In 1996, matrimonial website Shaadi.com paved the way for online e-commerce classifieds in India. Since then, more than a 100 websites followed suit to help set up the $63 million online matrimonial services market in India. India is surely evolving when it comes to marriages. More and more people in the right age to get married are exploring various concepts of dating like that of Tinder, where one’s suitability is decided on the later’s direction of swipe on the phone screen.
By 2017, India’s matrimonial business is expected to acquire a size of the mega sector with a target of Rs 1,000 crore in India. The sector, right now, has a Rs 520-crore market, which will soon see a huge expansion in the coming days, according to ASSOCHAM survey conducted in 2014. In a booming market of marriages if there has been one segment ignored then it is that of people with disabilities. According to UN, 80 million people with disabilities live in India with no dedicated service that caters to their needs.
22 year old Kalyani Khona, however, decided to play the cupid. Founded in July 2014, Wanted Umbrella works towards redefining the lives of people with disabilities by providing a way to interact with people of similar interests. The startup focuses on creating a social space by organizing events designed to spark conversations.
“I understood that language, caste, or religion is not a barrier for the differently-abled. All they need is companionship,” says Kalyani pointing how that her agency’s basic filters are education, profession and disability type.
The idea germinated when Kalyani was looking for offices in Mumbai and was told to avoid getting anyone with physical disability as it wasn’t permissible.
“I wanted to find out what people with disability do in their spare time, how do they meet other, how do they find life partners and I realized how our country’s infrastructure gives them very less opportunities to do so”, she points.
Kalyani went around several matrimonial website’s offices and was told that they didn’t want to focus on her suggestion as their existing market was huge. “I was determined to solve this problem”, she says.
How does the process of matrimonial arrangements work?
“Matrimonial alliances is a very experience based service. Every client has a different need. We introduce people to one another through different activities ranging from ‘table for six’ to one-on-one meetings. Other than this, we host monthly meet-ups & quarterly events for all our members so that they can come under the same platform and interact with one another.
Talking of the criticism faced, Kalyani shares,”Marriage is a very crucial and sensitive event for Indians. People do question the matchmaking ability of a 22 year old who is herself far away from the institution of matrimony. But since their is no similar service, they have no option but to give me a chance”
What is the most crucial lesson she’s learnt in the matchmaking industry?
“Patience”, she says. “When it comes to matchmaking for differently-abled, getting them comfortable to one another takes time. Like someone dealing with Autism will take their own time to reach a level where they get to talking, let alone get married.”
Taking her idea forward, Kalyani along with the founding member Ishita Anil, is working on creating social spaces for people with physical disability along with developing an accessible matchmaking app which focuses on connecting people with disability – Loveability.
“We are soon launching a crowdfunding campaign to support the development our app and get validation for my idea”, she says optimistically looking for support from public for her initiative.