Looking for a partner? For millions of Indians, taking the first step towards getting married could be as easy as picking up a cellphone.
Online matchmaking services in India have announced tie-ups with telecom service providers, enabling subscribers to view profiles of eligible partners on their mobile phone screens. <b1>
India's booming economy has given rise to a new category of young urban professionals, with easier access to technology, but no time to scan traditional matrimonial columns in newspapers.
"They spend a lot of time commuting or working and we would like to use that 'dead' time to enable them to access services such as this one," said Harit Nagpal of phone operator Vodafone.
In a country with nearly 300 million cellphone users, but where only 11 million people have access to the Internet, taking matchmaking directly to customers' fingertips makes sense.
And there's no denying the reach of the cellphone, a device that has managed to bridge the rural-urban divide in India with cheap handsets and low call rates.
"We want to tap into the smaller towns and cities where our customers may not have access to the Internet, but can upload profiles using a preloaded application," said Vibhas Mehta of Shaadi.com, which has announced a tie-up with Vodafone.
Ringing For Love
Marriages in India are usually prolonged affairs that involve inquiring into the candidates' credentials, social status and caste before zeroing in on the perfect match.
But changing socio-economic conditions have influenced middle-class Indians to adopt liberal lifestyles and young adults are now more likely to choose their better halves for themselves.
"Of course, the parents want to be involved in the process, but they are also open to using newer platforms such as mobiles to scout for their soul mate," said Murugavel Janakiraman, head of Bharatmatrimony.com, which now has a tie-up with cellphone maker Nokia.
With half of India's billion-plus population below the age of 25, matchmaking portals and cellphone operators can potentially cash in on millions of young people with marriage on their minds.
"I would like to hunt for my ideal partner, but where's the time? This way I can look for him while I am travelling or working," said Joanne Fernandes, 25, a media planner in Mumbai.
Unfortunately, there's still no guarantee that a search for love via cellphones will yield a better match. "Marriage is serious business and there is a lot to it than just looking at a profile but it's a start and a risk that I am willing to take," Fernandes said. "I hope I find him soon."