For generations, the terms ‘casual sex’ and ‘hook-up’ were taboo, but Tinder has inspired a whole set of Indian dating platforms to bandy the words about. When it made its foray, Tinder’s competition was matrimonial websites BharatMatrimony and Shaadi, but over the last four years, home-bred apps like TrulyMadly, Woo and Aisle have thrown their hat into the ring to change the way young Indians meet.
Just following Tinder’s model of offering matches based on location won’t work in India because of the cultural differences, says Sachin Bhatia, who launched TrulyMadly on Valentine’s Day in 2014. “Online dating is a 20-year-old phenomenon in the US but here in India, we have seen the real growth over the past year.”
TrulyMadly screens people registering on the platform “because we only want genuine profiles of singles looking to meet new people,” he says, adding that the rejection rate is 25%. The verification process is done via Facebook, before checking identity proof and LinkedIn profiles.
DOING IT DIFFERENTLY Despite the lack of checks, the simplicity of swiping is working for Tinder. In just three years, India has become Tinder’s largest market in Asia. Last month, the company opened an office in Delhi, its first outside the US. In November 2015, Tinder said it saw a 400% increase in downloads in India in the past year, and women were more active than men.
Investors, however, are betting big (see box) on the fact that domestic players are not operating like Tinder. “For a global company like Tinder, it is difficult to modify its product to the needs of different regions. That is where domestic players have a chance,” says Sanjeev Aggarwal, senior managing director at Helion Ventures, which invested in TrulyMadly.
TrulyMadly has 2 million users, the same as Woo, an app launched in 2014. Woo, which targets the 25+ age group, withholds names of women and makes users answer a set of questions before allowing them to chat. “Given the security concerns of women, this is best. It may seem unfair to men, but since when has the world been fair?”says founder Sumesh Menon with a laugh.
MAN’S WORLD February is the month when people seem to look for love and the startups consider Valentine’s Day the Diwali of their business. An Intel report says 40% of users of dating apps are likely to increase the amount of time spent on them ahead of VDay. Menon agrees that Woo sees an increase in users, especially women, around this time. “Perceptions are changing, and a lot of women love to use the apps,” he says, while acknowledging that users are still largely male.
In India, the ratio of men to women on dating apps is 70:30, which could be a reason why a Tinder-like model won’t work well.
New Jersey boys Josh Israel and Devin Serago learnt that lesson the hard way when they moved to India to start Thrill in 2012. “When we launched, we got a lot of guys. The male-female ratio was 90:10,” says Israel. Girls are fewer because men are more desperate, he says. “Girls get hit on by guys all the time. Why will they come to an app just to meet men?”
Since Thrill was following the same model, Tinder was unassailable competition. So in 2015, Israel launched Frivil, an app that lets people rate one another on looks and matches them based on their score. “Our idea is to match hot people with hot people. It may sound superficial but that is exactly how people operate,” says Israel. Frivil, he says, is getting a lot of women users because “women want to know how they are judged on the basis of how they look.”
GETTING SERIOUS Since apps like Tinder and Frivil are largely about hooking up, Indian startups are trying to customize apps to suit those looking for something a little more serious. Able Joseph tried to address his own dissatisfaction with existing dating apps and matrimonial websites when he built his platform, Aisle, in 2014. “It’s pointless to be on a platform that has two million men and just 2,000 women,” says Joseph, who describes Aisle as a cross between a dating and a matrimonial app, where one signs up for free but pays to chat. “Since you have the privilege of handpicking, the chances of you making it work with the person you talk to would be higher,” Joseph explains. Almost 25% of Aisle’s users have paid up, he says.
Are only city folk using them? Not at all, says TrulyMadly’s Bhatia. “Initially we didn’t think we’d get users from non-metros but we realized demand for companionship is the same no matter which city you live in,” he says, adding that 45% of TrulyMadly’s users are from non-metros.
“We are seeing users from Ranchi, Surat, Puducherry and Theni in Tamil Nadu,” says Amit Vora, co-founder and CEO of iCrushiFlush, a dating app backed by IDG Ventures. It gets 70% of its users from smaller cities. “Since cultures are so different within the country, we have a customized model to engage with users in different regions,” Vora says.
LOVE OR MARRIAGE? The interest in dating apps hasn’t gone unnoticed by the big daddies in the matrimonial world. In April 2015, Bharat Matrimony acquired dating app Matchify. People Group, which owns Shaadi, backed Thrill.
“Matrimony has wider acceptance in India. Dating apps are struggling to raise funds. Young people might use these apps for friendship but when it comes to marriage, they would come to matrimonial sites. Each is a different segment,” says BharatMatrimony founder Murugavel Janakiraman. His company uses Matchify to study market preferences and the kind of traction these apps are getting, he says.
But making money off these apps is as difficult as finding true love on Tinder. Most are experimenting with advertisements, digital gifting and premium versions for monetization. iCrushiFlush is planning to take the gifting option one step further by integrating third-party e-commerce apps.
“It is tough to monetize in India when most of the digital advertising is cornered by Google and Facebook. Monetization is a few years away and you have to be patient,” says Anupam Mittal, founder and CEO of People Group, which owns Shaadi.
Big or small, all agree that the dating game is changing rapidly. “Given India’s changing demographic and the rise in internet penetration, the space is huge,” says Helion’s Aggarwal. “People spend 30 minutes a day on these apps — it’s another form of social engagement.”
And social engagement doesn’t always mean happily ever after or hook-ups. “You see a lot of founders and people working in startups,” says Priyanka. “I have been offered two jobs on these platforms during chats,” she says with a laugh.
- Woman says man she met on dating app swiped her car after stealing her heart
- ‘Trail of tears’ victim recalls how romance with con man turned dark in doc: ‘It put the fear of God in me’
- She was 17. Headed to her father’s Miami gallery. Then she was never seen again
- Sunday's Best Deals: Mar10 Switch Discounts, Kindle Ebooks, Induction Burners, and More
Why dating apps steal hearts have 1290 words, post on www.gadgetsnow.com at February 15, 2016. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.