This week’s guest on Uninterrupted is a former journalist turned matchmaker, Naina Hiranandani. Via her bespoke dating service Sirf Coffee, she has served over 10,000 Indians in over 65 cities globally to find their perfect match. We chat about how she’s successfully blended traditional values with modern expectations while aiming to help people find love without the digital noise; her take on modern dating and how technology makes love more accessible!
Tell us about the inception of the brand, Sirf Coffee.
We’ve been around for more than a decade; this is our 12th year. Despite the long timeframe, we managed to remain a relevant concept, amongst Indians of all ages. We found Sirf Coffee when there wasn’t anything around matrimonial websites. So, my co-founder and I wondered why educated, well-traveled global Indians like ourselves, had no options to meet like-minded people. Back then we consciously decided that we don’t want to make this a bio-data approach. We won’t involve parents or pandits, and we want to keep it very stress-free, natural, and organic. Our responsibility is to put our client in the same room where sparks may fly. Whether they do or don’t can be a very organic process, it isn’t excessively pressured. I think that makes us very attractive to contemporary Indians.Finding someone you click with on an app feels like an odds based approach to love. What is your take on it?
One critical difference between Sirf Coffee and dating apps is we are very clear on consensus. People who come to us are doing well for themselves; they’re climbing up the ladder and have a clear idea of who they want to be with. Their intent is very clear that they don’t want to casually date or engage in time-pass. One of the things that I find bizarre with dating apps is that it’s very public with your identity or photos. There’s also no consensus of intent so you could have an 18-year-old on Tinder who’s looking for a hookup simultaneously, maybe a 35-year-old woman is looking for a future husband. The most disturbing thing is that, because it’s a very new way of dating or meeting people, there is a drastic difference in general with someone’s virtual persona, and their reality and who they are as an individual physically.How do you help your members eliminate the risk associated with meeting someone for the first time?
I think people take a great deal of comfort that Sirf Coffee’s involved. Our vetting process involves going on our website www.sirfcoffee.com
, filling up the written application followed by an in-depth interview. For the clients based in the same city, we do the interview face-to-face or over a video call. We take a deep dive into their life, and people open up about what they’re looking for. So, I think at some point because of this vetting process and curation involved; our clients take solace because not just them, but everyone who is on the service has gone through the same process. The exciting thing about Sirf Coffee is that it’s an organic community. The people also come through reference; we’ve never consciously advertised, we’ve never done any PR exercise. The business model is built in such a way where we’re doing a lot of curation and vetting. That itself tends to attract people.
What is your take on arranged marriages?
If you meet the love of your life, through your parents or a service like Sirf Coffee, the concept is not a negative one. However, people have a lot of expectations. There are certain things you can’t run away from, given that we speak to hundreds of people, the issue is over-involvement. All these memes from Indian Matchmaking about being flexible and adjusting work great in theory, but what women wanted is an equal partner. I think a sore point for us is the commodification of a person that you are as good as you sound on your biodata. Suppose you look at the old school matchmakers they call themselves marriage brokers. In that case, the meaning is so apparent in what they call themselves that, it’s a transaction. ‘X’ family is worth this much, and they should find a family that’s all of the same net worth or social standing. Unfortunately, the old way has been focusing on really cosmetic things and peripheral things that are not critical to ensure that you will be happy.
Where do you think modern dating is going with the plethora of choices available across platforms?
I think our dating culture has gone through a major transformation. In the last two decades, we shifted from texting to social media. Stalking blind dates was once a dating norm, It’s impossible now because you have platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, making it so easy to expose someone’s online presence. If there’s one piece of advice, I give my clients it is to have the wisdom to identify someone good. I think as we’ve been evolving as a race, we’re growing more complex, our desires have multiplied, we are aspirational. So we’re not just aspirational about what university we want to graduate from, what is your workplace of choice, it is also applicable to dating. Someone could think if I’m ‘5X’, I want to date someone who is ‘10X’ may not necessarily be a bad thing, how we’re communicating has changed.
There’s always a personal risk associated with matchmaking. What is it that motivates you to do this?
Whoever thinks matchmaking is as entertaining as a Netflix show, is wrong. It’s a tough job to get into people’s minds and match their expectations. Especially in the Indian context, because it’s not about two people getting married, it’s about the families getting into one big union. I think there are days where we’re very excited and passionate about what we’re doing. Then there are days where you may have a very upset client. So the reason why I’m giving a candid picture into this is that it’s tremendously difficult to get into someone’s head and be able to satisfy what they’re looking for. I think we’re passionate about bringing people together; it’s a different kind of job satisfaction.
Has technology helped in your line of work?
Sirf Coffee has always been a website because websites give people access. The universal access to working with people worldwide is all thanks to technology. If we were still working old school style, I think it just won’t work because you have to resonate with a global audience rather than a very localized one. I believe you can use technology in the right ways to meet someone great and aren’t in the same city. Amazingly, you have a Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or WhatsApp calling to see this person in real-time, to speak to them, and to build and sustain your relationships. 30-40 years ago, this stuff was based on blind faith; however, we don’t use technology or use any in-house software for matchmaking, we rely on human reasoning and intelligence to make those decisions.Top 3 tips when it comes to your first date etiquette
Make an effort, go in with a good attitude, be kind and respectful. One recent trend in the dating world that you do not understand?
Top tips to spark up a mundane relationship
Add in a weekly activity, be more vocal about your needs, and do fun things to spice it up.One tip for singles to find love in 2021
Be open-minded.A travel destination you can visit when travelling with someone for the first time
Try going to a place where there is a good amount of adventure to get the person out of their comfort zones.
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