In an attempt to claim a sliver of India’s formidable $25 billion wedding industry, four Harvard Business School graduates are giving the matchmaking mechanism a millennial facelift.
It comes in the form of easyBiodata, a new website that digitizes an age-old document that’s integral to the Indian process of arranging marriages. The "biodata," as it's known, is a profile teeming with personal details that families screen before meeting with prospective partners for their children. Biodatas include information about the potential match -- like height, skin tone, academic achievements, and career, but also about his or her family -- such as a breakdown of jobs held by the extended family members.
“We call the [biodata] a résumé for marriage, essentially,” explained Allyson Pritchett, 29, one of the site’s co-founders. “It’s the first impression people get to make on the person they are hopefully going to be with forever.”
Pritchett and her co-founders created a simple way to produce a free, formatted biodata online in just a few minutes, then render it shareable with an auspicious click.
An online tutorial takes users through the process, step by step, reminding them to "be sure to include some great pictures!"
Pritchett revealed the initial idea was triggered by classroom conversations with her seat-mate, Pratik Agarwal, an electrical engineer from India, who regaled her with anecdotes about his own spouse search, complete with a dowdy biodata, courtesy of his father.
"They can create their own profiles but they’ll still choose to put their parents’ contact info on the form to keep them involved...Our service is something that’s in between the traditional and the new.”
“I didn’t really understand why anyone would want to do something like that, but as Pratik explained that in India, a person’s community is brought in to help to search for the right person, it became something really different to me,” admitted Pritchett.
Ultimately, it was a HBS course, requiring students to build a business from scratch, that catalyzed easyBiodata. Pritchett and Agarwal joined forces with a clutch of other students—including Peter Luptak, a former McKinsey consultant from Slovakia and Yu Kakitsubo, a Japanese finance professional—to create a full-fledged idea and website, then scored fourth place in a course-wide competition (out of 150 teams) for their quirky service: a free, user-friendly platform, dedicated to creating professional-quality biodata profiles for prospective brides and grooms.
“A lot of people aren’t very happy that their parents are representing them,” said Kakitsubo, 28, highlighting the fact that biodata construction, traditionally speaking, falls under the domain of well-intentioned but oblivious parents.
Kakitsubo admits that when the site first launched last year, his teammates were certain they would be catering to an older demographic, even adding a magnifying glass feature—a component they’ve since removed.
“For me, marriage should be about something that’s more than just the individuals.”
“As we got into it, we realized that it’s young people that are using it. With easyBiodata, they can create their own profiles but they’ll still choose to put their parents’ contact info on the form to keep them involved,” Kakitsubo added. “Our service is something that’s in between the traditional and the new.”
In addition to attracting India-based clients, who make up approximately 80 percent of easyBiodata’s current users, Kakitsubo emphasized that the service is also appealing to a steadily growing mass of nonresident Indians, or NRIs, from countries like America, Singapore and the United Kingdom. “A lot of people outside India don’t necessarily have the community to find their partner,” said Kakitsubo, hinting at the starring role an expansive social network plays in the biodata circulation process.
easyBiodata expects to unfurl a series of additions later this summer, including a “broker” feature that will let the site take on a more active role in matching candidates, in addition to a validation service that will vet the family backgrounds of those creating biodatas.
“[easyBiodata] has changed the way I look at my own dating process,” shared Pritchett. “If I’m seeing someone, after a few months, I say I need to introduce them to my family and get a sense of what people think of him and vice-versa,” she continued. “For me, marriage should be about something that’s more than just the individuals.”