BharatMatrimony founder on demerging property services business, IPO & more | VCCircle
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BharatMatrimony founder on demerging property services business, IPO & more 

BY  Sonam Gulati
Murugavel Janakiraman says Indian internet companies need to focus beyond the local market and think of global opportunities.

Matrimony.com Pvt Ltd (formerly Consim Info Pvt Ltd), which owns a string of matrimony-related consumer internet properties including BharatMatrimony.com, EliteMatrimony.com and CommunityMatrimony.com, is touted as the next in line for an IPO, post the successful public listing of Just Dial. Started in 1997 as a humble attempt to cater to the Indians living abroad and helping them connect with friends, look for matrimonial matches, attend discussion forums, et al, the matrimonial section took off as a separate business. It then evolved and grew into 10 regional matrimonial websites. Known as Consim Info Pvt Ltd at that time, the company went on to expand into other sectors like jobs (ClickJobs.com) and property (IndiaProperty.com). It also raised funding from Canaan Partners and Mayfield Fund besides Yahoo, which later exited the firm by selling to Bessemer Venture Partners and other existing investors. Talking to Techcircle.in, Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Matrimony.com, shared the key milestones of the journey, IPO plans and more. Here are the edited excerpts.

How dependent is the company on BharatMatrimony as a flagship site and what sort of traction you have got for other matrimonial sites of the firm? Is there any other recent milestone?

BharatMatrimony is definitely our flagship brand but we have various entities under Matrimony.com and all are growing very well. We have sites like CommunityMatrimony, retail outlets, matrimony directory, etc. – so there are multiple brands now. And the response has been good. CommunityMatrimony is the No. 3 matrimony site now and is growing very well. EliteMatrimony has also seen very good response.

BharatMatrimony is the only site with 100 per cent profiles having verified mobile numbers. We have recently achieved that. So providing a mobile number is now mandatory and it makes us the only portal with that kind of filtering. There is only one profile per mobile number and the verification of that mobile number is mandatory.

How would you place yourself against Shaadi.com and Jeevansaathi.com in terms of market share?

I believe we have more than 50 per cent market share in India – so we have significant leadership in the market. Therefore, we don’t see any significant competition. Having said that, we continue to push ourselves and set new benchmarks for our growth. We have also started looking at opportunities beyond match-making. We offer matrimonial gifts and have a matrimonial directory, which is probably the only such portal as of now. Then there are return gifts and many more value-added services. So we are looking at a broader industry of marriage services.

How has the online matrimonial business changed and evolved over the years?

Let me speak from our point of view on how the market has changed. When we launched, finding a life partner online was the last option people would look at. In the middle of the past decade (2000-2010), it became one of the options to look for a match. And later in the decade, it became the primary option. So it has evolved from the last option to primary choice. This market evolution has taken place, all thanks to the effort put in by all the players.

When did you start enlarging the service bouquet and expanding to areas other than match-making?

In 2006, we launched a lot of verticals which didn’t belong to our core focus area. These included ClickJobs, IndiaProperty, IndiaAutomobile, etc. Then we realised that we should focus on the inside. There is so much opportunity in our core category only. So we came up with concepts like EliteMatrimony, CommunityMatrimony, retail and e-commerce, and we started executing them in 2008. In 2012, we also launched the matrimony directory. So basically, we shifted our focus back on the inside, rather than going outside as we realised the amount of untapped opportunities in the allied categories.

What’s the current monetisation strategy for the matrimonial services business? What are the channels you are looking to build to generate new revenue streams?

There’s the new offering, the matrimonial directory, which has a freemium model. So we have paid subscriptions there. Then we have an e-commerce site for marriage gifts. Plus, there is Tambulya.com – a hybrid (online-offline) store for return gifts. These are some of the additional revenue channels we have ventured into.

We still see some new firms entering the market. What’s your view on them? Do you see some acquisition or acqhire opportunities here?

New players that come to the market have to define their own strategies. Unless they have a significant differentiation, it will be a challenge for them. Something niche and unexplored may work, though, and I would personally like to see how they differentiate themselves. Today, we don’t see them as competition as we have a significant advantage.

As for acquisition candidates, we are not currently looking at anyone. At present, we are fully focused on growing the business further.

What’s the strategy behind selling ClickJobs and demerging IndiaProperty.com?

The strategy is simple – we didn’t want to focus on too many things. We want to focus on things where we have a strategic advantage, leadership advantage or where we have already established leadership. That is the reason we sold ClickJobs. Also, BharatMatrimony has been growing significantly and we have plans to take the company public and all that. The property business is growing well but we didn’t want the plans for those two businesses to affect each other. So we thought it’s better to have separate focus for each – the matrimony and the property business.

What is the status of next round of funding for IndiaProperty? Has the first tranche of $7 million been utilised?

Yes, the first round has been deployed in the usual areas like product development, marketing, infrastructure, etc. We are in the process of raising the second round of funding for it, which should be closed within a couple of months.

What are the monetisation strategies for the property business?

For property business, we also have paid listings on the site. Then we have assisted services for people who are actually buying properties. So there are multiple business models, built on the top of the property listing model. There is also a commission-basis model where we get commission from the builder on the transaction done by us.

Can you give us a breakdown of revenues from the matrimony and the property services businesses?

We wouldn’t like to share our revenues.

It’s now a given that you are next in line among Indian consumer internet firms for a public listing. What’s the status on that?

I can’t comment on the details yet but we are hoping it will happen sometime next year.

Are you also looking at a pre-IPO fundraising?

No, as of now, nothing has been planned. We are now focusing on the business. As and when the right time comes, we will look into it.

Would you look at listing in India or abroad?

We are an Indian company – so we are most likely to list in India only. Also, the recent Just Dial IPO indicates that India is very much ready for good, premium internet companies.

You are one of the pioneers of internet business in India. What is your view on the growth of this sector?

The internet ecosystem has changed completely, but I would still say we need a lot more internet companies in India. Moreover, our companies mostly focus on local challenges, rather than seeking global opportunities. We need more Indian companies with a global reach. I am not denying the fact that the opportunity in India is big enough, but we are yet to see a company that has grown out of India and gone to the global arena. There has been an increase in startups and internet companies, but it has to grow bigger and bigger.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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