29 Aug 2016 12:22 IST

Merchant of matrimony

Meet the face behind BharatMatrimony, the leading online matchmaking portal in India

Unassuming, modest, self-effacing — these are the adjectives that spring to mind on meeting Murugavel Janakiraman, Managing Director, Matrimony.com, whose flagship brand is BharatMatrimony. It is probably these traits that made his father-in-law gape disbelievingly when told that Murugavel was running the website through which he had fixed the match for his daughter. “I probably did not create the impression that I am an entrepreneur,” chuckles Murugavel.

But this modesty masks the grit that helped him set up the leading provider of online matchmaking services in India (based on unique website views in May 2015); around 20 million free profiles have been added to Matrimony.com’s database since 2006.

So, how did BharatMatrimony begin? “When I was working in the US, I started a Tamil community site; matrimony was a section in that site. When I saw the traffic in the matrimony section, I got the idea to get into Tamil Matrimony.” Since Murugavel had many Telugu neighbours when he was growing up, he began with both Tamil and Telugu matrimony under the BharatMatrimony label. Initial funding came out of his salary. “I grew the venture, got laid off in the US, moved back to India, got full-time into business.” It was only in 2006 that BharatMatrimony got its first round of funding.

Murugavel managed the entire website construction and administration himself in the early years. “I took care of all the tasks myself, A to Z, in the beginning, with a little help from friends in tricky matters such as drafting official letters.”

It all began in Royapuram

The journey towards setting up a website that joined thousands of hearts in matrimony began in Royapuram, in North Chennai. This is an area inhabited by the less affluent sections of the society. “I was the first person from the family to go to high school and obviously the first one to go to college,” says Murugavel proudly. His father worked in the Madras harbour.

“For me, even day-to-day life was a challenge, even during college days. When I was 20, all I wanted to do was to complete my degree, get a job, go to a house with electricity and attached bathroom. That was my ambition then since, in Royapuram where we stayed, 14 houses shared one bathroom. Till I turned 23, we did not have electricity at home.”

“I asked one of my under-graduate classmates, ‘did you see anything special in me in our college days’?” recounts Murugavel. The friend stated that Murugavel showed no promise those days.

Then how did BharatMatrimony happen? Murugavel’s uncle told him, “Do BSc in chemistry, it will help you get a lab technician’s job.” Murugavel didn’t get admission into BSc Chemistry; he got into BSc Statistics instead and that helped him get admission into MCA.

“The MCA degree changed my life. I worked in the US. I wanted to do something connected to online technology because of my educational background and that eventually led to BharatMatrimony,” recounts Murugavel.

Growth of BharatMatrimony

While BharatMatrimony initially began with Tamil and Telugu matrimony, it soon expanded to other linguistic communities too. The BharatMatrimony site is an umbrella brand under which 15 sub-sites targeted at people speaking different Indian languages functions.

“In 2009, we launched CommunityMatrimony.com, which is a consortium of over 300 community matrimonial websites today that cater to various religionsand communities in India,” explains Murugavel.

The drilling down to micro layers does not stop there. “We also have special sites like divorcee matrimony, any caste matrimony, 40-plus matrimony, defence matrimony, manglik matrimony,” he rattles on. “The idea is to get like-minded people together.”

Since the rich and the affluent who need matrimonial services are willing to pay more for better services, EliteMatrimony, which charges approximately ₹50,000 for three months, was launched. Users on this site get a relationship manager to help them. “Then we realised that not only the rich, but the common people might also need services of relationship managers so we launched assisted matrimony service,” says Murugavel.

Old-timers who need the touch and feel experience are also brought into the net with the help of the more than 190 retail centres across India as of March 31, 2015.

The revenue model

By 2015, there were around 2.65 million active profiles. According to comScore, Matrimony.com Limited is the leader in online matchmaking services in India (based on unique website views in May 2015).

“Our market opportunity is represented by favourable demographics, given that 93 million unmarried individuals in India are within the marriageable age bracket in 2014, being 18 to 35 years for females and 21 to 35 years for males; increasing internet and mobile internet penetration; increasing cultural receptivity to arranged marriages; and increased mobility, and freedom of choice over life decisions.” says Murugavel.

In fiscal 2015, while approximately 96 per cent of the company’s consolidated total revenue is earned from the subscription fee paid for BharatMatrimony and other websites, the company also caters to other needs of those getting married through provision of marriage services. “Through MatrimonyPhotography, we provide photography and videography services, some of which may be outsourced, from trained personnel,” points out Murugavel.

Then there is the MatrimonyDirectory where the vendors, such as caterers, decorators, etc., pay a fee to list.

Road ahead

Murugavel’s goal now is to go places. “I am married to and married through Matrimony.com,” he says, with a contented look. “My guiding philosophy in life is to put in the best effort and take the outcome in a positive way.”

This will probably stand him in good stead as he goes about his business of bringing together people in matrimony.

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