet technologies.
Inspired by the power of the Internet, Murugavel’s vision was to build a larger than life portal to serve the community. He launched SysIndia.com, an online discussion forum for Tamilians in the US. The overwhelming clicks for “matrimony” on SysIndia ignited Murugavel’s passion to start a portal for the most important event in the Indian community – marriage. Started as TamilMatrimony.com in 1997 with only 4,000 members, it has today sprouted into BharatMatrimony.com, a leading Indian matrimonial portal, with 14 language portals and a registered membership of millions.
Today, the 34-year-old Murugavel leads a 200-strong team at BharatMatrimony.com. He believes in “creating opportunity rather than wait for the opportunity”. In an interview with Abitha G of exchange4media, Murugavel talks about the concept and growth of Bharatmatrimony.com. Excerpts:
Q. How did Bharat Matrimony shape up and evolve?
When I went to the US in 1996, I saw the potential for an online matrimonial site. I felt there was a need for it among the NRI community there. Thus was Bharat Matrimony.com born in the US. In 1999-2000 when the dotcom crash was happening in India, we came here with the strong belief that the concept of the site will definitely help our web initiative succeed. I found the matrimonial sections of different Tamil websites getting a lot of attention and that is when we decided to launch Tamilmatrimony.com and later expanded it to Telugumatrimony.com, Hindimatrimony.com, etc.
After we came to India we tied up with Rediff, MSN and Sify and made them our channel partners. We created the concept of online matrimony in India and evolved the idea of channel partners to market it. We realized there was a need to give logistical support as we had language portals; we did that with seven regional offices in India and then later expanded to the current 22 offices all over India. When we started operations we had ten portals; now we have added four more.
We supported our portal through offline initiatives like conducting ‘sayamvars’, which is a place to meet and interact with people. This was done to create awareness in the market. We extended our tie-ups to print and television apart from channel partners. We also opened our international offices in Dubai and Canada and started a publication called ‘Desi match’ in the USA.
We also took several innovative measures in brand building. We were the first to launch matrimonial on mobile. We also launched a verification service termed Veriprofile recently. We are strong in customer support and innovation.
Q. What made you think the concept of online matrimony would click?
When there was an Internet boom a lot of people thought they could leverage the power of Internet by driving traffic, but it did not work if the concept was wrong. We for instance believed in a service. The potential of the Internet is such that it gives enormous flexibility and reach. We decided to leverage its power. Bharat Matrimony’s main service is to help one search for a prospective life partner but there are several allied services that we provide alongside which make it a desirable destination for making marital choices.
Q. Could you detail a few other services under the Bharat Matrimony wing?
We help NRIs place a classified ad in Indian local dailies. It is easy as can pay through their credit card for this service. We also collect the response for the ad placed, upon request. We also help NRIs as well as locals to book a wedding hall according to their budget. We even help in arranging horoscope matches and a complete portfolio of astrological services. Then, we have something called the Wedding Directory, which is basically a one-stop place for all wedding related services; this is also a paid service wherein those who deal with merchandise or property or other aspects of the wedding industry need to pay us to be registered in our directory. Web casting too is another service we provide. We keep value adding to our portal consistently to provide a wide range of services to our customer base.
Q. What are the successful marketing tools you have employed?
We have the first mover advantage since we created the online matrimony segment in India. We have strengthened our customer support by establishing 22 offices across India. Apart from our regional offices we have about 3,300 payment outlets across the country. For this we have tie-ups with Sify I-way, IDBI Bank and e-seva, an AP government initiative, among others. Our matrimony-on-mobile is an initiative which has tie-ups with almost all the cellular operators in the country. We also sponsor relevant programmes on television channels such as Zee TV’s Hum aur Tum, Asianet’s Mana Porutham and Maa TV’s Pelli Pustulu. We sponsor Sun TV’s popular programme, Sabtha Suvarangal.
What makes a brand strong is the brand name and the presence of the brand. We have enabled the highest reach by a combination of channel partners, numerous offline initiatives, brand building efforts, different tie-ups, customer support offices, payment outlets and innovative marketing methods.
Q. Of the different language portals, which do you rate the highest in response?
Earlier Tamilmatrimony.com was the highest in terms of response. Now Hindimatrimony.com is the highest.
Q. On a given day what is the success rate?
On a, all-India basis, about 30-50 people get married through Bharatmatrimony.com daily. These are counts based on people who inform us about it. Some of them don’t inform, so the count could actually be higher.
Q. How do you build trust among your subscribers and also the integrity of your customer base. Also, how do you make subscribers comfortable about using technology to choose a prospective life partner?
Profile details can be password protected and given access according to the choice of the registered individuals. The user can choose to keep their photograph or other details undisclosed and choose whom to provide access at their own discretion. That way privacy is maintained. Another feature we offer is Veriprofile, which is a patent pending service. Under this feature there are two kinds of service. One is self-verification, where an individual who is registered with us can opt for this service. We have appointed Onicra (a rating agency), who will pay him a visit and conduct a five-point verification, where documents that act as proof for his age, marital status, salary, family background, etc., will be verified for accuracy and he gets stamped as self-certified.
The second level of verification, where a prospective bridegroom or bride needs to verify the prospective partner’s profile, can also opt for this service. Anonymity of the individual who wants to verify will be maintained when approaching the prospective partner for verification. If he accepts the verification process, then he would be verified and the certificate sent across to the person who requested it. Else the rejection will be conveyed to the person who requests the verification.
Q. Can you detail revenue figures and growth plans?
We have been a profit-making company right from the beginning and we are currently growing at the rate of 300 % per annum. Initially we started out with tie-ups through all Internet channels and then moved on to the television platform. Currently we are expanding our tie-ups with print publications and have already branded and co-branded matrimonial sections in about 70 % of publications in India. We have tie-ups with Indian Express, Dainik Bhaskar, Divya Bhaskar, Loksatta, Kannada Prabha, Hindustan Times, etc., and have also run contests. We also branded a programme called Radio Match last year on radio. The idea is to associate our brand and own any property related to marriage. We wish to create a strong awareness using all possible platforms and ensure optimum reach.
We are also launching a new campaign to take our brand even closer to the masses. We have a promotion plan which is a kind of franchise model. If an individual has an office space with high visibility, then he can partner with us and have a Bharat Matrimony office in that space. “Own Bharatmatrimony.com” is the slogan of the campaign. Apart from our current promotional initiatives, we will also be getting into new domains as we understand the potential of the Internet very well. At present I cannot divulge more but we will certainly expand further and the general idea would be own the Internet market in India. We expect our strength in strategy and innovation to help us achieve this. We are setting our sights on becoming the leading Indian Internet company in the country.