A quintessential Bollywood romance, a lavish wedding, and a happily ever after – cringe as much as you want, but these are the staples our teenage years were made of. In India where weddings are considered a recession-proof industry, marriage and the idea of “settling down” are reiterated as the norm.
“If I may be honest, I knew I had to get married by the time I am 21 or 22,” says Shalini Singh, Founder of online matchmaking platform andwemet.com. Her words might resonate with many urban Indian women, who are juggling between the demands of career and the pressures to ‘settle down.’ Even before one can figure out what it means to be in a relationship – let alone marriage – they are subjected to the meet-ups with prospective grooms once they hit the so-called ‘marriageable age.’
Shalini too had a pretty similar story.
“I never thought of even having children,” she shares, “I just knew I had to get married, but I really didn't understand the meaning of a relationship. I didn't understand that it requires maturity to be in a relationship.”
Although Shalini’s family wasn’t really pushy, societal rules still made an impact on her. In her early 20s, she would sit through arranged set-ups, meeting prospective grooms and their families. She recalls how some of these ended with archaic remarks on her complexion.
Today, Shalini, in her 40s, is happily committed and at the helm of a matchmaking startup, which was launched in April 2019. Prior to andwemet, Shalini had founded communications venture Galvanise PR.
Finding love at 40 and starting up
Shalini’s entrepreneurial journey is, quite interestingly, intertwined with her personal life. Happily single, the marketer-turned-entrepreneur was in the prime of her life, running her own show at her communications firm before she started Andwemet.
Shalini was 40 years old when she met her life partner. Being in a steady relationship got her wondering about the dynamics of relationships for people looking for love, especially in times of online matchmaking and dating apps. And the more discussions she had with her single friends – women looking for romance – the more it became clear that most people were wary of looking for love online.
Fueled by this unexpected realisation and armed with enough research on what’s keeping people from dating apps, Shalini decided to take the plunge into the world of digital dating and launched andwemet.com. The platform, which she claims is a “responsible matchmaking platform,” is markedly different from most other sites/app. It’s designed to probe into the most difficult topics and questions, leading to real conversations between two people.
Disrupting India’s $318 million matchmaking market
Andwemet is targeted at urban Indians, aged 25 and above. It is aimed at helping singles seek a committed relationship by consciously investing time and effort in finding a partner at their own behest. The platform, unlike most dating apps, is quite elaborate and inclusive, making the searching process targeted and tackling relationships with a certain amount of maturity.
One example of this targeted search is the “relationship deal-breaker” questions. As part of this, very early one in the process, individuals get to discuss and deliberate on topics that could make or break the relationship. These questions surround a wide range of topics, from health issues to the need to support parents, and concerns around relocation.
Shalini feels, by discussing these issues early in the conversation phase, prospective couples can filter out differences and zero in on people they really want to spend their life with. Besides this, the platform is also quite open when it comes to the definition of relationship. According to Shalini, the site is for people looking for companionship – with or without a marriage.
“I think it's important that we try and understand that marriage should not be the only acceptable form of a committed relationship,” she says, explaining how andwemet is plugging the gaps in the current online dating space.
A platform unique in so many ways, andwemet will surely disrupt the online matchmaking market by posing some of the difficult questions around relationship and commitment.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)