New businesses often pile in to exploit the latest social trend after someone is brave enough, or has enough money, to dip an entrepreneurial toe in the water.
A good example of this was the increasing numbers of busy, but lonely, professionals triggering an explosion of dating agencies in the 1990s.
Those who spend their weekends working or, even worse, spooning microwaved meals into their mouths while watching Inspector Morse repeats now have a vast array of organisations dedicated to pairing them off.
But while speed dating and the coupling of older singletons is now represented by plenty of businesses, there are still gaps in the courting market to be found – as Alpa Saujani has demonstrated.
Alpa realised that there was call for a service for Asian professionals who needed non-traditional ways of meeting each other.
“As a young single Asian professional, I was finding it extremely difficult to juggle the demands of a successful career with my growing desire to meet a suitable partner,” she explains.
“And coming from an Asian background, I, like many of my fellow Asian peers, wanted to meet someone from a similar cultural background.
“After feeling depressed and frustrated with the traditional methods, such as blind-dates set-up through the family network, I ventured onto the modern approaches, which were definitely more relaxed, but felt impersonal.”
Alpa felt that there was a generation of British Asians who, although successful in the workplace, weren’t able to meet others, either romantically or socially. Convinced that the gap in the market could sustain a viable business, Alpa, despite not having always harboured dreams of being an entrepreneur, decided to go to alone.
Her business, the Tantric Club, was founded in April 2004 – but only after Alpa had undertaken six months of meticulous research and development.
“From the primary and secondary research I carried out, included my own experiences and those of my friends and family, it was clear there was definitely a gap in the market,” she says.
“Although it has come a long way, there is still some stigma attached to using social or dating services as means of meeting new people face-to-face.
“However, with the increase of people having such busy professional lives, at the expense of their social life, this is progressively an attractive option that more and more people are beginning to explore.”
Alpa funded the business through her savings and has been able to keep costs low by outsourcing IT and accountancy tasks. She is able to run the business with the help of a PA and several ad-hoc staff who assist in the hosting of the various social events.