MATCHMAKING HAS always been a popular but discreet business in Hong Kong. Thanks to the city's busy lifestyles, it is also no longer seen as a romantic outlet purely for the socially inept. A high number of busy professionals are turning to this age-old industry in the hope of finding true love - and a spouse eventually. According to Hitwise, a British online dating website, workaholics have created a new dating demographic called stylish singles. Described as typically well-educated professionals, people in this demographic are very busy in their work and therefore have no time to date. Professional Company, a local matchmaker active since 1994, finds most of its clients among middle-class working professionals in their 20s and 30s. Hong Shu-wing, a registered social worker and one of the founding members of the company, said 90 per cent of his clients found him on their own. Professional Company's women clients are generally teachers, accountants and solicitors, while the men usually work in the engineering and IT sectors. Ninety per cent of Dr Hong's clients are locals. The rest are foreigners and expatriates looking for love in Hong Kong. Dr Hong offers four services to his clients: image consultation, manners and etiquette training, self-confidence counselling and matchmaking. To kindle romance, members pay up to $78 a month, over and above a registration fee. He is not interested in clients who are not serious about long-term relationships. '[My service] is usually provided to those who are serious about getting married. If they wanted one-night stands, they could go to a bar,' Dr Hong said, indicating the kind of relationships he hopes to encourage between clients. Speed-dating is another form of matchmaking growing more popular. Busy people find it a more efficient way of finding true love. Speed-dating normally works by pairing equal numbers of singles to chat for a few minutes; when the time is up, they move on to a different table to meet the next single, and so it goes on. HK Speed Date is a speed-dating service founded by Rachael Chan, a former psychology major. Ms Chan first stepped into the world of speed-dating as a participant and then as an entrepreneur. She has not looked back. 'I met a lot of friends [as a speed-dater],' Ms Chan said. 'I saw it as an opportunity for those who are not particularly proactive to meet. I also wanted to bring together friends.' Half of the company's clients have come through recommendations of friends and family. 'Most of the others seem to know us from websites,' Ms Chan said. Like Dr Hong, Ms Chan is clear about who she wants to target. Her firm caters to two types of clients: those whose field of work makes it hard for them to find love, and those who have recently come back to Hong Kong after studying or working elsewhere and are looking for friends. The company holds dating events mostly on Thursdays or Fridays. The way it works is clients write down their contact details and, when there is mutual interest, this information is given to both parties. Ms Chan said attitudes towards speed-dating had improved. 'It is more relaxed.' The goal was to find partners, first as friends and then as significant others. Ms Chan holds recreational group dates on weekends, with hikes and barbecues thrown in so that participants can get to know each other better. HK Speed Date has about 3,000 members, mostly aged between 24 and 38, and Ms Chan is adding more services for them. 'We did a lot of research,' she said. 'Men generally tend to value appearance, while women value education and job status when searching for a partner.' The firm's findings have resulted in new services such as image consultation (which requires makeup artists and fashion consultants), and dating skills workshops. HK Speed Date already has an event organiser, an administrator and a makeup artist. Ms Chan has run her business for a year and nine months. She said it was not easy for matchmakers to sustain themselves, despite the buoyant economy. Young companies almost always have a rough start. 'It can be hard to survive the first year,' Ms Chan said. 'People must bear through, and put together their database [of clients].' Small and obscure, yet potentially lucrative - the market for romance has grown because of the hectic lifestyle of Hongkongers. The role of matchmaking has made a comeback in recent years. 'It has become a normalised industry,' Ms Chan said.