As you enter the Matrimony.com office in Chennai, one thing is certain, you will be greeted by the smiling employees of the company. A great testimony to their leader, a trailblazer himself, Murugavel Janakiraman. Team Culturama met with him at his bustling workplace for a thought-provoking tête-à-tête
Ambition, passion and a thirst for learning’ are what Murugavel Janakiraman believes to be the key qualities that make for a worthy leader. The CEO and founder of Matrimony.com is one of the top entrepreneurs in India, who is famously known for his humility and unassuming approach. Hailing from a humble background in Royapuram, Chennai, Murugavel fought against all odds to become the success story he is today. Here he shares his experiences from his incredible journey.
How did the idea of Bharatmatrimony.com materialise?
It was not a planned start, it just happened organically. I come from a modest background, so when an opportunity presented itself to go to the United States and make money as a programmer, I took it up. It was the 1990s, and several dotcom companies like Yahoo were coming up. I started working on an online venture that provided various services to the Tamil community such as daily calendar, upcoming festivals, travel, real estate, and so on. One of the sections I added was matrimony. I noticed a surge in the number of visits for this section, followed by some success stories. That planted the seed to start an exclusive matrimony service. It took around two-and-a-half years of experiment for me to identify the opportunity in the matrimony section. Today, under Matrimony.com, there are 300-plus portals. We have expanded it by languages, religion, caste, profession and much more. All our competitors have only a single brand, but we adopted a multi-brand strategy as we progressed.
You met your better half on Bharatmatrimony. Can you share with us your story?
I think one of the moments when I realised that the venture had become a success was when I met my wife (Deepa) on the website. I was looking for a life partner when I was in the United States. It was my to-be father-in-law who posted the ad on the website on my wife’s behalf. When I got in touch with him and said that I liked her picture and would like to speak to the girl, he asked me to first send across my horoscope. Although I did not believe in horoscopes, I was glad when they matched. We then met in Chennai and within a few weeks got married.
What were the challenges you faced when you started on your entrepreneurship journey?
The initial challenge was proving the business model itself, followed by attracting talent to the company. The topic of ‘matrimony’ was not exciting enough for many of the candidates. It was not considered cool then. Today, we have 4,000-plus employees. Post the Y2K boom, there was a lull and many companies went bust. But we learnt along the way and bettered ourselves. We wanted to be known as the most credible and trusted matrimonial site and took steps to ensure that.
What according to you are the most important traits of top management?
One is about ambition. People at the top should be the driving force. They must have aspiring goals to inspire those around them. Inspire the entire organisation to move towards that single goal. The enthusiasm and ability to give leadership to the team, this can only happen with continuous learning.
What do you think is the secret to a happy marriage?
That 80 per cent of things in life are insignificant. Let your spouse take those decisions. The rest 20 per cent, you take the decision. This way, the spouse will be supportive of your ventures and feel more involved. Secondly, spend time listening to your spouse. Just being present and showing patience by hearing out for 15 to 20 minutes are all that matters. To show love and respect, and appreciate a different point of view is important. In fact, I can give a small tip; go on walks with your spouse every day for half an hour. And listen attentively, which is good for your health and will ensure that you lead a happy married life.
How many matrimonies have your website facilitated so far?
We are going to complete 20 years and we get about five million visitors on our various websites on a yearly basis. At least two to three million people have got married through our website. I am certain that in India if 10 people meet, at least one would have some connection to bharatmatrimony. And, most importantly, people remember and thank the website for the services, which won’t happen in any other field. There is a lifelong association and gratification with this.
What is the role of family in your success?
My parents are not educated and are relatively clueless of what I do. My commitment to my family was that I send them the monthly household expenses and they did not care what I did. If they were educated, maybe they would have discouraged me from taking this risk. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. My wife is on matrimony.com’s board as well and helps with customer service.
What advice would you give to the youngsters who want to start new ventures?
Dreaming big is important. There needs to be an understanding of the problem that requires attention; this then leads to the opportunity to figure out the process and finally getting your team and you equipped to address the same.
Who do you draw inspiration from?
From many people, but one of the main inspirations for me has been Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. I admire and look up to him greatly in all aspects. How he lived his life, how he inspired millions of people and what he achieved. Not just in the field of science but also his contribution to the nation itself is remarkable and awe-inspiring.
What is the importance of wellness, physical and mental?
It is really important if you want to achieve success. You need an able mind and a capable body. Exercise, yoga and meditation are part of my life.
Youngsters these days are constantly on technology. What should they do to have a healthy mind?
I believe there is a time for everything. Yes, today the mobile is unavoidable. But we can limit the time we expose ourselves to it. We can discipline our life by channeling our 24 hours aptly and making the right choices for our body and mind.
The enthusiasm and the ability to give leadership to the team, this can only happen with continuous learning.
What do you think of New Year resolutions, and do you have any for 2020?
I do not have a New Year resolution, but having said that, I do take short-term goals to keep myself motivated. Recently I had taken a goal to take up spiritual practices at home. Whenever I am in Chennai, I ensure I do not miss out on the spiritual practices.
Is this the first time you have a brand ambassador for Bharatmatrimony.com?
Yes. We have been looking for someone who will fit our brand and message. For us, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the only and the best option to be our brand ambassador. He is such an iconic figure, he is inspiring to millions of youth in all aspects. He has a great encouraging effect pan-India.
What does the future hold for matrimony.com?
The future is definitely exciting. There is so much opportunity online, where people come to find a life partner. Unlike other businesses, marriage is going to be part of our lives for eternity. This business doesn’t have a shelf life. We have also forayed into other wedding services such as matrimony bazaar, photography, and so on. These have the potential to be large businesses. Matrimony mandap will be launched in early January, wherein we will let people list their choice of location, date and budget and we provide them with best venues. We are not going to be wedding planners, just going to facilitate services.
Muruga, as he is known to friends, leaves the room with his boyish smile, a reminder as a living example of the famous Gandhian lines ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.