My journey as a Matchmaker
Six years ago, the 20-something Radhika in me wanted to start her very first startup on dating. I was Single and it was a no-brainer that I wanted to solve my own problems. Then, I met my life partner at a co-working space, without the use of dating apps and matrimonial websites, and started working on a surprise gifting startup instead.
Cut to late 2018 when I quit my job, solo travelled to all seven states of North East India and was gearing up to embark on Jagriti Yatra train. I revisited everything that made me happy, my strengths, the people I care about and the problems they typically face. Matchmaking seemed like THE calling this time.
Having transitioned from being an introvert in school to someone who’d feed on people’s energy now, it is my second nature to be curious, listen to people and understand how I can help. As a solo founder, I played to my strengths and took off on this journey. No company registration, no website, no app, nothing fancy that could be done later. All the focus was on understanding users, their pain points and solving those with whatever was needed.
The objective — enable working professionals with a supportive life partner.
THE OPERATING MODEL
Identifying Singles through first and second level connections, scouting for them using matrimonial websites and alumni network is how it started. The operating model was simple. I’d profile people in a 20-minute call to understand their deal breakers, preferences and what they are beyond their CV.
Using a double opt-in process to keep identifiable details confidential until such time that both the people agreed to get connected, a WhatsApp message would be created. LinkedIn profile links of both the people would be shared here. Post-pandemic, this also included a Zoom call link basis their availability. I’d initiate the call, make a warm introduction, assign one of the users as host of the meeting and then exit the call.
A feedback call and two fortnightly check-ins would follow to see through this. First dates were complimentary. This was followed by a paid subscription for six months that involved facilitating five dates, feedback calls, review and personalised tips.
I’d only speak to Singles aged 28 years and above in five major cities of India — Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi-NCR and People of Indian origin in international locations. This involved a direct conversation with candidates, not their parents/ other stakeholders. Users being primarily Hindi-speaking adults who were currently working in these locations while they were usually raised elsewhere.
- A sizable number of preliminary calls acted like therapy for people since they did not/ could not have those detailed conversations on Relationships & Singledom with their best friend/ colleagues/ flatmates/ family. These were the people who were adulting away from home, growing in their career and perhaps growing apart from their close friends owing to location, relationship status, priorities etc.
- Not onboarding people who have horoscopes as a deal breaker was a wise decision. There’s no value addition on my part if that one kundali does not match.
- Texting leads to baseless assumptions, more often than not. Removing texting from the picture led to negligible drop-offs before first dates. (For those saying “But I always like to text and gauge the person” — please continue judging the world by their turnaround times, usage of emoticons, how irregular their texts are)
- When someone insists on seeing a picture (I had none to show), they’ll eventually have one of these statements to share — “I didn’t find the spark”, “I don’t think it’ll click”. You get the gist. They are bound to sizing up people in the first conversation.
- Those who wanted to get married yesterday but are talking to someone today will rush into judging too much too soon from very little information.
Maxium on first call: 1hr 58 minutes. That was a story with layers of heartbreaks.
Minimum on first call: 8 minutes. He was honest in telling me how he was comfortable rejecting a girl who was dark-skinned since it was an arranged marriage meeting organised by parents. He faced rejections too since he was short-heighted.
Average time spent in the first six months: 45 minutes per call.
Most interesting meeting with a user: Someone I already knew through my social circles asked for a meeting and then opened up about his short-lived marriage since the girl was a live-in and went back to her guy. This detail did not come to me on the phone call we had earlier.
Most nerve wracking moment: When I was already on a Zoom call with one user and the other user did not show up until the 12th minute. I dreaded getting ghosted.
Most memorable event: ALL the women’s only virtual events that I hosted for people in international locations. Irrespective their nationality — Pakistani to American to Argentinian, they’d echo that women across the world faced the same challenges.
Total dates set up: A humble double digit number.
NOTE TO SINGLE INDIAN WOMEN
- Keeping your self-esteem high is in your hands.
- When you talk of gender equality, please offer to split the bill on your first date. Lead by example.
- Not every entrepreneur is broke. Being a minimalist is not being broke.
- If you want a readymade perfect husband, he’d want a readymade perfect wife too.
- Keeping feminism in place, please understand he is not the representative of all the men out there. Your first date cannot be equal to his court hearing.
NOTE TO SINGLE INDIAN MEN
- When a girl is educated, smart and confident, she is not looking for a provider but a companion. Can you be best friends with her?
- Looks are temporary, kindness is permanent.
- Respect her work because she has worked really hard to get to that.
- If you are ‘somewhat committed’, figure out how to make that work instead of calling it off on the pretext that your parents won’t agree on the match. They did not decide to be in a relationship with her; you did.
- When a girl is nearing that 30 mark, she might have parental pressure to deal with. Talk it out sooner than later.
NOTE FOR THE HEARTBROKEN
- Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Come up with a routine, create your morning and evening rituals — see, touch, hear, smell and taste things that make you come alive. Take positive actions. You’ll sail through this and come out stronger.
- Starting over does not mean getting married to someone right away. Healing is the key. I hope you can reconcile with your past and then hit refresh.
- Your trust is shattered once. But the next person still wants to see you as a whole human and not a closely guarded secret. It’s a thin line but you’ll do just fine when you are open to change.
- Setbacks are a part of life. They do not take away your awesomeness from you.
- Cultivate your personality. “Work keeps me busy” is something I often hear. How do you want to be seen, who do you show up for, what matters to you?
- I am advising/ consulting dating apps andmatrimonial websites on improving their user journey. Also talking to people in their community for what they really want in the product.
- I’ll be available as a Relationship Coach. You can schedule a 15-minute introductory call with me and we can align to work towards your Relationship Goals. I can help you move the needle in the direction where you’d like to be. You’ll be the ultimate ship of the captain to take things forward.
- Any tips for somebody looking to date with a long-term commitment intent? Matchmaking is not a database problem, it’s a human problem. Be curious. Identify the social circles that give you a sense of belonging. Keep your social profiles updated and add a conversation starter/ Calendly link/ your upcoming event link in your Bio. Engage with people in activities. That’s a no pressure way of getting to know each other. Move the conversation out of the app to a call, in-person meeting etc. Keep your deal breakers to a minimum coz even you do not have everything figured out. Start early. People are less adaptable as they age.
- What’s more? I am working at the intersection of Community, Curation and Creation. I am hosting Zoom calls for employee engagement and gamifying conversations. If your organisation has people in their 20s and 30s, you’ll love the energy these calls bring to people. Feel more connected and refreshed with Remote Games :)
- Support for community leaders: If you are a community leader, I’d love to enable you in engaging your people better in these times. We all need each other, even if digitally. Let’s talk!
To each one of the hundreds of you who opened up their life stories to me, confided in me, trusted my choices for your first dates, shared brutal and honest feedback after dates, checked in on me when lockdown started, all I can say is — Thank you! You shaped me as a more empathetic and compassionate human by being vulnerable and sharing your stories.
Love and light,