By Sheela Narayanan
WELCOME to matrimony 2.0. What was once strictly a personal and word-of-mouth activity helmed by the family's elders, arranged marriages in the Indian community have evolved in the 21st century.
Forget visiting the homes of a potential bride or groom and sizing them up over the rim of a coffee or tea cup from the corner of your eye.
Globalisation, migration and technology have pushed matchmaking on to the World Wide Web, changing the way the Indian diaspora finds a suitable boy or girl.
Over the past decade, the Internet has played a big role in the way Indians get to meet their life partners. Cupid now hides behind a mouse, waiting to launch his arrows.
When Ms Nisha Arul (not her real name) thought it was time to settle down, she drew up her wishlist. She wanted her partner to be someone from her own community; someone who shared her passions or, at the very least, appreciated them. She told tabla! she hardly met anyone in Singapore that she could "click with".
Said the 29-year-old master's student: "Having a social life in Singapore is difficult and it was tough for me to meet potential partners that I liked."
So she turned to the Internet. She logged on to Shaadi.com, put up a profile and described the kind of man she was looking for with a few clicks of the mouse. Within hours, she had a few interested callers "knocking" on her profile.
"While nothing came out of Shaadi.com, I made a few friends online. The people I met were all serious about having a relationship and eventually getting married. One girl I know, a Singaporean, met her husband on this site and moved to Dubai where he was working," she said.
Ms Arul eventually met her husband, who was based in the US, via another matrimonial website.
Since the late 1990s, sites such as Shaadi.com, Bharat Matrimony.com and Jeevansathi.com have had over 10 million people signing up, with more than five million logging on at any one time.
Shaadi.com recently claimed on its site that it is responsible for a million marriages around the world while Bharat Matrimony has set up drop-in centres around India as well as offices in the US, UK and the Middle- East where people can register in person and hand in their profiles.
The success of these sites lies with the level of customisation they offer their members. Members can specify their requirements like the potential partner's state of origin, language, nationality, profession; religion, caste, the type of family values, dietary preference, blood type and even that old matchmaking option, complexion - fair, wheatish or tanned.
The sites also allow parents to post profiles of their children online.