Indian Dating Sites
She is young and beautiful, with a promising career; he’s handsome and well employed. The date goes smashingly until the topic of exes comes up: She has had three, and they all turned out to be losers; He has had three as well, but the last one left him for her best friend.
Such odd-couple pairings are more common in India than you might think. “There’s not much opportunity here for meeting people,” says Ranjana*, 31, who works in public relations in New Delhi, where she lives alone. “But online dating offers me an easy way out — that of having someone I can connect with.” It also helps that it takes away some of the sting associated with being single in a society where marriage is still considered the ultimate goal.
There are now around 20 dating sites in India, most of them started in the past five years. The first, proposed by two Stanford graduate students in 1998, was rejected by India’s top court for being “against the culture.” But times have changed: One site, shaadi.com, claims to have more than 10 million members. (By comparison, Match.com, one of the biggest dating sites in the United States, has about 25 million.)
Most Indian dating sites are geared toward Hindus and Sikhs, although there are a few that are open to people of all religions. The largest such site, jodi365.com, which has 2.5 million members, says it has had success in bringing together couples of different faiths.
The sites work like this: You sign up and provide your name, age, occupation, and religion. (Hinduism and Islam are the most common religions on the sites; Sikhism is a close third.) You then fill out a detailed questionnaire about your tastes, habits, likes and dislikes. On jodi365, for instance, your list of potential matches must include at least five people who are “not interested in smoking/drinking.”
The questionnaire is followed by a series of tests aimed at measuring compatibility between potential lovebirds. The test that’s most popular among Indian users is called “Can two of you have a conversation about an activity that both enjoy?” The idea is to test how well you know each other by avoiding a specific topic. A question might be something like: “How many mugs are used on the average day in a household with two adults and two children?” If you’re allowed to bring up your favorite cricket team, the site has done its job.
Many of the sites also offer a “wink” feature, which allows you to show interest in someone without having to complete the entire questionnaire. If the other person is interested in you as well, he or she can respond by clicking on a button that says “yes.” You can then share your e-mail addresses, provided you have both filled out your profiles completely.
The Indian dating site is slightly more expensive than their American counterparts, but they accept payment by all major credit cards, so there’s little financial risk involved. Most sites charge between $20 to $40 for a six-month membership. If it doesn’t work out, you can always switch sites.
There are drawbacks to online dating, of course. “The people who sign up for these services are usually the ones that are least able to find a date on their own,” says Pradeep Ramchandani, editor of matrimony magazine India Currents. One site tried to take advantage of this by offering its services for free to lonely hearts, but only if they attached a photo of themselves. The site’s owners apparently assumed that anyone who was willing to go through that much trouble had to be desperate. And the scam worked: Within three months, 1 million people had signed up. Ninety percent were women.
But for the most part, Indian dating sites appear to be free of such scams. The people who use them are generally looking for serious relationships, and the sites have been successful in bringing together couples from different parts of the country. “Dating online is a great way to meet someone,” says Sunita, an advertising executive in Mumbai. “I’ve been married for three years now. Thanks to my online dating service.”