TANUJA Rajah and her husband Jonathan Avinash Victor are at a bustling coffee outlet bursting at the seams with other patrons. But despite the hive of activity around them, the couple only has eyes for each other.
In many ways, this loved-up pair are the perfect people to front Lovesprk (lovesprk.com), the dating website they created together late last year.
Aimed at taking the hassle out of planning dates, Lovesprk’s bespoke dates are perfect for couples too harried to plan their own. Tanuja was propelled to start it after realising there was nothing like it in Malaysia.
“I wanted to create something of my own and I came across a company in America that does something like what we do and I loved that idea. I thought ‘This should exist in Malaysia.’
“Plus, I’m really passionate about relationships and the divorce rates in Malaysia are alarmingly high. We put in so much effort before we’re married, why not after?” she said.
In fact, just two weeks ago, R.AGE wrote about how young Malaysians are becoming increasingly likely to get divorces (check out the story at rage.com.my).
But making Lovesprk a reality wasn’t easy as neither Tanuja nor Jonathan had any business experience – Tanuja is from a science background and Jonathan sells insurance – but their determination got them through.
In January this year, after participating in the MAD-Sun Business Challenge 2.0, they received funding from Start Up Nation, a company which focuses on start-ups in Asia. That proved to be the boost they needed to get the ball rolling.
“They (Start Up Nation) are there for us 24/7. And they come to Malaysia often and sometimes we just have dinner and throw ideas around. It’s just somebody watching your back,” said Jonathan.
Lovesprk aims to create 100 new dates a year, and according to Tanuja, they are on target. The dates on the website range from RM50 to RM259 (at the time of writing) and include eclectic options like private cocktail lessons for two, tarot card readings, lots of romantic dinners and even an at-home couples’ massage. A concierge service is also available for couples who want Lovesprk to help plan a romantic date from scratch.
Each date has been carefully selected and curated by Tanuja, who even goes through the trouble of booking the most romantic table in the restaurant, so you’ll never (gasp!) be seated next to the toilets. Once a date is booked, the Lovesprk team will make all the necessary reservations, so all the couple needs to do is turn up.
“We really put in a lot of attention to detail when thinking about vendors. I personally go to the restaurants or hotels or spas, and meet the owner or the manager and explain to them really carefully that this is going to be a romantic date.
“I can’t have the customer walk in and the service team not know what Lovesprk is – they have to have really good service for the couple,” said Tanuja.
If you think about it, so much of what transpires in real life now actually first takes place online. Meetings and reunions with family and friends are so often coordinated through group chats or even emails.
So in a way, it makes perfect sense that dates are planned online too. In an urban setting, this is especially ideal, ‘cos who even has the time to breathe anymore?
“I think people just have so much work to do. There are just so many things to worry about.
“I guess in an ideal world, it would be better if we were all just offline and concentrating on relationships, but we have to find ways to do things more efficiently now,” said Jonathan.
There is of course the argument that a website that plans dates for couples takes the actual romance out of the event, because it operates almost mechanically with no effort needed from the couples themselves.
Tanuja doesn’t see it that way. According to her, the reason Lovesprk is even a viable business now is because things have changed so dramatically over the years.
“When emails were first introduced, everyone said it took the beauty out of handwritten letters and it wasn’t romantic enough, but it’s a norm now.
“So, we’re not changing the content – the time you spend together and all that. We’re just changing the mode. We have pre-planned dates on the website, which makes it easy for couples, because it’s all already there.”
Even though their website is fairly new, Tanuja and Jonathan have big plans to expand it and maybe even take it across the border.
“Our ultimate goal is to take Lovesprk to Singapore, and we’re already in talks with a few restaurants there. We’re waiting for funding to start a mobile app, because in Singapore, everyone is always on their phones. Also, I think people there are more comfortable spending money online and doing this kind of fun stuff,” said Tanuja.