No Frills, No Bio-data – Just Networking: Q&A w/Two Mangoes Co-founder Anita Dharamshi

Photo: TwoMangoes

Photo: TwoMangoes

Have you ever felt frustrated when perusing sites such as Shaadi.com? Or having to fill out marriageable qualities that read more like glorified shopping lists? There’s just something about having to decipher if your complexion is ‘wheatish’ or ‘fair’ or ‘very fair’ in order to please a potential suitor that screams run the other way. If you’re among those looking for a more casual social networking experience — or that thing once known as dating — then TwoMangoes Co-founder Anita Dharamshi has a solution for you.

Dharamshi, a graduate of the University of Waterloo who did her time in the corporate sector, likens the TwoMangoes experience to a cross between Facebook and Match.com. Her hard work and dedication to bringing innovation to the South Asian community is evident in the success stories of TwoMangoes and the Kismet Wedding Show and Magazine (Dharamshi is a co-founder of the latter, too). Divanee.com got Dharamshi to dish on the TwoMangoes “so what” factor and the Dos and Don’ts of South Asian online networking.

TwoMangoes sets out to revolutionize the South Asian dating scene. What is it about your site that is unique and can accomplish this goal?
We cater to a generation of South Asians that have decided to take an alternative path to find that special someone. As new-age South Asians, we are living in a culture where dating is commonplace, so we have taken that approach and provided an opportunity for our users to find and date each other. Whether our users date with the purpose of forming a long-term relationship, or just connect with other like-minded South Asians, the choice is completely theirs! And unlike other sites, we are not just online. TwoMangoes hosts speed-dating events, parties, and networking events which take place all across the United States and Canada. We put a face to our name and provide our users with a strong offline experience to complement our online presence.

The emphasis here is on dating – but South Asians in particular tend to associate online dating with marriage. How do you make it clear to end users that this isn’t another Shaadi.com?
We have built TwoMangoes from the ground up, as a Web 2.0 social network experience. We consider ourselves a hybrid of Match.com and Facebook. When you log into our site, you will see a live feed of user activity on the site. You will see which users have logged in, changed pictures, updated their profile and so on. We have made it our mission to steer away from the “bio-data” approach, where you log on, fill out details of what you are looking for, and then view a list of results. Instead, we have replaced it with a more two-way social connection between individuals.

What has been your biggest challenge in establishing a networking site?
These days we are in the post-online dating fear-era. When online dating sites first came about, the single biggest obstacle was fear of the unknown. People can be a little nervous about who exactly is on the other side. Slowly though, people are realizing that honest and dishonest people are everywhere, whether you meet them at a coffee shop, a bar, online, or at your friend’s wedding.

Photo: TwoMangoes

What is the best piece of feedback you have received from your target audience?
The feedback from our demographic is solid proof that we are doing something right and very much needed! We get daily emails and tweets from TwoMangoes users or even from people who have heard of us, or seen us at the zillion parties we host around the world. All of them say the same thing; “Keep it up!”, “You’re just what we need!”, and the like. Without that feedback, we would not know if our model works, and we are pleased to say, it does! That is not to say we do not have our kinks. When a user emails us with a suggestion, or even a complaint, we do not sit on it; we set about the wheels to put change in motion, quickly. We take our user suggestions very, very seriously.

If you had one piece of advice for South Asians using the internet to meet new people, what would it be?
I’m going to cheat and give two pieces of advice! First — keep an open mind. Sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you understand that people may be slightly different in person than in profiles, you may have more success making connections. The online aspect is simply a general screening, not the time to be too nit-picky. Once you open a window, it may lead to meeting someone in real life, which is where the real potential becomes evident. And second — DEFINITELY put up a few profile pictures. Research has shown that if you try to “lurk” in a faceless manner, you’ll generate almost no interest.

Sabrina Siddiqui is the editor-in-chief of Divanee.com.

@sabrinasiddiqui