LOOKING for love is difficult for everyone – and some daters think the answer could lie in chucking huge wads of cash at the problem.
Which is where elite dating firm Berkeley International steps in, charging well-heeled clients up to £60,000 for its matchmaking services.
Netflix's Indian Matchmaking gave viewers a glimpse into the extreme world of Asian dating services – but business is booming for love brokers in Britain too.
The Sun sat down with UK based matchmaking agencies and stars of the controversial Netflix series to see how the UK does matchmaking.
Elite matchmaking in the UK
Curating the "traditional" approach, there is very little online involvement when setting up clients for Berkeley.
Susan, 54, a divorced lawyer living in London, spoke about her experiences with matchmaking – ultimately spending £15,000 when she decided to re-enter the dating scene.
After telling her girlfriends how she was ready to date again after a long marriage and messy divorce, pals put her on to Berkeley to begin her journey back into the game.
''I've met a few people through Berkeley and they've all been a very good calibre of person and they're very close to my partner preferences,'' Susan says.
''It saves me a lot of time and emotional input as well.''
The mum-of-two's 18-year-old daughter was happy Susan was getting back into the dating scene.
''Everyone wants companionship, you don't want to be alone for the rest of your life and it is hard when you've been in a 20-year marriage," Susan says.
I want to see if I can open my heart again to someone and can I have a relationship again with somebody
"And sadly there's a lot of hurt there.
''Have I met the love of my life yet? It's difficult to say. I have met somebody I do like but the current situation means we couldn't meet up that often so I think COVID has a lot to answer for.''
Susan says she chose to splash out a staggering £15,000 on Berkeley because she wanted a tailored dating experience.
"One thing I like is I can go on a date and then afterwards I phone the girls at Berkeley and feed back how it went, and that's another thing I like," Susan says.
"But I do think you have to be realistic when you do something like this because there's no guarantee that you're going to meet the man of your dreams.
"I'm very pragmatic, I'm very realistic and I came into this process thinking that I wasn't going to meet anyone and maybe that's the right attitude, then you're not disappointed!"
'Throw a bit of money at the problem'
The pandemic has been a disaster for many businesses – but high end matchmakers are busier than ever.
Berkeley alone has seen a 65 per cent increase in client numbers leading to a tsunami of enquiries.
"Berkeley deals with a certain calibre of people who want like-minded people like them and when clients are paying a certain fee, it sets them apart to a degree," Berkeley founder Mairead Molloy says.
"It's like buying a dress from the high street as opposed to Chanel, why do people do that?
"Unless they want a different type of service and also it's personal so it's like getting an estate agent to look for an apartment for you. Nowadays especially with corona it's easier to get someone to do it for you.
"Throw a bit of money at the problem and it helps you to take the heat off."
Success rates vary between 65 and 75 per cent and is dependent on age, with statistics from the company showing that those who are older actually have more success in finding long lasting matches.
"It's not just dating though," Molloy says. "You have to be happy in your life to be happy in dating.
"That's very important during this process as well as your mental wellbeing."
Berkeley and the invisible string of fate
Not all matchmaking stories end up like this but two hopefuls looking for love through the same service showed that their love was meant to be.
"There was a lovely man who met a woman way back in the day where you didn't have a mobile phone, so they lost touch with each other and they never found each other after that," Molloy says.
"They both got married to somebody else and each of their partners died and each of them joined the agency but they didn't realise they joined the agency and we didn't know that they knew each other.
"So we put them together for their third dates and they ended up getting married."
Molloy also mentioned an instance where a young client saw a girl on a bike and couldn't get her out of his head.
Fast forward to his next date with the agency and the girl on the bike turned out to be his date.
Indian Matchmaking phenomenon
Hit Netflix series Indian Matchmaking is centred around Indian Matchmaker Sima Taparia.
Taparia helped singletons find matches in her natvia India as well as in the US.
With a whole host of different characteristics, each client met with the matchmaker to explain what they want in a spouse.
Matchmakers like Taparia reportedly charge their clients up to £6,000 for their expert matchmaking service skills.
However, there are also those who are typically compensated between two to five per cent of wedding costs, which can be as much as $20,000 to $50,000 (£15,000 to £37,600) per match.
She meets clients and their families and presents them with "biodata" of other clients that includes height, weight, caste, religion and profession.
Jewellery designer Pradhyuman Maloo, 30, was one of the contestants who reportedly rejected over 150 potential matches.
Fans did not take a liking to Maloo due to his nature of being "too high maintenance" and "too picky".
But Maloo has his own side of the story.
"My real personality was diluted to suit the show and the story line. Amidst these edits, my true self did not reflect correctly and people became presumptuous and judgemental."
A post shared by Pradhyuman Maloo (@pradhyum.m)
He "strongly disagreed" with the portrayal of his character on the show, insisting that finding a partner is not a process that will happen overnight.
"I remember reading an article of 50 lessons from an 80-year-old man, in which number 12 stated that from this one decision will come 90 per cent of all your happiness and misery in life," Maloo says.
"I always have known what I want from my partner, and it's unfortunate that I could not meet a match who was compatible."
Picky clients have their limits
Project 143 caters specifically to South Asians living in the UK – charging an eye-popping £4,000 for their services.
Aneeka Patel, Project 143's founder, started her business because of the lack of relatable services available after becoming tired of the online and app dating scene.
"I was in my early thirties working in the city as a British Asian professional who's taken on the Western culture," Patel says.
"And I didn't want this aunty style matchmaking. I wanted to provide a holistic style of dating. What I wanted to provide was a personalised service."
Not that fulfilling personal preferences is always easy.
One doctor client of hers was particularly punishing to try and connect thanks to his persnicketiness.
"He was all the things a lot of women are into, but his fussiness got to a point where he refused to look at a girl if she wasn't tall and slim," Patel says.
"In the end he did go on date with someone who was two inches shorter than his criteria and a dress size above his preference and guess what, they went out on a few dates and it was her who rejected him in the end."
HOW MUCH DO ELITE MATCHMAKING SERVICES COST?
Elite matchmaking can see clients charged tens of thousands of pounds:
- Berkeley International – Basic package is £15,000 up to £60,000
- Project 143 -Between £4,000 and £6,000
- Sima Taparia's service – Between £6,000 and £26,000
- Vida Consultancy- Starting at £18,000
- SEI Club – £2,200 upwards
Controversy over 'old fashioned' depictions
Whilst amusing and informative of the world of matchmaking in India, Indian Matchmaking was still controversial for many.
The show has been largely criticised for colourism, casteism and general backwards attitudes that exist within the sphere of South Asian matchmaking.
The main criticisms come as people believe the show has reinforced age old stereotypes of South Asians and marriage.
Whilst Berkeley, Project 143 and Taparia's Indian Matchmaking have their differences, the main objective beyond a match is making sure people are emotionally supported.
Whether it's through elite matchmakers in the form of Project 143, Berkeley or even the new Black-only MatchMakeMe, finding love couldn't be easier in 2020.
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