Investing in India
India is growing. Fast… It’s the second-fastest growing economy on the planet.
The country is set to capture 1% of global trade soon, while merchandise exports have grown an average of 24% a year over the past four years, according to Economy Watch. Goldman Sachs predicts India will rise to be the third largest economy in the world by the year 2035.
But India is a country where progress meets poverty, and new ideas meet with old traditions.
By all measurable standards, India has a long way to go before its economy matures.
Two-thirds of Indian workers are employed in some aspect of agriculture. And almost 30% of Indians live below the country’s poverty line.
When one of my co-workers returned from a trip to India last year, he described in detail the country’s changing landscape. It’s a place where brand new highrise buildings abut a dirt road and a field of farm workers and cows, he said. It literally is a land where high-tech meets low-tech.
This is the kind of parody I found when researching the impact of the Internet on India. Only in a place like India could a centuries-old tradition like arranged marriage meet the Web in such a way to create a national phenomenon…
I’ll be the first to admit that my ignorance on the subject of Indian marriage got the best of me when I first began my research. At first, I figured that these matrimonial sites were dating services like we see here in the United States, such as Match.com. I assumed the “matrimonial” part was merely a translation issue or just their way of describing dating. I was only partly correct…
Culturally, it is perfectly acceptable in India to announce to the world that your son or daughter is ready for marriage. In fact, fathers, mothers and siblings who are trying to find a match for their family member created many of the profiles on these sites.
After searching through many of the testimonials on the sites, it became clear to me that most of the married couples became engaged after a very brief courtship period. Many were married within months of first meeting each other.
As it turns out, these matrimonial sites fit in nicely with Indian culture. Sites like BharatMatrimony.com prominently display astrological information on members’ profiles. These horoscopes are taken into account when finding a life partner to determine compatibility.
I came across a telling passage online that helped me better understand how marriage is viewed in India: “A marriage in India is considered a marriage of families rather than the marriage of individuals.”
I mentioned last week that Yahoo! and Canaan Partners invested $8.65 million in BharatMatrimony.com, one of India’s largest matrimonial websites. Execs at BharatMatrimony told ZeeNews.com that they expect to register 2.5 million users in 2006-07, as compared to 1.5 million that were registered in 2005-06.
And these marriage websites are no passing fad. Statistics show that the reason 15% of Indians are online is for matrimonial searches. And if you think people aren’t really using services like this, think again.
Since BharatMatrimony.com went online in 1997, it claims to have facilitated more than 700,000 marriages all over the world. As of now, the site has a staggering nine million members.
Another matrimonial site, Shaadi.com, claims it receives more than 50 testimonials a day from happy couples. This site now posts more than 3.6 million photos of singles, and more than 710,000 success stories have been reported to the company.
I’ll continue my series on India next week.
January 15, 2007
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