BY ARCHITH SESHADRI
Atlanta, GA, August 6, 2018: If you ask most Indians or Indian Americans, they love three things: cricket, cinema and politics. A lot of dinner party conversations will revolve around these topics in some way shape or form.
If you ask most Americans about Indians, they’ll probably refer to arranged marriages, Bollywood dancing and perhaps a reference or two to Slumdog Millionaire.
While for many Americans, the concept of dating is ingrained in their culture, it is not usually spoken about openly with Indian American families. Imagine a dinner table conversation where children are openly discussing their dating lives with their parents — sure it may happen, but it’s usually something that’s not talked about. However, while some Indian parents may not openly encourage dating or casual relationships, when it comes to weddings, there’s no shortage of opinions. Parents, extended relatives, family friends love to chime in about marriages — whether it’s arranged or love. But for most Indian Americans, it is not as simple as meeting someone for the first time and agreeing to a big Bollywood style wedding. In fact, for most Indian Americans, unless they meet someone in high school or college, finding a potential partner can be quite challenging. Similarly, parents in the US sometimes find it challenging to communicate or help their children find a suitable partner.
As they say with every problem, there’s a solution. Last November, Aparna Basker quit her full-time consulting job to address this issue. She has spent the last 18 years in Atlanta and felt that there was a void in the community. “First generation Indian Americans in the US struggle to find the proper balance of involvement with their children’s lives around dating and marriage,” said Basker. She started a social networking company called “Banyan Way” to help both parents and singles find a match. Basker said she observed the struggles of Indian American parents, especially the first generation who were missing the family and community involvement that they were used to in India. It is open to all Indians regardless of religion, caste, language or past marital status.
While parents may be aggressively searching on matrimonial sites, singles are swiping on dating apps . But Basker felt that a better approach would be to combine technology with in person events. That’s how Banyan Way was formed — to combine traditional matchmaking with modern dating. Basker plans to launch an app later this fall where singles, parents and connectors (those who can refer other profiles) can all work together to help find a match.
Banyan Way hosts two types of in person events: Hello! And Milan. Hello! events are for singles and provide a comfortable platform for Indian Americans to meet and get to know each other. So far, events have ranged from bowling mixers, wine and cheese happy hour to escape game rooms. Most networking events are about 3 hours long and include icebreakers and opportunities for participants to meet others and share their challenges and struggles in the dating process. So far, Banyan Way has hosted events in Atlanta and New Jersey. Milan events focus solely on the parents where they can talk about their children, discuss similar issues with other parents and help connect potential singles. It was a first of its kind events for parents in Atlanta. The events are open to anyone of Indian origin and attracted people from several states including Texas, Massachusetts, Indiana and Georgia.
Parents were thrilled to find others in a similar situation and some were even proactive to print out resume like bio datas of their single children. Parents said they liked the small groups, and a chance to discuss these topics face to face. Parents traveled from several states to attend the most recent event in New Jersey including from Iowa and Georgia.
Basker hopes to expand the startups’ presence in other cities across the US with major Indian American populations including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Boston and so on. The team is based in Atlanta, Ga and is actively looking at hiring people interested in growing the startup from around the country.