Mahesh Sinha thought it was some April fool’s day prank. “I was asked to verify my profile by providing my Aadhaar number,” recalls 28-year-old chartered accountant from New Delhi when he tried to upload his matrimonial profile on Shaadi.com last month. “Who asks for a 12-digit unique identification number to find a bride?” says Sinha.
Though Sinha might find the idea of linking Aadhaar to matrimonial profiles ‘absolutely bizarre,’ it is a serious matter for millions of women who grapple with the menace of fake profiles on various matrimonial sites in India.
“We have been constantly innovating to deliver newer forms of verification,” says Gourav Rakshit, Chief Executive Officer at Shaadi.com. Last month, the matrimonial site added Aadhaar to its existing profile verification programme. “Given that there are millions of matches every day, the odd incident of misuse does undermine the experience we deliver,” reckons Rakshit, adding that eliminating all possibilities of misuse is the currently the company’s primary focus. Shaadi.com, he claims, has around 1.5 million active users a month, and gets over 15,000 sign-ups every day. “Viewing a verified profile instils confidence among users,” he avers.
What made Shaadi.com add Aadhaar to its profile verification? It was the result of a recent survey: a staggering 91 percent women gave high importance to verified profiles.
The online survey revealed that having verified profiles is not just an elimination factor, but also a crucial determinant in starting conversations. While 82 percent women said verified profiles would increase the likelihood of reaching out to potential matches, multiple photographs and family information were selected as an option by 13 percent and 5 percent, respectively. “Aadhaar verification is an addition to our already existing ID verification programme, which consists of government recognised identity proofs such as passport and PAN card,” contends Rakshit.
Aadhaar-verified profiles, reckon branding experts, is not only a smart marketing tool but also a potential way to reassure millions of single women about the credibility of the matches on matrimonial sites.
“It seems there is a little bit of Aadhaar in everything these days,” says brand strategist Harish Bijoor, alluding to the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts, mobile numbers and passports. “The Aadhaar-verified tag on a matrimonial site is an innovation,” he says, lamenting about the fact that some of the matrimonial sites were not only finding it hard to weed out wolves, but were also fast turning out to be hookup websites.
“Although Shaadi.com has come up with this new verification method, others are likely to follow as well,” he says, adding that authentication is a very important issue, especially when it comes to websites. “Expect authentication and verification to become the norm, as online businesses want to rediscover the business it wants to really run,” reckons Bijoor.