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Over the past five years, a dozen gated singles’ networks have sprung up in the big cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune—to serve the social group they refer to as “cultured professionals.” You could be a lawyer, a banker, an entrepreneur, a consultant, an architect, a pilot, a news anchor, a graphic designer, a TED fellow.
The way the networks describe their target client more or less makes up the definition of ‘class’ in contemporary India.
In urban India’s new cultural hierarchy, the top rung is reserved for the global Indian: The foreign-educated, career-oriented, well-read, well-paid, well-travelled and socially savvy men and women who are held up by an increasingly aspirational society as the embodiment of success.
The deeper the idea of money not being able to buy everything sets in urban psyche, the bigger the rise in the social stock of people who had the foresight to cultivate “class.” They are the taste-makers and trendsetters, pursued by gourmet restaurants, adventure travel companies and peddlers of holistic living.
The more you observe their rise, the more they seem to have everything going for them. The reasons: They have too much work, too little time, saturated social circles, few outlets to meet new people like themselves, cultural baggage, and too many expectations.
Given their social prominence, it was only a matter of time before new-age entrepreneurs realised the market potential of helping India’s professional elite pair off.
It was after being single for several years that Varsha Agnihotri, aged 35 at the time and working as an ad filmmaker in Mumbai, founded FNM in 2010 in partnership with her brother Abhishek.
“We were both single, had a large circle of friends, but rarely saw someone outside of it,” Agnihotri told me over a salad-and-sandwich lunch at an upscale restaurant in Vasant Kunj.“We made a page on Facebook and had a hundred members in just a month.A World Alike, a few-months-old invitation-only lifestyle network in Delhi only takes in “well-educated, articulate” individuals with “social, emotional and intellectual capital.” Multi-city singles’ network Floh marks out its clientele as “urban professionals who have graduated from top universities in India and across the world.” Aisle, a closed online community of “urban, like-minded Indians,” makes clear that “if what comes to your mind when you hear “Guns N’ Roses” is guns or roses, then you might not be a good fit.” Footloose No More (FNM), a private match-making network in Mumbai also specifies who it’s not for.“We don’t want those people joining this group who don’t naturally belong here because we have our events at high-end clubs and venues…Your money alone does not entitle you to come to our events.” Hatkeshaadi.com, an online matrimony network, defines their ideal member as “well-educated, well-travelled…multi-dimensional in their personalities, with the right mix of modern and traditional values.” For some of the people behind these networks, starting one was the only way to find companionship or love.A World Alike was set up by Himanshu Gupta, a 35-year-old investment banker who returned to India recently after being abroad for ten years, because he found it hard to meet interesting people to meet or date in Delhi.