Last week, I was reading the New York Mag article titled, “Geek Kings of smut” and was wondering about the relationship commerce industry of India. The New York Mag article was on how geeks monetize porn, but my thought was more on the very basic relationship commerce viz. dating. Then I saw Facebook ads on dating and singles targeted towards Indian users. A lot of them.
Globally, dating is a 10 year old industry. People in the United States spent close to $1.2 billion last year on dating sites alone. Though, this number is small change compared to the overall online commerce which is more than $100 billion, but is growing faster than the overall e-commerce segment.
eHarmony, which is a cross of match.com + BharatMatrimony + traditional Indian point-based matching of partners, has close to 33m profiles and clocked close to $250m last year. eHarmony and match.com control 50% market for dating in the US.
In US/Europe, the industry is rapidly evolving with upstarts like Zoosk, which is playing on top of facebook. Zoosk did well in 2010 with a rumoured $80m in revenues with 40m members. A quick search revealed that Zoosk has active members in India, but I suspect these are nothing more than front of the traditional escort services.
In India, ‘Relationship Commerce’ has been about helping people find a soul-mate aka matrimony and then monetizing based on subscriptions from parents of the bride & groom. This is how the newspaper matrimonial classifieds worked and their internet counterparts are exactly the online version of the old model. This sector in India has been dominated by Bharatmatrimony (with it’s 50+ individual niche portals), Simplymarry, shaadi.com, jeevansaathi.com, etc. The newspapers and traditional media sites have started offering similar services.
The big question is, “Are Indian Internet users ready to play the dating game?” This comes right before matrimony.
I think the big game of dating in India would be on mobile and not on the internet. There are too many singles around toting their smartphones. Good food for thought for us and yeah, wishing you a (belated) Happy Valentine’s Day!