"I know that somewhere in the Universe exists my perfect soulmate--but looking for her is much more difficult than just staying at home and ordering another pizza."-Alf Whit
Whether it's your favorite (or least favorite) day, hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's. And now it's time to discuss today, February 15. A day that does not get much attention but is quite interesting. After the blur of pink and red, there are massive discounts on heart-shaped candy and musical stuffed animals, couples wake up either in bliss or just plain disappointed (sadly, divorce lawyers are big fans of the day after V-day) and singles often vow that yes, this is the year they will find love. Easier said than done, right?
Heading online these days seems like the logical answer. A decade after online dating launched, in our socially networked world, meeting someone on the web has become the norm. According to Timemagazine, there are more than 800 dating websites to choose from making the industry now worth $4 billion worldwide. Match.com released results from a survey about trends in online dating. One in five singles have dated someone they met on a dating site. One in five singles are also currently in a committed relationship with someone they met on a dating site. And perhaps the most fascinating of them all: last year, 17 percent of couples (that's one in six) who married, met on a dating site.
Intrigued? The big dog in online dating in the U.S. is still by far Match.com, which is the largest site, but not particularly diverse. Enter Shaadi.com. One of the biggest matrimonial websites in the world that caters to South Asians but is more traditional in that it has taken the South Asian custom of matrimonials online. The new kid on the block: TwoMangoes.com. Launched in October 2010, the site is an online dating site for second generation South Asians in North America. Currently with over a few thousand users, it is filling the void for young professionals who are looking to date others with similar backgrounds. Founded by Anita and Paras Dharamshi and Rahul Bhardwaj, the site blends humor with an interface where Match.com meets Facebook. Pink Rickshaw recently had the opportunity to speak to co-founder Anita Dharamshi to learn all about TwoMangoes.com and gain some insight into the online dating scene.
PR: There are so many dating websites and sites catered to the South Asian audience. Is Two Mangoes targeting more the first time online dater or people who are already using other sites?
TM: Both. We aim to create a community where people are comfortable enough to try the world of online dating. At the same time, we know there are people out there that have tried other sites such as Match.com and Shaadi.com and for whatever reason haven't found what they're looking for. In the case of a site like Match, as they don't target South Asian's as their prime demographic, we are able to better understand our users and what they are looking for in a potential mate more so than those other sites. The common complaint amongst all the single people was that there wasn't any cool network for South Asians to meet other people that didn't scream marriage or matrimonial and catering to people in India.
PR: Who is a typical TwoMangoes user?
TM: A single, South Asian professional who is tired of matrimonial sites. They are looking for a fresh new approach to dating and meeting people, without so much emphasis on marriage.
PR: What exactly makes it so fresh or different from the other sites out there?
TM: We are more than just a database of people where you come and look through a catalog of sorts. We offer our members an opportunity to be part of an unique community environment through the types of questions we ask them when completing their profile. We also have regular newsletters we send out to our members, sharing with them what we're doing and where we're at.
Another thing that makes us unique is our blog and Mango World. Our blog offers various topics of interest to our members and non-members including South Asian culture and dating, online dating tips, and offline date ideas. We also have many guest bloggers who contribute content to our blog, covering various topics of interest to South Asians across the globe.
We also have something called the Mango Wire where people have a news feed on their profile page of what other users they've expressed an interest in are doing and vice versa.
PR: How did you decide the type of information that should be included in a profile? How is the information being exchanged different from other sites?
TM: We picked neutral cultural norms like occupation and foods that are common in our culture and things that people are interested in knowing about each other rather than things like caste and skin color which we don't feel are nearly as important for our target market.
The Mango/Coconut Slider is where people can either be "mangoes" which is very South Asian (i.e. I heart Bollywood) versus "coconuts" which is totally non-South Asian (i.e. What is a Bollywood?) or you might be somewhere in the middle as a balanced zen--a good balance of the two. This is something that people are interested in knowing about each other when looking for a potential date. Another cool feature is the ability to have family and friends write something about you (that dreaded question we all hate) to offer a different and unique perspective on an individual's personality and what makes her different and special.
PR: So if there is an attempt to utilize Facebook like features, why go to an online dating site? Aren't people meeting on Facebook?
TM: Facebook is like a good friend's party where you know all your friends versus a site like TwoMangoes which is the bar or club down the street where you may go with a group of friends, but there are a whole bunch of people you don't know. People are very open with their Facebook profiles in terms of pictures and status update, they'll share their entire life on Facebook. But they aren't necessarily going to do that on an online dating site. In that sense, you want to be more careful in who you reveal how much information to and in what fashion. So, we're not worried that tomorrow Facebook is going to take over the online dating space, because that's not what it was meant to do; it's not the right environment for it.
PR: What is the biggest mistake people make on their online profiles?
TM: They say things that are too neutral and common like "I'm easy going" and "laid back" or "down to earth". This doesn't really say much about you or what you're like, because everyone can say they are those things.
PR: With the popularity of online dating, the stigma that you met some on the web is somewhat gone. If that's not an obstacle in convincing people to try dating websites, why are some folks still reluctant to try the online experience?
TM: The single biggest obstacle tends to be fear of the unknown. Especially with all the news and media coverage talking about various online scams that exist, people can be a little nervous about who exactly is on the other side. However, if you really think about, whether you meet someone online or at a club, the possibility of a person not being what they seem can always exist. It's unfortunate, but people do lie. Whether in person or online.
PR: Studies show that introverts struggle with online dating and find it just as hard as dating off line. Any advice or features on TwoMangoes for those that are a little shy.
TM: With most people, the biggest concern tends to be not so much approaching someone but what to say. What do you write in that first message or email? You don't want to sound stupid or seem too aggressive or offend them in any way. So one thing we offer is you can send a ladoo to someone just as easy way to show interest or you can send a ladoo with a pre-determined message with something as aggressive as "What are you doing tomorrow night?" to something more mild like "I thought your profile looks interesting." This way we take a little bit of the pressure off.
PR: We can't get away without addressing the biggest matchmakers in any South Asian family...Mom and Dad. With the South Asian dating scene evolving, it seems that arranged marriages and parents making introductions is not as common and people are waiting longer to get married. What's the feel from the first generation on sites like TwoMangoes?
TM: Both of those factors contribute to the single fact that parents are becoming more open to dating and meeting people in other ways, outside of the arranged marriage route they have been used to. If you know anyone that's over 30 and single and South Asian, I can almost guarantee their parents are definitely on their case about getting married. When this extreme pressure is on, coupled with the independence of our generation (a well educated bunch of people), our parents are more focused on the end goal (marriage) than the journey we use to get there (dating, online dating, etc.). Therefore, they get to a point where they throw up their hands and say "I don't care how you meet someone, just meet someone!"
Two Mangoes is free to join and communicate with upgraded memberships available. Check out their blog for info, tips and talk about the online dating world.