While the international matchmaking business has high profit margins, the development of this market in Kazakhstan is still in its infancy.
As per information from Russian internet sites, worldwide turnover for matchmaking agencies in 2004 reached US$2 bln, of which 70% was accounted for by agencies representing young women in the CIS and Baltic countries. Unfortunately no data exists specifically for our country. This can be explained by the low profitability of the business here, which negatively effects investment. Although, many favorable conditions for the development of this business in Kazakhstan do exist. First of all, the most important factor is the human need for family. Others include, a large army of lonely people, general economic growth, and increased standards of living, among others. All necessary conditions are present, it seems, for the development of the matchmaking business here.
When speaking about the peculiarities of the matchmaking business, one should note its specificity, confidentiality, and the amount of time involved. Assessing the number of agencies actually operating along these lines within the industry is difficult. As we already noted, there has been hardly any serious and accessible research made on the business here in Kazakhstan. We managed to discover that no more than 10 such agencies offer their services in the city of Almaty. Here we should point out that no internet sites are considered here, only bricks and mortar agencies working in person with clients.
In Soviet times, what were known as meeting clubs helped many to find their second half, but without enthusiastic results. In the movie, “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”, the ineffectiveness of such organizations was parodied. Nowadays, a person seriously intending to get married can utilize the assistance of matchmaking agencies, most of which are registered as founded by individual entrepreneurs, and are not joint ventures. Most agencies were opened in order to acquire additional income, and even as hobbies for their owners (most of whom are women).
These circumstances are explained by the low profitability of the business. What is the reason behind the small margins? One can answer this question should he review the process in detail. Systematically, the process can be easily explained as follows: a person contacts a matchmaking agency via telephone, pays a visit to the office, undergoes an interview, submits a photo, and fills in a questionnaire. Later on begins a period of dating. For example, if client X likes client Y, while reviewing a catalogue with questionnaires and photos, then client X leaves with the agency an application for a date. Agency employees forward this information to client Y. Should client Y agree, following perusal of client X’s photo and questionnaire, the agency arranges the exchange of contact telephone numbers, and later on the parties set a date on their own. As we found out, the agencies recommend attaching a photo to the questionnaire, as this is an important factor for clients to be successful. In order to secure clients, agencies insist that clients attach copies of their identification to the services contract. By the way, when the matchmaking industry first began clients were supposed to bring medical documents confirming their physical and psychological status. However, to be honest, since such documents can be easily bought, later on the practice was dropped.
The largest portion of income for these matchmaking agencies comes from the submission of questionnaires, with KZT 3,000 being the average cost. As can be seen, in comparison with their Russian and foreign colleagues, our agencies use a relatively simple system, which results in lowered profitability. In Russia, similar agencies offer additional services, such as studio photography, legal assistance, cosmetology, video recording, social mixers, and so forth. In our country, all of these are still to come. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, online matchmaking agencies that are dedicated to working with males from North America and Western Europe are providing photography services, as this is a key aspect to their business. The average cost for a photographer is KZT2,000 per hour at such agencies. Usually, over a one-hour period, around 100 photos of a female client are taken, with only the three best being chosen. KZT5,000 is paid for placement of a questionnaire online. As well, clients can be provided with such services as sending e-mail at KZT100 per letter, receiving e-mail at KZT50 per letter, and translation of e-mail at KZT10 per page.
Here is an example of additionally available services. Thanks to the fact that the director of one matchmaking agency is a practicing psychologist, he provides instruction on relationship building. The cost of such training is KZT13,000 per week. As well, clients are provided with free psychological consultations for the period of the contract. Many agencies conclude contracts for either one year, or some indefinite time. Provision of so-called VIP services are quite rare. Usually, such a service would be along the lines of a female being allowed to review groups of men’s questionnaires, which had been ordered according to income range. To review those from men earning more than US$1000 per month would cost KZT5,000. Examining those of men from a lower income level costs KZT3,000. A fee also is in place incase a couple does marry, which would be KZT5,000 for a normal couple, but in the case of one of the spouses being of a high income level the fee is KZT10,000.
The client base of an average matchmaking agency is from 150 to 1500 people. We are able to speak about certain characteristics of the clients. Usually, most of the clients are women. Nataliya Yermolova, general director of the agency, Podarok Sudbi (“Destiny’s Gift”), says, “The most frequently asked question among clients addressing me for the first time is,