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Millionaire matchmakers

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Matrimonial services exclusively for super wealthy Indians don't just hawk horoscopes today. From home visits to ascertain tastes and planning honeymoons when the deal is sealed, they'll do it all for generous rewards.

An industrialist from Indore looking for a bride for his son was clear she had to be from an equally affluent background. The match wasn't made in heaven - the Pune girl his son was introduced to was identified by a matrimonial company that specialises in matchmaking for millionaires. A fortnight ago, the couple met in the luxurious environs of a five-star hotel and both families are hopeful there will be wedding bells soon.

"The groom was from a family whose net worth is over Rs 500 crore so they wanted a girl from a wealthy family who could easily adjust to their lifestyle," says Saurabh Goswami, who founded the Ahmedabad-based Ultra Rich Match in 2011 to cater to the super-rich. Goswami is among a growing breed of entrepreneurs launching uber-exclusive matrimonial companies across Indian that cater only to the extremely wealthy. Stepping in for the job once done by a family pandit, these companies come armed with resume writing skills and computerised databases that span continents. Their services are highly personalised as compared to others, and include home visits to clients to ensure privacy, background checks and meetings arranged in fancy hotels. "There are rich, affluent customers who don't want to disclose information to everyone so they approach select agencies, " says Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Chennai-based Bharat Matrimony. He launched Elite Matrimony four years ago to cater to this segment, and his database includes high net worth individuals (HNWI) including celebrities, entrepreneurs and sportspeople.

About 70 per cent of the clients using services like Elite Matrimony are old money following traditions. "Arranged marriages are still the norm in India. The younger generation does date but sometimes relationships don't work out, " says Nita Jha, associate vicepresident of Delhi-based Sycorian Matrimonial Services Ltd explaining why services like hers are gaining ground. Many families opt for professional agencies as they want a range of services. "Matching of horoscopes is very important for most people, so they need a wide choice of candidates. Moreover, young people are also very choosy, " says Jha. A professional mediator can also help families sidestep potentially delicate situations. "The families may meet two or three times and then one party might decide that they don't want to take it forward, but don't know how to say no, " Jha says, adding that as a neutral party in such instances, the service steps in to ensure no one is offended.

There is a great deal of emphasis on confidentiality, as the clients are highprofile. Elite Matrimony's website, for instance, is 'by invitation only'. People can send in requests online and a relationship manager gets in touch with them. "We check if the family is really 'elite' and then create a profile for them, " says Janakiraman. After understanding the client's expectations, they start sending them profiles that match their requirements. Companies do try to carry out background checks on their clients;however, the final responsibility lies with the families concerned. Jha says, "If they are wellknown, it is easy to verify."

A client's market value determines entry to these sites. At Elite Matrimony, those worth Rs 10 crore upwards make the cut;Ultra Rich Match has a premium segment for clients worth 10 crore upwards and royal segment for Rs 100 crore upwards. At Sycorian Matrimonial Services Ltd, clients come from "branded" families, says Jha, unwilling to disclose their net worth. "Our clients don't just focus on money. Education, looks, etc are also important," she states. While the financial background of the prospective groom and bride is the base criteria for selection, it isn't the decider. First priority is usually religion or caste. "Clients want a match from their own community. Second on the agenda is money and then comes education and looks, " says Goswami Many clients are looking for partners who can help them in their business. "We arranged the match of the son of a builder from south Delhi with a girl from Indore whose family owned a shopping mall and hotel, " says Jha. "Since she was already helping her father with the business, she is now helping her husband too with his work." Apart from well-known families whom Jha categorises as "branded", these services work with upper middle-class clients who are highly successful professionals. Today, there is a growing number of HNWIs in India - according to the World Wealth Report 2013, released by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management recently, India has clocked the second highest growth (22. 2 per cent) in its HNWI population, people whose net worth is Rs 10 crore minimum, last year. Jha says, "We have young people in their late 20s who are earning an annual salary of Rs 1. 5 crore to Rs 2 crore in India," while Goswami reveals he gets a lot of profiles of this kind from Mumbai and Delhi. "This segment is growing as there are many young people who are earning very well. And they are looking for matchmaking services. " Non-resident Indians also form a big chunk of the clientele. About 30 per cent of Jha's clients live abroad, while Janakiraman says NRIs form 25 per cent of his client base.

Personalised service is demanded by this set, and the agencies have stepped up to their demands. Ultra Rich Match handles everything from arranging the initial meetings to planning the wedding and customising honeymoon packages. Jha of Sycorian meets clients at home to understand their lifestyle. "Education, money and looks are important to clients but so is class, which we have to assess, " she says, citing the example of a discreetly rich family from Delhi who was looking for a match for their daughter. Jha visited their home to get a sense of the kind of people they were and their expectations. She also visited the home of the boy they were considering, who was from Delhi, highly-educated, rich and good-looking. "We found that while the house was beautiful from the outside, the upholstery, furniture, and dêcor was not tasteful, " says Jha, adding that the match was not taken forward. "Your house tells a lot about your personality, " says the entrepreneur who often flies down from Delhi to Mumbai for a day to be present at the initial meeting to introduce the couple.

The handholding doesn't come cheap - Ultra Rich Match charges Rs 35, 000 for six months and Rs 1. 5 lakh for a year while Elite Matrimony charges Rs 50, 000 for three months - but agencies claim clients are willing to pay. That may be due to their success rate. Jha, who has personally fixed 200 marriages in 10 years, says her agency offers "85 per cent satisfaction". Goswami's firm has fixed about 100 marriages in two years, and Janakiraman says his company has a 25 to 30 per cent success rate.

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