m4marry.com, the matrimonial portal from Malayala Manorama, is celebrating its 12th Anniversary. During a period where most companies are laying off people or slashing manpower, the brand has added quality manpower and has grown during the Covid times. The registration on m4marry has increased by 50% over the previous period. Revenue has also followed suit and jumped up by 50%. Profitability has been positively impacted even with their expansion in the workforce.
In conversation with Medianews4u, Smitha Vasudevan, General Manager, Digital Classifieds, Malayala Manorama, spoke about business growth during the pandemic, association with Vijay Devarakonda, marketing strategies, and more.
How has the matrimonial business changed in these twelve years?
The change in the matrimonial landscape has been phenomenal. The first has been in how the medium is being used. Today, the first decision that most parents or the prospective bride or groom make when they consider marriage is to list themselves on m4marry. In the initial days, there was skepticism. There was a lot of doubt in their minds on how the platform operates, especially for parents. Online matrimonial websites were often the last resort. But now it is the first choice.
Why do you think there is more ready acceptance now?
I believe it is because of the trust that we have built up. Matrimony business is a serious business. It has to be a responsible platform. We need to uphold the trust that the customers have reposed in us in safeguarding their profiles and ensuring a secure space for them to meet and match from the community. Technological innovations and manual verification are part of the effort to ensure that we remain so.
What are the factors which have helped to support the growth of the matrimonial business?
Some of them are macro factors like the penetration of the Internet and the widespread access of the Internet over mobile phones. The second is the ease of technology adoption. Some of them are intrinsic, like how accessible our support team is and demystifying the experience. We have also continually refined the user experience to enhance its utility and value for the users. Deep engagement is driven by technology which in turn has been shaped by user behavior.
What are the significant changes that you have perceived in the matrimonial business last year?
We have seen a significant shift in our customer behavior. The family has become central in these troubled times. The pandemic seems to have rekindled the connections between parents and their children. Many people moved back to their parents, with Work From Home becoming the norm. The family has become their anchor, unlike the distance affected by the manic pace of life many young people had lived before last year. Matchmaking has benefited both from these changed priorities as well as higher involvement from all family stakeholders. This is a reaffirmation of our brand values. We have always believed that just as we help prospective brides and grooms find their soulmates, we also help families find their perfect partners. Indian marriages are not complete without families.
How has the global pandemic impacted your business?
There was concern and confusion in the first few days, but we have a sterling service team who continued to support customers through the early days of the Lockdown. But even on those days of uncertainty, we found that usage and registrations on the website increased, giving us the much-needed vote of confidence. Just as we had during previous crises like the Great Kerala floods in 2018, our priority was to support the customers in keeping safe, just as in keeping our team safe. Our technology team quickly introduced a secure space for families to connect, the m4marry virtual family meet platform. This is now a complimentary service to all premium members on the website. You can take your matrimonial search forward while remaining safe during these troubled times.
We have grown during the Covid times, and our team strength has doubled. When most companies were laying off people or slashing manpower, we have added quality manpower. This has helped to increase our traction in the segments that we operate in and helped us to reach out to customers who have required additional support. With a large diaspora of the NRI community, families were scattered across, and travel bans meant that they were not able to return home for taking proposals forward or to committing a timeframe for the wedding. There is also distress and deep concern over the immediate impact of the second wave. We appreciate and understand how this impacts our customers, and we share them. So we are deeply empathetic in our response to customer concerns.
Our customers also share the same concerns that the rest of the world do, over their health and those of their families, loss of jobs and income, the stress of the continuing pandemic. Any product which is integral to customers’ lives has to factor these realities into the equation, and it is only then that it can stay meaningful and relevant.
How has the business grown in Q1, 2021?
Registrations on m4marry have increased by 50% over the previous period. Revenue has also followed suit and jumped up by 50%. Profitability has been positively impacted even with our expansion in manpower. We have been extremely judicious in our investments and have leveraged the pandemic to recognize the value of each component to the business. The value assessment of each asset and investment has helped to keep the business healthy.
m4marry roped in South Indian actor Vijay Devarakonda as their brand ambassador last year.
On association with Vijay Devarakonda
Vijay and m4marry is a match made in heaven. Vijay is a family person, grounded in our culture, inspirational and ambitious. Strong beliefs about the sanctity of families are central to our conversations. He is passionate about what he believes in and someone all the youngsters adore. He was the best person to take the m4marry message forward.
What are the features that make m4marry special to users?
M4marry has our unique proprietary analytical engine called LENS, which powers our intelligent matchmaking algorithm. The system derives its intelligence from user behavior and is powered by AI tools.
But we also have our front-line team who drive product innovation with their constant input on how to improve our features for the customers. Their collective intelligence, combined with intuitive machine learning, helps to drive our business.
What are the factors that differentiate m4marry from other online matrimonial ventures?
Leading with Service. It is the DNA of m4marry. As part of India’s oldest and most trusted media groups, we have always put the customer first. This goes beyond supporting the customer through intelligent matchmaking, and it is the human face in our interactions and the empathy we display that differentiates us. This brand has been built by word of mouth, every success story leading to more success stories.
We also understand that Indian marriages are about families. It is about finding the perfect partner, and it is also about finding like-minded families. With every marriage, it is also a marriage of two families. We understand these deep sentiments, the deep ethos, and the traditions that govern our weddings. We are a human company before we are a technology company.
Which are m4marry’s core markets?
We are now a top matrimonial website in all the Southern markets- for Malayalees, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada communities. In the matrimonial business, we need to understand the cultural ethos and the subtle nuances that govern the matchmaking process. It helps to appreciate the role the website plays in assisting families in finding each other.
The online matrimonial industry is still nascent when we consider the total matrimonial market in India. We are new entrants in some markets, while we are deeply entrenched in our core markets. We see high double-digit growth in all our needs, and the transition to digital, which the current scenario has sped up, is all going to gain us faster traction.
Can you talk about the preferred Media mix opted by M4marry to reach the TG?
As we like to say, the best endorsements are those by the m4marry family itself. Our customers spread the word about the product and the service to their friends and family. This is a virtuous cycle. Our media mix has a good mix of Print, Television, and Digital. We use a judicious mix to ensure that both brand recall and acquisitions work. We work on a fairly demanding ROI model, so we continually juggle the mix to ensure that the objectives are met.
Can you elaborate on the Marketing Strategies and Ad Budgets of M4marry?
With the pandemic, we have taken a closer look at all our ad spends and have focused on channels that drive engagement. Our spending during 2020-21 was rationalized, but these have been restored to pre-pandemic levels now. This has resulted from a slow and continuous iteration to reach a level of optimum performance from each media channel. We have focused on the unique challenges faced by the customer in these challenging times. Our marketing strategies have been to provide a solution to these, whether these be the longer window of anticipated matchmaking or solutions to overcome the restrictions in travel.