I used to share an office with a young woman of Indian descent who came to the United States for her college education. As office mates often do, we spoke about our personal lives and conversation often turned to dating. She shared with me that at the age of 25 years old, in her culture, she was considered an old maid. She also spent hours (yes, on company time) perusing online dating sites searching for the perfect Indian man. I found it surprising that this utterly, Americanized woman was so determine to meet and marry a man when she was so capable and independent. She also told me that an arranged marriage was not out of the question. While this seems like my idea of a nightmare, this ancient Indian tradition occurs every day in India.
Now popular sites like Shaadi.com and Jeevansathi.com are allowing marriage arrangements to occur online. Often, the parents and families of young Indians set up profiles for them in hopes of finding a suitable match. These sites have been around for years and continue to draw in new users each day. But now online dating sites, whose focus is more on temporary connections rather than marriage, have set their sights on the Indian market.
Young people in modern, bustling cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are beginning to break with the tradition of arranged marriage and opting instead for “love marriages” with partners of their own choosing. Marriage occurs later in life and the focus has shifted to career development. Western influence, as well as Bollywood love stories, make the dream of meeting someone and developing a relationship more appealing to young Indians. Group dating site Ignighter.com has opened it’s doors in India and are experiencing rapid growth. Ignighter, an American website took notice of the growing number of south Asian members and decided the next logical step was to open an office in India.
Some doubt the site can compete with matrimony-focused sites, but the site claims to add 7,000 users a day. To sustain this growth, Ignighter must appeal to more traditional members of the population. Ignighter could do this by focusing on the issue of safety. The site allows for members to go on group dates with their friends, so concerned family members may be more at ease knowing this.
Ignighter should also target young Indians who want a voice that is independent of their families. However, at first glance, the site has no visible link to Indian culture. And the company’s Twitter page also caters more to American audiences and users despite the tagline: “Helping Gen Y conquer the world one group date at a time. Especially in India.” The company’s Facebook page does a better job, featuring Indian models and activity from Indian Facebook users. The founders of the site admit to needing to learn more about Indian culture in order to really thrive in the market.
The emerging dating scene in India offers the perfect setting for the company to be an early presence in the still evolving online dating market. Their success will depend on how well they understand both the history and future of Indian culture.