A Reboot for shaadi.com?

shaadi_logoEver since I sold shaadi.com back in early 2000, I’ve been tracking and watching the social networking space grow beyond belief. shaadi.com was started and still is a quasi social networking site focused on one thing – getting hitched.  Lately, the press has focused on Facebook and to a lesser extent MySpace. To compare shaadi.com to Facebook would be unfair but I do believe shaadi.com has lost a bit of it’s steam as of late and could learn a thing or two from Facebook and other sites like it.

My analysis will start from a macro view of the business then talk about distribution, the “cool” factor and innovation. This post is strictly about their online business model and hence I won’t get into their Shaadi Point (aka Shaadi.com Centre) offline franchise business.

The first area is the business model, shaadi.com currently has a “walled garden” approach to member profiles. That means you need to be a paying member in order to fully utilize the website, no pay no access. Another side effect of this approach is that search engines like Google are blocked from the content. I agree that some people might not want to be searchable via Google, but that should be a choice left to the consumer.

Next up is traffic distribution deals.  If you decide to flood the internet with matrimonial profiles that means you have to look at other ways of generating revenues instead of the monthly membership fees. One way of generating revenue is via traffic distribution deals such as MySpace has with Google. There are a couple more I can think of that I’ll save for another post.

The “cool” factor. Let’s be realistic no one wants to admit they are on shaadi.com, in fact some of my cousins in the US call it shady dot com.  However, many of my single friends on social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster and Orkut are looking for friendship either short term or long term. Shaadi.com has the brand name to make it “cool” once again. An example would be an offline event in Spain for Sindhi’s or Marwari’s and invite speakers from those communities and make it a business/personal mixer. Another option would be to leverage the film production unit People Pictures as well.

The last area I’ll cover is innovation. I have yet to see any tech related innovation coming from the People Group, the guys that run shaadi.com.  Look at Facebook, it announced last week it’s the largest photo sharing site with over 6.5 billion pictures. Did they buy a bunch of servers and throw more bandwidth at it? They probably did some of that but the heart of the photo sharing system is a home grown technology called haystack (more info on haystack). Innovation usually occurs when there is a business need to accomplish a task without throwing more money at it. But, another division within the People Group is Mauj Mobile which is responsible for mobile content to many of the top mobile carriers around the world, I can think of several ways to build synergy and innovation between the two divisions.

Overall, as more users jump onto sites such as Facebook it becomes more difficult to get the mind share of the target audience that shaadi.com so desperately needs. If not, then it will be relegated to parents using the site to find someone for their kids – not the ideal way in this age of social peer to peer communication.

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