“They want to know from the very beginning, before they waste time, whether the husband and wife will manage the finances collectively, whether she has to live with her in-laws and whether he wants children and how many,” Li says.
The matchmakers get a minimal base salary and earn commission for every match, so it’s in their interest to make good matches and smooth out any dating hiccups.
Li has studied the relationship between a member’s monthly salary and how many winks they receives.
“You can almost very accurately calculate for every 1,000 yuan salary increase how many more winks he will receive,” he says.
Zhenai has 50 matchmaking centres in 37 cities across China, and Li says he expects the company to generate 1.5 billion yuan in revenue and 200 million yuan in net profit this year.
Li is confident that the dating platform will continue to grow rapidly, at least for the next 10 years.
The matchmaker does a lot more than just introduce people, she – and it’s always a woman as apparently both men and women feel more comfortable discussing their romantic life with a woman – is also responsible for “managing expectations”, solving misunderstandings and serving as a middle person to ask embarrassing questions.
“It’s getting more popular every year and we are even thinking perhaps we should develop a separate app due to the high demand,” says Li.
After years working as a senior investment banker in the US and Hong Kong, he fulfilled his dream of setting up his own business.
First came Me Me Star, a short message-based chat forum that he sold to the Chinese telecom firm Sina.
She was a private equity fund manager at the time – now she’s a venture capitalist – and he was an executive director of equity derivatives at Morgan Stanley.
The charming, slightly geeky former investment banker might not seem like an obvious candidate to be a font of knowledge about the dating world, but he is an avid reader of psychology books and, as he says, “the stats never lie”.