BUSINESS WEEK - Oct 30 -- In September Yahoo and Silicon Valley venture capital firm Canaan Partners jointly paid $8.5 million for ~10% of BharatMatrimony.com, a nine-year-old marriage Web site that also has 50 offices across India to serve those without Net access. "BharatMatrimony will help us get a larger share of the Internet market" in India, says Yahoo India Managing Director George Zacharias. Microsoft hooked up with Shaadi.com a year ago, though it didn't invest any money in the site. "Shaadi helps attract huge numbers of users," says MSN India country manager Jaspreet Bindra. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers plowed $4.6 million into Info Edge, which runs matrimonial site Jeevansathi.com. Google is said to be prospecting for a partner. Some 7.5 million people use marriage sites, up from 4 million in 2004, the Internet & Mobile Association of India estimates. Registration is free. Users pay when they want to contact a potential partner. The sites are likely to take in ~$21 million this year. But there's plenty of room to grow. Indians lay out nearly $500 million a year for offline marriage services such as print classifieds. "Today the emphasis is on compatibility and being a professional, something the Internet lets you test, as opposed to the traditional contacts," says Anupam Mittal, Shaadi.com's founder.
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Mark Brooks: I have an interview with the CEO of Bharat Matrimony in the pipeline. There's a lot U.S. companies can learn from these innovative Indian sites.