This post is about an investment in Matrimony.com. If you are a groom looking to maximise your sale value via dowry – please look elsewhere.
- Taboo – Using a website to find a partner used to mean you are desperate and have no intrinsic value & that you needed to advertise. I have personally been to weddings in the early 2000s where the couple had met on matrimony.com but had created some “we had mutual friends” story to hide how they met. The taboo is dead now.
- 80% arranged – While 80+% of the marriages in India are still arranged, the decision makers who were parents have now moved to a kind of a hybrid model – where the contribution to the decision between the parents and guy/girl is unclear, but the decision has to be unanimous. In other words, the kids have more than just VETO power.
- 6% online – Of the 6 crore people looking to marry about 1.2-1.3 crore adults are getting married every year. Of this only 6% are finding their spouses online. The scope for this will increase massively in the coming few years. I would wager that it would be a double digit by the end of 2022.
- 95% same caste – This is still surprising, but it is true.Apparently it is more convenient and practical ! Anyway when you want a certain caste and you can’t find people of your caste around you, you are more likely to venture out of your hometown to look for them. If this caste criteria comes down, it is more likely that women will remain in their hometown after getting married.
- 80% + mobile access – Most window shopping is done on the mobile and not on a desktop.
- Digital Adoption – We have achieved 5 years’ worth of digital adoption, in just a few months. Let the lockdown open up and that will start happening on ground.
- Bharat joins India – Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities are rapidly adopting Digi-Tech and that rate is amazing. A lot of Bharat has money but not too many avenues to spend. Digital is allowing them to bridge that gap. Almost every young woman wants to leave her village and move to the city. If she were to look within her circle for a spouse, most probably she would end up in her village or a town itself.
- This is the best version of a PLATFORM business where BOTH THE PARTIES in a transaction are paying customers + there is a chance of advertising revenue since the traffic is huge.
- The customers too are of different categories and pay accordingly, just like in an airline, you can travel Economy, Business or First – it is the same funda here.
- In any PLATFORM/NETWORKING business, TRAFFIC DRIVES TRAFFIC! With over 60% market share in the business in India, Matrimony’s revenue is more than Shaadi’s and JeevanSathi’s combined. Given the sheer number of choices, most people subscribe to matrimony, and the odd ones who like to try more than one platform, usually do a MATRIMONY + 1. It is quite rare (apart from the North) to subscribe to just Shaadi and JeevanSathi.
- Matchmaking business is much like Indian culture and food. The rules and customs change every 200 kilometres. Not surprisingly, you simply cannot do a ONE SIZE FITS ALL HERE. Matrimony has 300 micro websites based on caste, creed, religion, profession etc. Replicating these things seem simple in terms of tech, but to understand culture and complement it, is tough. Matrimony understands this as they have been doing this for more than 20 long years.
- Matrimony has a HYBRID model. Since a lot of the business comes from small town India, they are PHYSICALLY PRESENT EVERYWHERE. The physical centres and online are only complimentary. Also, the physical centres are great tools to upsell. While the physical centres kind of replace the old school marriage brokers who carried photographs in their jhola, the website takes the industry to the digital.
- While the website does not wish to have repeat business from you, they would love you to recommend them to others. Given the nature of the business, it is highly competitive as they just have one chance only. Not surprisingly then the ad-spend of matrimony.com is crazy!! Just 3-4 years ago, matrimony was spending 50 crores a year and today they are spending 133 crore a year. The competition is still 3 players and if this comes down to 2 players, the entire dynamics will change.
- The business grew in an era when employees used to go to the clients’ houses to collect money. Imagine the kind of logistics that were required for that. Matrimony has been through all of that and more, and it truly understands India. Today with digitisation and them being on the right side of disruption, they are sitting on a huge – really, really huge – possibility of operating leverage.
- One cool feature of the matchmaking business, actually matrimony in all its endeavours , is that it truly is a small town company. The ratio of employees who come from small town to the degree carrying citifolk is almost like no other digital company today. Take that and lever it with the digital and you have a 60% marketshare 😉
Tech, AI, Safety & Privacy
- I don’t really see the need to sell the impact of AI and Tech on massive levels of data. Try registering yourself on the matrimony.com website. You will be shocked to see the kind of data they collect. I tried it, and I was surprised about how much I learned about myself while filling up the form. We think we are just normal, but that form makes you realise how many things you need going for yourself just to feel normal.
- With data, and trend analysis, the ability to match just goes through the roof. Surprisingly, the algorithms can even tell if you are window shopping or you actually are serious, and they use that to make you pay or upgrade or to simply ignore you. (assumption)
- India has perennially believed “Aurat ki izzat, ghar ki izzat hoti hai.” This was one of the largest fears when matrimony was coming up. The safety features in Matrimony are amazing. From keeping your details private until you want them to be shared, to only allowing a certain set of verified and sought-after grooms to view your profile, matrimony has privacy features ahead of its time. It is safe, accountable, kind and gives a woman almost complete control.
- You can now chat on the app, make audio calls and even video calls, without giving out your details. This is because there are tons of micro service companies that give you services that you can just plug and play without having to develop the entire stack. For e.g., you can simply add payments through UPI, use maps with Google Maps etc. Which means that you don’t really have to create every tech innovation that you use. You can simply plug and play. In short there is no exclusive feature that any dating site, friendship site, or social networking site can use that isn’t within matrimony.com’s reach. In a way, tech is commoditised compared to traffic.
- Imagine the future, if you can virtually see the other person talking in 3D. Video calling can hide as much as it gives away, but 3D calls are a whole new level of transparency. Almost every detail that you give out can be confirmed by Matrimony – without leaking it. For e.g., address verification, income verification, criminal records, health verification etc., etc.. The world is moving towards ironing out the ambiguity and because there is a ton of ambiguity in choosing a partner, people will pre-pay to get the information they need.
- Just bringing down the assumptions and ambiguity is a whole new business model in itself.
Shaadi.Com – Halal or Jhatka ?
- An Islamic way of slaughter is to cut the jugular and let the animal/bird slowly bleed to death. By the time the animal dies almost all the blood has already left the carcass and this probably a big way of avoiding meat-borne diseases.
- In my biased opinion if a Duopoly were to exist, it would be that of JeevanSathi and Matrimony. Why then doesn’t Jeevan Sathi or Matrimony simply just buy out Shaadi and rule? Three years ago, 3 players combined spent about 100 crores in advertising. Last year alone, they spent 400! Yes FOUR HUNDRED CRORES!
- If matrimony has a market cap of 2000 crores today, Shaadi should cost like 400-500 crores, which either of the other two can easily afford, but they won’t. Here’s why. THIS IS NOT A REPEAT BUSINESS. Whoever buys, it will buy it to kill the name, not prop it up and run it as a superior or inferior brand. Zomato bought Uber Eats, but there it gained customers and got a bit of tech. What will either of them get from Shaadi? Nothing, but the removal of an irritant.The strategy then is to bleed it (Shaadi) out, so the carcass (duopoly) is clean.
- In the rare case, that Shaadi has the sense to bow out and get out, it will be a fire sale. A black swan event that can really rescue Shaadi, is either Bumble or Tinder buying it out. In that case, I still don’t see them winning marketshare profitably, but they will continue to irritate a duopoly.
Bees can sting, but Bumble won’t!
- Every time I check out Bumble’s valuations I just wish matrimony was listed in the US. While Bumble is significantly different from Matrimony, both because it is a recurring business as well as it is in dating and not weddings, I cannot get myself not to compare. At a market cap of 67,500 crore, this dating app is more than India’s best digital company Info Edge that is valued at 55,000 crore.
- Matrimony has 8,40,000 paying subscribers, each paying about 4,600 Rupees. Bumble has 28,00,000 paying subscribers, paying just rupees 1,500 each!!!! No wonder then that Bumble would like to make a move into India.
- But the model in India is more than skin deep. While beauty is the biggest criteria in dating, caste seems to be the biggest for 95% of India. If they do however decide to come despite all this, I am sure it will massively be an affluent’ish urban play leaving matrimony a monopoly position in the rest.
- Some problems cannot be won simply by throwing money at it. Dealing with sensibility of a country whose culture is this diverse is difficult.
Mandap – Annuity play!
- This business is a very different business compared to the matchmaking business. Here, ONLY THE SELLER PAYS. The seller of venues and services, buys space and advertisements to sell. It is completely free for the buyer.
- Mandap is a booking website that needs to be compared to Makemytrip.com or Easemytrip.com or even AirBnB.com.
- One can’t understand why you need this platform when you have enough Just Dials and Urban Companies of the world. Let’s try this simple experiment, if you want to check out what is playing around you, would you google it or go to BookmyShow.com ? Google will give your accurate results too, but Book My Show will give your results curated to a movie goer’s wants and the biggest thing, the BOOKING!!! You can book right through BMS, but you may have to go via another agent if you use Google.
- Mandap – Is organising the wedding venue business? At first, I laughed at the idea. Most Indian weddings happen in CASH and I thought this mandap idea was completely foolish. Then I looked at the sales of Tanishq! There is a direct connection. The designs of Tanishq are good, but the range is still limited compared to what you get at your local jeweller. The sentiment then that is driving these customers is called TRUST, but is actually fear of being screwed over by a local jeweller. Tanishq sold trust at a premium, guaranteed to give you whatever they said they would and voila – you have a multi-billion dollar company.
- Mandap, played smart and just like you have Amazons Choice and Bestseller categories, Mandap has ratings on what they list, by none other than the big daddy of ratings – CRISIL. Yes! You can be assured then, that you won’t have mishaps, like a faulty air conditioner, a generator that does not work etc., i.e., no jugaad willingly.
- Mandap classifies wedding halls by RELIGION. Wedding halls by RELIGION! Digest that.
It is quite similar to mandap in a way, but probably for logistical reasons, they have decided to separate the two.Weddingbazaar.com is all things wedding. Simply put, you want to take a holiday, get on Makemytrip.com and book the tickets, hotels, cabs and sometimes even experiences. Weddingbazaar.com is the same for weddings.The idea behind this is as much transactional as it is advertorial for the vendors on it. Zomato started out simply putting up menus of restaurants on it’s site, without delivery simply as a discovery platform. This too can be one. Discovery platforms are IMDB, Goodreads etc.
I never thought of renting a Bentley for my wedding as the modern day chariot, but I did after browsing thru the site. I expect a lot of creative services to prop up on this site in the future.
This guy called MurugaAA !
You have pure digital companies, pure physical companies and then there are those that run in the overlap of them both. Uber, DoorDash, Zomato, BookMyshow etc., etc.. The issue with these companies is that they require something ultra special. The Head needs to understand the dirty old underlying business and the tech that can catapult it. These two worlds have not met successfully before, because most CEOs lean one way or the other. While businessmen usually focus on scale, techies usually focus on problem solving. Matrimony does both. It’s a part of a cross functional tribe – a super cross functional tribe at that.
Its CEO, Murugavel Janakiraman, is a very special case. He comes from very humble beginnings, much like the CEO of Thyrocare. When you come from humble beginnings in India, you can almost count everything you have on your fingers. You really, really understand how the world works. It’s an education that cannot be bought and one that there is no shortcut to. Muruga ended up in the US as a techie and started this a pet project, to solve a problem for the Tamil folk. He ended up solving a big problem for them and then spotted an opportunity in the entire Indian market and came back to solve this.
I keep saying he is a rare species because he gets scale and at the same time knows how to innovate and problem solve. Another thing he is great at is that he has the pulse of the sensibilities of India. It is a great combo.
When you come from nothing, one isn’t too scared as they are sure to re-build. This attitude builds a culture of TINKERING. Constant innovation and improvements, a lot like Kaizen, but Kaizen is more about efficiency and tinkering is more about innovation.
It’s this innovation that led them to become an unmatched player in the country as well as seed two new platforms – wedding bazaar.com and mandap.com. It’s anybody guess whether they will have the same success that matrimony had, but I have my bet on anything going from disorganised to organised, especially when there is frugal innovation involved, by a broad thinker like Muruga.
Its very rare to see a company create a new category, continuously innovate and and still rule it for decades.
At 2000 crore this digital company with 3 platforms, positive cash flow and no debt in a sector which is filled with tailwinds is actually a no brainer for me. I’m surprised that it is still available so cheap.
For me Matrimony is a billion $ company at the least.
P.S – Sometime I’m going to write about their genius marketing plan and why they use Dhoni Thala, despite being a predominantly South Indian company.