DUBAI: The growing popularity of online matrimonial services across cultures attests to the changing trends in seeking marriage alliances.
Cut off from native moorings and support systems, many single expatriates find it a challenge to meet a life partner in the common, and constant, flux of modern living.
Add to this predicament the many considerations when choosing Mr or Miss Right: culture, community, traditions and language.
The advantage of online matrimonial websites lies in addressing these issues with great efficiency — and, if required — absolute discretion, giving them an universal appeal.
Gulf News speaks to a few online matrimonial services operating in the UAE to map the trends and expecations of their client base.
Angelika Lancsak, Austrian
Provider of elite matchmaking services:
Her first client was from the Middle East whom she helped get married. She had met her in Vienna.
I do the pre-selection [of candidates] myself; I have no assistants. So everything is handled in a discreet way.
In 2001, she came to Dubai for the first time, and checked on the matchmaking services market here but it was a quiet domain.
From Silicon Valley to the UAE
She went to the US, stayed in Silicon Valley for three years and returned to the UAE in 2007 and started to help single men and women here find suitable marriage partners.
It was around the same time that the matchmaking services market began to get busy.
Lancsak, whose clientele comprises “successful, global-minded singles" who are seeking a match that complements their wishes and dreams, is currently working with 80 per cent Muslim clients, through her website and social media handles.
“I do the pre-selection [of candidates] myself; I have no assistants,” said Lancsak. “So everything is handled in a discreet way.”
Lancsak said she receives enquiries for alliances on a daily basis. “I sort through the requests and accept those individuals who I know I can help. My success rate is 40 per cent, which means the match ends in marriage or committed long-term relationships.”
For most expats, said Lancsak, upbringing, education and religion are the topmost considerations. Once these requirements are met, “we talk.”
Many hopefuls are open to a match from other communities while others are unwilling to expand their circle of search, she said.
“Arab singles want to meet somebody from the Gulf, Indians prefer Indians (may it be in the Gulf or in the UK), Pakistanis prefer someone with roots to Pakistan, mostly. Family and tradition are a huge part of every human being’s [identity].”
The submissions to her website are both parent-led and candidate-led.
Regarding the shift in prospective groom/bride seeking their own alliances, Lancsak said: “The young generation is in a transition.” A majority of singles are using apps and dating websites to check on the market. “I hope they do it carefully,” said Lancsak.
According to Lancask, it is harder for expats to find a suitable life partner as compared to developing a career. “It depends on the demands. The older you are, the more difficult it gets. Nowadays, it is crucial for young women to have a good education and this consumes a good amount of time. Soon, they are achievers, and in their thirties…[single] ... and panic might kick in….”
She charges a fee of €3,500 for a two-year contract. But she also does VIP contracts for higher fees. “Rule number one is Trust, Respect.”
m4marry by the Malayala Manorama Group prides itself as the biggest matrimonial service for Keralites.
The website www.m4marry.com that caters to Malayalis across the world made its debut in the UAE market 10 years ago.
With more than one million Indian expats here hailing from the southern Indian state, the UAE is m4marry’s second biggest market after India, said Joy Mathew, Vice-President, Marketing, Services and Solutions, Malayala Manorama.
“We have a great presence and traction in the UAE market. We do not have an office in the UAE. But as we are a digital product, we have been available online for the UAE customers. We also offer a 24/7 customer support system.”
Due to the sheer volume of the Malayali population here and the tradition of the Malayali community to largely depend on matrimonial services for arranged marriages, the site has been very successful in matching partners even within the UAE.
Some UAE alliance seekers prefer to find partners from similar backgrounds from the UAE itself or from other parts of the world.
“The expat community is largely of the same beliefs [as their counterparts back home],” sais Mathew. “But some expectations [about the prospective match] can differ in terms of the upbringing and career expectations of the prospective candidates. Some UAE alliance seekers prefer to find partners from similar backgrounds from the UAE itself or from other parts of the world,” said Mathew.
A majority of the expatriates still prefer alliances from their own community though some parents are willing to use the platform to widen their search, he said.
Only around 30 per cent of candidates post their own profiles. Families are involved in the process in most cases.
“It is a joint process, with final decisions resting with the would-be groom or bride,” said Matthew.
The biggest challenge for singles seeking life partners [in the UAE] is the dearth of connections back home, Mathew said. “They are detached from the majority of the community and need a bridge to reach out.”
Shaadi.com matrimonial sites
The most popular Indian matrimonial website, Shaadi.com was established in 1999.
It offers free access to a large database of potential marriage candidates of either gender and says it has facilitated more than 5 million marriages. Dennis Joseph, former VIP consultant on the website, told Gulf News, “The portal is designed in a way that it offers similar reach to all.”
The website offers the VIP shaadi (marriage), their premium service for alliances which prefer discretion and which are managed by a relationship manager on behalf of the client.
The service has different charges and packages ranging from platinum to gold and silver, says Joseph.
The rates of the portal differ from country to country. In India, there are packages of Rs3,000 (Dh159) a month, or Rs6,000 per six months or more.
“When one of our candidates expresses a desire to delete an account, we usually ask them the reason and are informed that they have ‘met their match’,” says Joseph.