Traditional matchmaking in Asia is losing its appeal due to online dating.
If that name sounds familiar to you, then you are probably one of the many who have binge-watched Netflix’s popular lockdown reality show Indian Matchmaking. Sima Taparia, also known as Sima Mami (Aunty), has gained international recognition for her role as a traditional matchmaker. Love her or hate her, Sima has cast a spotlight on the concept of marriage and love not only in India, but the rest of Asia too.
Traditionally, it was very common for marriages in Asia to be arranged. However, technology has been a game-changer for the matchmaking industry. From social media platforms and chatting applications such as Friendster and MySpace in the 90s, to internet relay chat platforms, to current sophisticated mobile dating applications such as Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, and others, technology has evolved the way people are seeking love.
Globally, the revenue generated from online dating is expected to reach US$2.7 billion this year, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 11.6 percent, reaching US$4.23 billion in 2024. While the United States has generated the highest revenue, three other Asian countries – China, India, and Indonesia – have made it into the top five online dating revenue-generating countries, indicating that Asia is a lucrative market for this industry.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have spent significantly on online dating applications such as Tinder. According to a report by Nikkei Asia, Singaporeans spent US$7.1 million last year – the highest in Southeast Asia – while Indonesians and Malaysians each spent US$5.8 million respectively, indicating a 260 percent and 220 percent growth from 2017.
These figures are telling about how online dating has overtaken traditional matchmaking in these countries, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, which are predominantly Muslim and where relationships outside of marriage are seen as taboo. This exponential development in online dating in Asia can be largely attributed to the widespread availability of smart devices and access to the internet, even in more rural areas.
Traditional matchmakers, who make matches based on personal recommendations and social compatibility, have seen a decrease in their business over the years, especially as many of their potential clients have chosen to find love online. As a result, many matchmakers have chosen to embrace technology to advance their matchmaking activities, with modern matchmakers even incorporating algorithms to determine the ideal couple, giving rise to the concept of online matchmakers.
For example, this year, Japan, which has seen a decline in marriages over the past few decades, saw a rise in the number of people turning to online matchmakers, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns. With a projected market size of ¥62 billion this year, which is almost 2.5 times more than in 2017, Japanese online matchmakers have taken the pandemic in their stride by arranging virtual dates for prospective couples, and have seen success in using these platforms to make a match.
Popular matchmaking agency LMO indicated that in January, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, its online events only drew about “10 to 20 people”, whereas by April 400 people had joined in their virtual matchmaking parties that were organised on Zoom. Despite in-person meet-ups now being allowed in the country, LMO has indicated that online dates remain viable, even post-pandemic, as they are more convenient for those seeking a relationship.
It is safe to say that online dating and matchmaking will be around for many years to come, as technology rapidly advances and brings new innovations and opportunities to this lucrative industry. As a result, traditional matchmaking services, such as Sima Taparia’s, may very soon see a further decline, as singles across Asia remodel how marriages happen.