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Matchmakers to millionaires

| ARUN VENKATRAMAN
Published : Nov 21, 2015, 9:44 pm IST
Updated : Nov 21, 2015, 9:44 pm IST

A couple of years ago, Saurabh Goswami, the founder of matchmaking firm Ultra Rich Match, found himself in a bit of a quandary.

Image for  representational  purposes only,  via Marriot India
 Image for representational purposes only, via Marriot India

A couple of years ago, Saurabh Goswami, the founder of matchmaking firm Ultra Rich Match, found himself in a bit of a quandary. He had come across what he considered a perfect match for one of his clients, but they were hesitant about taking the relationship forward because the other family were vegetarians. Saurabh felt in his gut that he should push the prospective bride and groom to meet at least once: “They were from similar backgrounds, her family business had an annual turnover of Rs 450 crore, his family business had a turnover of Rs 500 crore; he worked in the UK, she was Cambridge-educated,” he says. The prospective bride and groom, at Saurabh’s gentle insistence, did meet, clicked — and tied the knot soon after.

The story seems to follow the script of many an arranged marriage in India — except for the financial backgrounds of the bride and groom. But this is what Ultra Rich Match, and a few other services of a similar nature in India, specialise in.

Where the ordinary matchmaker may satisfy himself (or herself) with looking into kundlis and family backgrounds, Ultra Rich Match and other services like Vows For Eternity, the Sycoriaan Marriage Bureau and Elite Matrimony — who fix up matches for the fabulously wealthy (annual income `10 crore+) — have to delve into the income tax returns, bank accounts and property papers of their clients’ prospective matches as well.

Also on offer is “personalised hand-holding” throughout the process of arranging a match. “Matchmaking for millionaires and billionaires is a whole other ballgame,” says Saurabh Goswami, who set up Ultra Rich Match in 2011 after noticing that there was a dearth of matchmaking services for the super rich. He counts owners of Fortune 500 companies and the family behind a noted gutka brand among his clients. “Eeryone — whatever be their social status — is looking for a partner who has a similar lifestyle. In conventional matchmaking, this is easier, but in the case of the ultra rich, there are a lot of differences — the foremost being the huge emphasis on confidentiality.”

The need for confidentiality can be so high that some of these firms don’t even maintain copies of their clients’ bio-datas. Says Manhattan-based Vows for Eternity’s Anuradha Vinod Gupta, “Most of the clients that we handle are connected with such important brands that there is really no need for a ‘bio-data’.” She adds that most clients are not looking to be inundated with prospective matches either. “Our clients don’t want to look at 5-10 profiles every month. They’re happy if there is just one profile that is a close match. Our focus is on quality, not quantity.”

Anuradha points out that with the super rich, there is a different base line for what’s “normal”. In such a scenario, it becomes even more important to find someone who comes from a similar status or background. And the saying about marriage being about “the coming together of two families” takes on serious (read: financial) undertones in the case of the ultra rich. “Unlike other people, the ultra rich or prominent families are a ‘brand’ in themselves, and so naturally, they are quite brand conscious,” says Swarup Das, senior manager of Sycoriaan Marriage Bureau, one of the oldest firms in the elite matchmaking business. “In their case, the marriage also involves joining one brand to another brand.” It isn’t just at the brand level, a marriage can also mean a merger (in the future or otherwise) of two successful family businesses.

“The ‘industry’ the prospective match’s family belongs to, is a criterion we look at. Say the groom’s family has a jewellery business; there is a feeling that someone who was raised in a similar background will be better able to help. Sometimes, the families may be looking at merging their businesses through marriage,” explains Saurabh Goswami. “Also, the rich are extremely choosy because they’ve been brought up not to accept compromises. You can see that in how picky they are about whether to buy a BMW or Audi. With marriage, that pickiness becomes exponentially more!”

Sanjay Kirtania of Subh Lagan, which has brought together some powerful matches in the Marwari community (testimonials for their services are provided by people like Ramesh Poddar of the Siyaram group), says that a popular misconception about matchmaking for the uber rich is that “they only care about money”. “The truth is that it is not directly about money,” says Kirtania. “These families — because they have been rich for so many generations — are used to a particular culture that comes with money. Our focus is on matching the styles of living, culture and traditions between prospective matches,” says Kirtania.

If their clients are choosy, so also are these firms about just who they extend their services to. Subh Lagan counts among its clients the Marwari community’s upper middle class “all the way up to the level of Birlas and Ambanis”. Sanjay Kirtania has had among his clients “Anil Agarwal (Vedanta), the Bangurs and even a section of the Birla family”.

Vows For Eternity has very strict eligibility criteria and only arranges matches for “affluent global Indians/NRIs in the age range of 24-45”. Industrialists and celebrities from India, the US and UK, Singapore and Dubai form the major clientele. Ultra Rich Match, on the other hand, has a “Royal Package” available to only those clients whose annual incomes are in the Rs 100 crore+ range.

And arranging matches for the rich doesn’t come cheap. Sycoriaan has a basic fee that begins from Rs 30,000. However, fees can go as high as Rs 3 lakh, says Swarup Das, adding, “But this is still a basic sum as a number of our clients have special preferences and priorities and we customise our services for them, which costs a lot more than Rs 3 lakh.” At Ultra Rich Match, subscription fees are made available at three levels; the highest is upwards of Rs 1 lakh for the Rs 100 crore income group. “We charge another Rs 1 lakh after a successful marriage. Subscriptions are not time bound, they continue until the marriage is fixed,” says Saurabh Goswami.

With so much money on the anvil, these firms can’t be too careful about ensuring that prospective matches are genuine. At Ultra Rich Match, for instance, “soft searches” and phone calls are the first step, followed by primary research. Next up is a personal visit and collecting documentation. “Then we get references from peers, the social circle etc. It is only after this that we consider verification by a chartered accountant etc,” says Saurabh Goswami. Swarup Das says that a majority of Sycoriaan’s clients are taken on through personal referrals, which ensures authenticity.

But for all the money involved, most of these elite matchmakers also assert that the bottom line for them is all about fixing a happy marriage.

EliteMatrimony.com’s Murugavel Janakiraman tells us that the matchmaking service takes pride in serving as a “gateway to happy marriages”. And that satisfaction is especially important since the industry is still unorganised. “Historically, this segment has been difficult to monetise in a sustainable manner at scale and it is a fragmented and unorganised industry,” says Murugavel.

That may change as Gen Next among the super rich turns to these elite matchmaking services to find the perfect partner. The scion of a prominent family in the power generation business, Sriram (name changed on request) approached Ultra Rich Match to find a partner. Sriram says, “There are a lot of constraints in our social segment, and the chief among them is time. It (my search for the perfect partner) wasn’t working out somehow It was imperative that my wife be ready to move to Chennai with me, have not only a similar background, but also a similar worldview.” Through URM, Sriram connected with his (now) wife, and he says their bond is very strong. “There is a lot of scope for elite matchmaking services, now more than ever,” he adds. “Our generation has it tougher (finding an arranged match), in a sense, than previous generations. A helping hand in the process is definitely welcome.”