Is he an alcoholic? Is she a party animal? Was she dating anyone before? These questions typically bother the parents of prospective Indian brides and grooms, especially those who use matrimonial websites. And for answers they tap detective agencies.
"We have been offering investigation services for prospective spouses for 10 years, but there has been a considerable spurt in the number of applications over the years," says Jitendra Satpute, deputy general manager, TRIPL (TOPSGRUP Risk Intelligence Private Limited).
"People don't want to risk their child's life and hence demand the verification of credentials of the prospective spouse of the child," Satpute said.
It is this growth of the online matrimony market that has led to a surge in demand for reliable information about prospective partners as parents fear attractive and seemingly perfect profiles could be tailormade to impress, says Satpute.
According to industry sources, the overall online matrimony market is worth Rs.2.5 billion and there are as many as 40 million people registered on various matrimonial websites in India, including bharatmatrimony.com, shaadi.com and jeevansathi.com.
Sanjeev Kumar Deswal, managing director of Aider Detectives Pvt Ltd, also confirms that the increase in demand for detective services is directly related to the rise in matrimony websites.
"Around 15-20 years back, marriages were mostly arranged through family or friends' contacts, so the guarantee that the boy or girl is suitable or not used to be there," said Deswal, who claims his company receives at least 10 inquiries for pre-marital investigations a day.
"But nowadays a lot of children go abroad or to another city for studies or to work and the extended family hardly knows them. So, no one knows about his or her daily activities, friends group or lifestyle and this is where private detectives are stepping in these days.
"Matrimony sites do the basic verifications from their end, but for further in-depth information, people contact detective companies," he added.
Most of these investigations include surveillance about family background, education and job credentials, but parents also want to be aware of the habits, vices, social standing and peer group of the person concerned.
These investigations may cost anything from Rs.5,000 to Rs.50,000 depending on individual requirements, and 60 percent of the clients making use the service belong to high income groups in cities like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, New Delhi and Mumbai.
Satish Chawla, who has a son and a daughter, says he won't mind spending money on these services.
"Why not? If I can spend around Rs.5 million on my child's wedding, can't I spend one percent of that to ensure that it is safe to get my child married off to a person?
"I don't think online matrimonial alliances are always safe and it is better to be discreet about choosing a life partner for your child rather than repenting the decision later," said Chawla.
Spokespersons from matrimony sites feel they do their bit before a profile is put up for use.
Gourav Rakshit, business head, shaadi.com, said: "We provide a Shaadi SEAL. It is a free profile attestation service available to all our members. SEAL stands for Screened, Examined and Attested Label. All the profiles on shaadi.com undergo this process and if the profile has a Shaadi SEAL, it means that we have screened the profile and obtained documentary proof for the key information provided."
Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO of BharatMatrimony group, feels profiles can be verified only to a certain extent and there is no harm in hiring detectives to dig out more details about candidates.
"As an online matrimony site, we can offer identity verification, age verification, job verification for a person, but not about his or her lifestyle, friend's group, etc. We provide a platform for prospective brides and grooms to meet. But if two people find each other interesting enough, it is up to them and their parents to meet and decide whether they have made a right choice," Janakiraman said.