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Evolution of Indian matrimony

Published by Priyanka on

Ages ago, when communities were smaller and less spread out, matches were arranged through known networks (mainly, parents, grandparents generation) with varied level of consent/ dissent from the marrying parties (none to full approval from both parties). Greater access to education and vocational opportunities meant that people moved away from their communities and hence, it was harder to rely solely on known networks since it meant lower liquidity.

This gave rise to the need for brokers or nodes in local networks. When the numbers were smaller, brokers could provide personalised services to all clients but however, with scale, it was bound to become not so personal where brides and grooms were reduced to mere CVs or files. Flipping through hoards of such objectified matches can be a horrendous task much like swiping left or right all day on Tinder, although Tinder came along much much later.

In the mid-90s came the Shaadi, Bharatmatrimony and the likes of them, that allowed you to pan the length and breadth of not just your city or country but also the much sought after foreign brides and grooms within your community. This definitely offered greater liquidity, allowed you to flip through candidates at your own leisure and also, do it in the privacy of your room without the broker breathing down your neck. 

These websites solved the number one problem of the hour – liquidity. They’ve lived up to their promise to brokering marriages online pretty much the same way it’s done offline. For this, hats off.

As people moved away from their hometowns, it was more important that your partner got along with you than your parents and hence, it became fashionable for people to rebel against parents’ choices as they were no longer relevant. In this case, you’d go out there and champion the love marriage route. But if you didn’t manage to do that (due to bad luck, break up, etc), you’d be haunted by nosey aunties at family gatherings who never fail to keep up with your ageing face, balding head or dropping market value. 

So, people would sign up on these matrimonial websites in the hope that they’d find like minded individuals of the opposite sex. Except there was one problem – these sites allowed parents to manage online personas of their wards. Now, when you are trying to create the experience of arranged love on a matrimonial site, last thing you want is parental intervention. 

Then came the even more modern generation who did’t want to put out long term intentions upfront. This generation likes the ambiguity, unpredictability, foreplay, ample choices and chances to meet people in local trains, euro rail and so on. And this was not going to happen on our dear old Shaadi.com. This led to welcoming dating apps in India in the early 2010s. 

They promised people the experience of online dating except they were merely re-creating online versions of Vanaja Quick marriages (except for short term/ casual dating) where people are objectified as 140-character type profiles, a few mug shots and #tags to summarise their hobbies and habits) where you could flip through people all day long till your thumbs fell off. 

One, the experience is massively time and energy consuming. Two, it is utterly meaningless and doesn’t give you a chance to indulge in real romance, foreplay, etc. The experience is very formula driven – if you’re the type of dude who could get a woman’s number at a bar with one wink, its likely you can get women just like that even on Tinder. But if you’re the type of person who needs to hide behind a screen because there’s more to you behind a screen than behind a bar counter, you are never going to be successful on Tinder. 

I read somewhere that success in love = opportunity X conversion. 

While dating apps may provide you the opportunity today, they do little to help you with conversion. There is a need for dating apps to do more in terms of creating positive dating experiences so people are inspired to up their game, in turn having “real” opportunities.