The online matrimonial market in India hasn’t seen any major innovation in the last decade or so. The last big innovation was when marriage ads moved from newspapers to web. Almost all big players offer exactly the same mass-market fare and there is no differentiation. On the dating front we have seen a few interesting startups, but the segment is still in its nascent stage. Hoping to make a dent in this space is startup iBluebottle or iBB in short.
The unsatisfactory experience of Manish Buxi, co-founder, iBB, at a matrimony site, led to the formation of the startup. iBluebottle is targeting young Indian professionals, who they feel “deserve something more sophisticated” in the online matchmaking space. At iBB, the membership is restricted to ‘top’ professionals (sieved by the iBB team), and one needs to qualify in order to become a member. A personality matching engine finds compatible matches based on results of a personality test to be taken as a part of completing the profile. The test comprises questions about their interests, how they spend their free time and other such simple interest that can be used to gauge the user’s interest. Also, a member cannot filter or browse profiles randomly. The backend team at iBB does that work for you. Additionally every profile gets validated before it is included on the site.
iBB is a venture of friends Akhilesh Sharma and Manish Buxi. Akhilesh has worked in investment banking mostly in credit derivatives. While Manish has over ten years experience across multiple sectors like eCommerce and online payments. As both of them have a business background, finding the right tech person was very important. Today they have Vinay Patel, who leads their technology team. Vinay was a senior application developer with Thoughtworks and worked mainly on Ruby projects. Unraveling the mystery behind the name, Akhilesh says, “Bluebottle (also called Bachelor’s Button or Cornflower) is a small annual flowering plant. In folklore, Bluebottle flowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man’s love was not returned. We think Bluebottle’s oblique symbolic nod to a romantic relationship is a good fit with our mission. Also we didn’t want to call ourselves
Akhilesh is against caste based selection-preferences and the iBB team is working towards increasing transparency in the entire process so as to reduce unpleasant surprises. Members are encouraged to “open up” and write freely about themselves, thus, bringing more clarity to the kind of partners they are looking for. iBB also has a blog where tips and other details are shared. Apart from their online marketing plans, iBB also wishes to take active interest in college fests, especially girls’ colleges, in order to build the iBB brand, and trust among the early adopters. “Most of our promotion at this point is happening in B-schools which has a 70:30 male-female ratio. We therefore want to reach out to more girls in other colleges,” says Akhilesh. Another reason for iBB’s focus on girls is that, they start thinking of marriage much before guys and therefore they do not want to miss out on the opportunity. iBB is also advertising on job portals and news portals that is frequented by potential users like IIMJobs.com.
Akhilesh also adds that, “Superficially, Bharat Matrimony and others have tried to segment the market on the basis of regions / caste / languages. We see rampant fraud, inefficiency in the work-flow and generally low quality of transactional happiness. We wish to bring in a newer way of match-making.”
The recent times for iBB, like for any other startup, have been testing times. Their biggest challenge is to figure out more distribution channels. iBB plans to reach out to eligible college students and tap the alumni networks. They plan to engage more students via the college fests, E-cells and sponsor events like “Mr & Ms” where the brand fit is appropriate. Manish wants to develop the iBB brand in such a way that the trust factor is very high, and people do not mind revealing the personal details. Launched three months back, Akhilesh says they have already received good response from users and many registered users are also liking each other and connecting offline with each other to take their relationship forward.
Manish wants to eliminate the need for users to register on multiple matrimonial websites, and create a single window for a successful ‘story’. One thing that could be a matter of concern for iBB, is the 30-minute time required for new users to create their profile on iBB before they can use the iBB services. As a company that wants to disrupt the matrimonial market-place, iBB has some neat tricks up their sleeve and it remains to be seen how many people share their dream.