Indian community matrimony company Nikah Forever has announced expansion into the United Arab Emirates. The organization plans to tap into the emerging market with an omnichannel marketing strategy to compete within a market dominated by incumbents like Shaadi, Bharat Matrimony and Nikah.

The Middle East is home to millions of expatriates from the Indian subcontinent. For instance, Indians and Pakistanis are the largest expatriate communities within UAE, comprising 40% of the total population. To add on to that, the demographics are primarily Muslim (90+%) across the region. 

Hammad Rahman, CEO of Nikah Forever, comments “We are a Muslim matrimony portal. Within the past few years, we have solely focused on India and understood the customer in and out. The UAE expansion is now our gateway into the International market.”
Nikah Forever was founded in 2018 in New Delhi by Hammad Rahman when he felt that there was an actual need for a niche matrimony portal. “The existing portals had been there for over two decades already and failed to gain the confidence of the community. We needed a solution that addressed the pain points. For instance, privacy features are one key area.” says Hammad. “With an influx of funding and action within the community matrimony space, we discovered an untapped market and entered with a simple value proposition.”

Plans to continue being socially conscious

The brand has been known to build conversations around societal evils garnering support from social activists and their user base. They have previously organized campaigns against excessive marriage spending and one that aims to do away with the practice of Dowry. 
The survey that they conducted as part of the #DowryFreeIndia exercise has been published by the German market-research firm Statista and has also been picked up by leading media portals. They plan to disrupt the UAE market with similar campaigns initiating conversations that are a rarity within the region.

Expansion during a turbulent period

“A pan-India lockdown, which was announced with strict stay-at-home orders in place due to the pandemic, acted as a catalyst for growth for us. Physical meetings were not possible and users stayed at home with more time available to them, ” Hammad explained. “This led to them exploring online matrimony and we were a sector that grew during the pandemic.”

The rationale behind the pandemic accelerating growth is what led to an expansion during the current crisis. The organization plans to compete against the intense competition with product differentiation. “We had understood that survival is going to be a key concern given the market is highly concentrated with the duopoly of Shaadi and Bharat Matrimony having a lion’s share of the market. Cheap data and increased internet penetration meant a surge of Tier II+ city users, especially the aged,” added Hammad. “They were technically challenged and limited Internet usage to basic search and social media.”
“We understood how the churn rate was being impacted by people unable to register. Our product team worked in tandem with the customer feedback one on conversion rate optimization. It led to the introduction of an AI-based chatbot which successfully addressed the pain point,” added the CEO. “A lot of parents from across India have registered for the service.”

They aim to leverage the same technology to grow in the MENA region. Conversational commerce is at the core of their marketing strategy. Cultural studies have revealed how people from the Middle East engage in informal conversations even when conducting business. This could prove to be a key differentiating factor given the cross-cultural differences.

The Road Ahead 

At present, the company claims to have close to 60k active registered users and it is eyeing alternative channels to increase market penetration. They have recently revamped their portal heavily modifying the user interface and launched an android application in line with the expansion strategy. It targets a $8 Mn revenue and is looking to multiply their workforce by 5x over the next year, Hammad told Woman’s Era.

During the last year, they had been shortlisted for funding by UAE-based Falcon Network. The Falcon Network’s 2020 Cohort featured 15 startups. However, it didn’t proceed with the funding exercise and Nikah Forever continues to expand organically in a bootstrapped manner.