Growing up in Maryland, Radha Patel didn’t see anyone in her area using a matchmaker. But she was aware that in India, where her parents had emigrated from, plenty of couples were fixed up—by relatives, respected elders, women in the community trusted to intuit good pairs. For some reason, the idea of it stuck in the back of her mind. It was still lingering there in 2018, when friends, frustrated with dating apps, started asking for help finding love. “I’m not a tech person,” she thought. “What can I do?” Then she realized that she could play matchmaker.
She started setting people up, and that turned into a hobby, which later that year became a business, Single to Shaadi. She and many of the matchmakers she knows saw a wave of new clients in 2020, when the popular Netflix show Indian Matchmaking, which follows a professional cupid from Mumbai, came out. The coronavirus pandemic might have contributed to the surge; especially early on, plenty of people didn’t want to go on more in-person dates than absolutely necessary. And perhaps they also realized that their time was too precious to waste by swiping fruitlessly on dating apps. According to Patel, Single to Shaadi doubled its number of active clients from 2019 to 2020, and again the next year.