This professional matchmaker has helped lonely Indians have 15,000 dates across 21 countries
The high-end service has a better batting average than Sachin Tendulkar
In ’90s movies, the professional matchmaker was always played by a bespectacled uncle tagging along with a jyotish or a rishta auntie clasping a folder of ‘bio data’ like she’s protecting state secrets. Height, weight, complexion, education, favourite Khan in Bollywood… you had to perfectly align with the star signs (and then, may be, each other).
Then came online dating, where your Majnu waited just a few kilometres and right swipes away. Your romantic future was at your fingertips, and you could juggle multiple prospects to reduce your bounce rate.
So do we even need a professional matchmaker any more?
“People want a human connection. You don’t want to date a screen. It’ll make you feel good virtually, but can’t always live up to it in person,” insists Naina Hiranandani.
The former journalist turned “accidental professional matchmaker” in 2013, joining her brother’s start-up Sirf Coffee, a bespoke dating service for global Indians.
She now employs her fact-finding skills and emotional intelligence to help singles find someone to argue about wet towels on the bed with.
“Journalists use their skills to reach people and get to know what lies beneath the surface. So much of that integrates into matchmaking,” says Hiranandani. “We use our emotional intelligence to figure out who the person is and identify dating patterns.”
Her approach is meticulous: an in-depth interview with clients where she asks the hard questions like ‘Do you want kids?’ ‘What do you think went wrong in your past relationships?’ and ‘Would you ever put elaichi in biryani?’.
Based on the answers, she sets you up on a blind date with a compatible partner, where the venue and bookings are managed by their team and you literally just show up with clean shoes and an open mind. Importantly, mummyji and the family priest don’t get involved.
Having successfully paired 1,193 couples across 21 countries, it’s clear that people are coming back for more than sirf coffee.
Hiranandani believes that trying to change modern dating culture comes down to emphasising on quality over quantity for potential matches.
Their love potion has two essential components. First comes good old data – age, height, community and even location, depending on if they’re open to moving for their partner.
The second aspect is their core value system, what Hiranandani calls the essentials: “Your outlook towards life, career, family, sex, money — A huge part of matchmaking is making this assessment.”
For example, if Neha is family-oriented and close to her parents, what are the odds of her falling in love with someone who hasn’t spoken to their family in 10 years?
Or the relationship between Nitin who works 12 hours a day and thrives on that and his partner who prefers a 3-hour workday and the rest to be downtime at home.
“After a point, it’s going to strain the relationship because there’s no alignment right there,” she explains.
But that doesn’t mean you go looking for your clone. “If you want to be with someone who’s exactly like you, that’s boring.”
You’re not going to learn anything new. It’s also kind of weird.
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Styling: Divya Gursahani, HMU: Mausam Gandhi, Models: Rohan Rai/Inega, Chandni Alimchandani/Inega
On Rohan: Shirt, Mitesh Lodha. On Chandni: Top, Urth