Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Dumb Ways To Marry !

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Why Chetan Bhagat should ditch Shaadi.com and endorse iBluebottle

Dear Chetan

As you must have realized by now, many of your (non)fans have been left scratching their heads by your decision to appear in the Shaadi.com adverts. Tempting though it is, this post is not about conjecturing why you are fronting a service that appears to be completely orthogonal to your public persona.

This is about why you should ditch Shaadi.com altogether and consider endorsing the new matchmaking upstart, iBluebottle. Here are 5 good reasons :

Firstly, your celebrity appeal is totally wasted on Shaadi. As you say in the TV commercial ‘bees lakh’ people seem to have already used their services. Your endorsement is unlikely to gain Shaadi new members – someone who knows about you has already heard about Shaadi and anyone who hasn’t, is hardly going to be swayed by ‘Chetan Bhagat, Author’ as you are so modestly introduced in the ad. On the other hand iBluebottle is a new startup, proverbially tilting at the big matrimonial giants and needs all the publicity it can get. Many in our target demographic care about your opinion.

Chetan Bhagat Shaadi advert

Secondly, your endorsement can really help iBluebottle’s stated aim of actively discouraging caste/community based matchmaking. Unlike some of the matrimonial sites which seem to spawn ever more divisive versions of “MyCasteMatrimony.com”, we are trying to promote a casteless society. We actually write to our members who specify a preferred caste for their matches and encourage them to only consider attributes that a person has control over. Of course many are impervious to our exhortations but we have been able to convince quite a few. Surely if you believe in the underlying thesis of your book “Two States”, it makes eminent sense for you to back iBluebottle.

Thirdly, iBluebottle fits the mould of your “What Young India Wants” meme. We haven’t read the book but it is a safe bet that you didn’t  include ‘a better platform to find a compatible match’ in the wish list. And who is to say that such is not one of the most pressing needs of the modern Indian professional? We believe we are introducing new, innovative features to make the process of finding a match more pleasant and delightful than a soulless, assembly-line one which it has become.

The fourth reason has to do with your conviction about the service you are promoting. Indulge us for a moment and imagine that you weren’t lucky enough to find your wife the way you did and were considering using online matchmaking websites. Given your educational and professional background, we would like to posit that you would rather sign up with iBluebottle than with Shaadi. This flows from our belief that compatibility between life-partners owes much to similar sophistication levels than anything else, except maybe in Bollywood.

Lastly, we at iBluebottle have always thought that you would make a great brand ambassador for us. We wanted to approach you but kept waiting till we became big enough to afford you (or a TV commercial). Admittedly, we also considered the dubious theory of brotherly equivalence – ‘Chetan nahin to Ketan sahi’ but ultimately decided against approaching your brother, Ketan Bhagat.

So Chetan, there you have it. Tis the season of letters and we reckoned “A letter from a Young Indian Startup” might catch your eye. Over to you.

 

 

Is she the one ?

I like to reason. I like it when I can reduce all my decisions to an optimization problem. I can happily solve for the maximum utility function or for the least uncomfortable experience, given the constraints.

So it frustrates me no end when my life’s most important decision turns out to be an intractable, no-optimization-would-work-on-me problem. How do I decide if she is the right one? Even though I tried modelling it in an excel spreadsheet (inspiration here), the results were unsatisfactory.

Adding to the complication are a few missteps that have made me far more circumspect. Suffice it to say that I will no longer be eager to take a longish flight to surprise someone in a long-distance courtship!

Is she the one?

Having met scores of women with the explicit purpose of marriage, not only am I more confused now about what I am looking for but also have no inkling of the shape or form of the acceptance that would materialise once I met ‘the girl”.

Would there actually be a “click” sound when I finally happen to meet my destined life partner or would an audible “aha” escape from my lips? Would it be the mesmerising beauty of her lovely eyelashes or her Gladwell-esque intellect that would bowl me over?

See? I have no bloody clue what I am looking for.

For the first time when I went out on a date with the express purpose of finding a partner, I was determined to be positive and pleasant. She was a cousin of a friend’s friend and we started off well. But I suddenly realized that the weight of selecting ”marriage material” sat like a dead stone on my head and crimped my natural conversational style. Affectations took over on both the sides – mostly to appear cool and nonchalant. Pretty soon we became like two adversaries judging each other over coffee. I wanted to cry out loud that both of us were on the same side but of course I didn’t and neither did she. Tepid text about catching up again done away with, we continued our separate ways.

The story has repeated many a times since then. A few of the girls I liked chose not to go ahead, inexplicably, in my opinion. Some did string me along with gifts and long conversations but no cigar. Of course I am guilty of the exact same behaviour – ignoring perfectly acceptable matches in the hope that maybe a better one is just around the corner. And even though it gets tiring after a while, you don’t know when to stop.

My mother has continued sending me profiles with renewed fervour – filtering from many hundreds that she gets from the usual matrimonial websites. Someone told me about iBluebottle and I was curious enough to spend the better part of an hour completing my profile. I am hoping their personality based matching might help but the fundamental question still remains.

One charitable and encouraging view is that I would know it when I see her. In my heart. In an instant. And even though hope is not a great strategy, I have no other choice. Or I could be like the guy who decided that he had spent enough time looking and come what may, he would marry the girl whose proposal came next. And that’s what he did. I am not privy to how the marriage is going.

So the quest continues – kabhie toh milogae!

Get paid to date?

Do you consider yourself attractive? Attractive enough that people would be ready to pay you to be able to go on a date with you? Would you like such an arrangement?

Most people tend to react with a mixture of bewilderment and mild disgust when first told of such a proposition. How crass! But after a moment of consideration, some start to see merit in the arrangement. A kind soul figured out that there was a viable business catering to such people and started www.whatsyourprice.com

The slightly demeaning name and the possibility of being equated to an escort service aside, the website works like an ebay of dating. You first decide what role you want to play – a ‘generous” member or an ‘attractive’ member (this alone might be a worthy exercise in self-examination but more often than not, a generous member is a male). The generous member bids to go on a date with an attractive member who then decides if the price is right and accepts the offer. Both parties go on a first date where cash is exchanged but there is no obligation to go on a second date.

generous

The strictly transactional nature of the date requires that there be remedies for fraud. The website advises that the attractive member demands half of the price agreed at the beginning of the date and the other half at the end of the date. And what if the generous member simply refuses to pay ? You can file a complaint in the Small Claims Court!

From a purely utilitarian perspective Whatsyourprice seems to solve a real problem. If you are an attractive woman on a dating site, you are likely to be inundated with messages from scores of males, many of whom would be termed ‘losers’ (in American parlance). It is a plausible bet that by keeping your price sufficiently high, you can weed out such losers and increase your chances of meeting the right one. Even if your date turns out to be a dud, you would at least be compensated for your time.

For the generous member the situation is not as favorable as he risks losing both time and money if his date turns out to be that delightful species – the beauty without brains. Nevertheless he gets an opportunity to stand out from the crowd by bidding high and ensuring that he gets a look-in by the prettiest girls.

But the money aspect does complicate things. It is unlikely that your cash-induced first date will ever blossom into a long-term relationship. It will forever remain a commercial transaction – the generous member is trying to buy love whereas the attractive member is concerned with getting sufficiently remunerated for her time.

And even though there are geriatric billionaires with wives as young as their granddaughters, we all know what these wives are after.

Why is online matchmaking uncool in India?

Recently iBluebottle started its marketing campaign on Facebook and we asked all our friends to spread the word. Many of our friends are already married but we figured they would have friends and relatives who could be our target market. Most of them have been gracious enough to help us out.

But a few refused to oblige. They did not say as much but we deduced that they somehow thought it uncool to admit any connection with a matchmaking website. Specially so when they themselves were single. And specially, specially so when they were already registered on all the biggest matrimonial websites!

There was another manifestation of this sentiment. One of the comments a friend got after she wrote about our matching engine on her wall was: “makes me shudder”.

It is unclear what made her shudder but we can safely assume that pleasure wasn’t probably the source of her convulsions. Most likely she wouldn’t want to be caught dead having anything to do with an online matchmaking website. Maybe she is a “love-marriage types” who can’t comprehend how people can’t just bump into someone interesting, fall in love and marry. Or maybe she is totally against the institution of marriage.Not cool

So who or what made online matchmaking uncool in India? The world over people do not have any qualms about finding a partner on dating websites and admitting it. But ask any Indian and he is likely to admit it only under severe duress and that too with a grin a sheep would be proud of.

It cannot possibly be the revulsion for “arranged” marriage because online matchmaking is far removed from the traditional “arranged” marriage setup. There is nobody arranging anything for you. The parents are mostly reduced to occasionally badgering you and forwarding you profiles from the neighbourhood marriage bureau run by Sheela aunty.

Maybe it is just semantics – dating as opposed to matrimonial - that people find uncool. Or maybe it is some sort of a misplaced inadequacy syndrome that tricks you into thinking that if you can’t find a match offline you are a loser.

It appears that a third factor could probably be the main culprit – the downmarket reputation of the existing matrimonial websites. This reluctance-to-be-associated is analogous to what brand-conscious people experience if they are forced to carry a cheap brand shopping bag in the full view of their more exalted peers.

Unfortunately the crappy reputation is not entirely unjustifiable. If you are a top professional with good academic background and earnings, you are likely to get drowned in a sea of unsatisfactory profiles that have expressed interest in you. This is a natural consequence of millions of average profiles trying to get attention of the far fewer top ones.

Also there is no way of knowing if the guy who says that he has an MBA from a top school is not just a prankster angling for some unsavoury fun at your cost. On all of the existing matrimonial websites you could damn well choose to be whoever takes your fancy and start browsing. This misrepresentation coupled with the Indian tendency to embellish credentials makes for a disastrous experience for the genuine candidate.

Here at iBluebottle we are trying to re-establish what online matchmaking really is – a platform with unsurpassed reach that helps you find compatible matches with similar education and professional background. Cool or not we aim to be the flag-bearer for the genuine candidate who is rational enough to realize that serendipity in your love-quest is overrated.

The modern swayamvar

An Indian professional living and working in a metro is likely to meet 16 prospects and take more than 2.5 years on average to find a match. An ordeal almost as tough as shooting the fish in the eye and claiming Draupadi (even though that was way cooler).

Technically speaking there are no more “arranged marriages” in the sense that there is no one arranging anything for you. There are no parents or relatives with great, ready-made matches for you. Mostly it is you alone who has to do the hard work of filtering hundreds of profiles, shortlisting a few prospects, meeting them for the first time, deciding with whom to go ahead and writing diplomatic rejection emails to others. If you are lucky you might strike gold soon enough but be prepared to rinse and repeat many times.

The average time taken by a typical professional to decide upon a match has been rising rapidly. This appears to be a function of a cornucopia of choice. With the advent of online matchmaking, you perceive a large supply of potential matches and the relentless forces of inflation take over. The value you ascribe to a particular profile diminishes rapidly and pretty soon you fall into the seductive but ultimately fatigue-inducing cycle of “let me check out the next profile, might be better than this one. There is no hurry”.

Swayamvar

But abundant choice is not the whole story. A weightier factor could be the realization that you can continue to defer your decision without any major consequence.

With most of the professionals living away from their parents, there is reduced societal and familial pressure to get hitched. The crazy work schedule does no favours to your search. And after you have met about half a dozen prospects, you are no longer sure what you are looking for in a match. So you allow yourself to drift. And if you live outside India, add in the  fiendishly complicated scheduling problem worthy of a supercomputer.

No wonder many people take a few month’s break from the whole rigamarole and come back with a grimmer determination if not with some more fish-eye shooting practice.

Another trend is more evolutionary. People are discovering that they do not mind staying alone and are increasingly becoming more comfortable with the idea. Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University, recently published “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”. He thinks that “the human species is developing new ways to live.” But not to love apparently.

The modern swayamvar is indeed a formidable enterprise. As we have said before, iBluebottle does not promise a magic wand but we are trying our best to help.

 

The morality of matchmaking

Is matchmaking an intrinsically moral act ? Does the matchmaker deserve moral praise for bringing two individuals together?

It is fair to say that here at iBluebottle we are not losing sleep over examining the morality of matchmaking. Nevertheless it is an interesting question and deserves some probing.

Philosophically speaking, to determine the morality of an act we could either use Mill’s & Bentham’s utilitarianism or Kant’s moral theory.

The utilitarian approach, sometimes called the “greatest happiness principle” postulates that an act is moral only if it maximises the overall happiness. Further the moral worth of an action can only be decided if we know all the resulting outcomes.

The outcome of a matchmaking act could be either a happy marriage (for the two individuals involved) or an unhappy one. It is likely that a successful marriage would lead to a “total happiness” which is greater than the happiness resulting from an unsuccessful one. This is primarily because the family, friends and other well-wishers of the married couple would contribute greatly to the “total happiness”.

But this is by no means certain. Firstly defining a successful marriage is tricky. Secondly, what if the married couple had fewer friends but more detractors who would be unhappy by their successful marriage? A few spurned lovers or jealous relatives perhaps? In such a case the matchmaker would be decreasing the “total happiness” and not maximizing it. So it would appear that using the utilitarian theory we have insufficient information to decide one way or the other.

What does Kant have to say about matchmaking being a moral act ? It depends
on the matchmaker’s intentions. If the matchmaker is acting from some
ulterior motive (say for personal gain), he does not deserve moral praise, even for an action
that otherwise appears morally good.

Now iBluebottle does plan to charge for its services even though it is free at this time. We are indeed acting for personal gain and thus would probably fail the Kantian’s moral test.

So there you have it – a score of probably half out of two on morality. Not very edifying but we will take it. Bringing together two compatible persons who might not have had the chance to meet otherwise is reward enough. Plus the fact that we might get paid for it.

 

Playing the matchmaker

We at iBluebottle believe that most of us need a little bit of help in finding that special person in our life.

Many of the so-called “Love Marriages” are made possible only by an introduction or a chance encounter at a common friend’s place. Or it could be at a college fest where you meet this girl who has been invited by one of her friends who also happens to be your batch-mate (guess who met his partner this way). So technically there is a matchmaker involved even though we may not recognize her explicitly.

Our aim is to play the role of a consummate matchmaker, by which we simply mean that we will try to maximise your chances of finding a compatible match in the shortest possible time.

PS: Along the way we will equip you with our pearls of matchmaking wisdom, make you a jedi master of the dating craft and develop your inner magnetism to attract even the most iron-hearted guy/girl. And erm…gently help you to your feet after the inevitable fiascoes.