Indians Prefer Meaningful Relationships Over Connections: Indian Dating Apps

March 26, 2021

8 min read


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The concept of dating is quite modern in India. Indians were introduced to dating in the late 1970s by Bollywood where a tall dark actor with long hair is attracted to a conservative girl, who has no say in her family. After persevering, the girl falls in love with him and they continue to secretly date, until their parents are informed. These types of movies inspired a whole generation who were thrilled with the surreptitiousness of dating. However, in most scenarios, even after falling in love with each other, things ended in two ways: either they were married or the father’s family found another “ suitable ” man and the ‘married.

Fast forward to the 21st century, things have changed. People meet online to find love. Social media was the first place people started to come together to get to know each other better. You would easily see screenshots floating around on various social media of how the couples met and are now married. To spice things up, the internet has seen the birth of dating sites or apps, exclusively for people to this day. Tinder has become the go-to place for people all over the world. The app founded in 2012 entered the Indian market in 2016, sparking a massive response. Tinder’s entry was followed by many other foreign dating apps as well as Indian dating apps that aimed to target 81 million singles in India, according to the 2011 census. Currently India is the second largest market. in importance for dating apps, after the United States, with $ 323 million in revenue in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 454 million in 2021, according to the Statista report.

To understand what Indian dating apps do differently to international giants and the issues they face as well as how to solve, Entrepreneur India spoke with the founders of four Indian dating apps.

Arrival of international players

In India, long before the introduction of social media, dating sites had a significant market share. Bharatmatrimony.com, Jeevansathi.com, Shaadi.com, were among others where more than singles, their parents were glued to finding the perfect fit. In most parts of India, marriage is a parameter that scales a person’s ability to take responsibility, regardless of financial constraints. However, this very notion has changed with increasing literacy and the advent of social media and dating apps. When Tinder first entered India, many adults signed up out of curiosity and to emulate what they saw in Western movies / series. The number of downloads has skyrocketed, with participation of both sexes. Seeing this, other international dating apps have gradually made inroads into the country, such as Happn, OkCupid and Bumble, and now enjoy the largest market share. However, these have only pushed Indian entrepreneurs to come up with dating apps that are tailor-made for Indians and offer long-term relationships rather than casual hookups that international apps are known for.

Indians slide to the right for meaningful relationships

Able Joseph, founder and CEO of Aisle, an Indian dating app, points out that international dating apps present in India are missing out on key preferences specific to India.

“Most dating apps are based on instant ‘yes and no’ judgments of potential partners and are designed to discourage relationships,” he added.

Joseph, who himself was looking for a partner and was tired of the swipe culture while in Dubai, realized that there was no dating app that catered to the Indian market and understood the people. in all its sensibilities.

While it is true that one night stands, which is a concept of the western world, is not very popular in India, it will not be wrong to say that the present generation hates the idea of ​​arranged marriage and instead wishes spend time with their partner before tying the auspicious knot. This is where most Indian dating apps play a key role.

Snehil Khanor, co-founder and CEO of TrulyMadly, believes the likelihood of finding love on platforms designed for casual sex and dating is rare. “They need a platform, where they can find a compatible life partner for themselves, on their own,” he added, saying his platform TrulyMadly plans to become a platform. -A must-have shape for singles 26 and over to find a meaningful long-term relationship. .

Shalini Singh, founder of andwemet.com, a matchmaking website founded in 2019, said the current industry includes image-based or company-based dating services, which requires transparency. Drawing on her own past experience, as she was doing well in her career, she was rejected by many boys and their families because of her skin tone.

“Most dating app users want to be in a relationship, but the casual dating app scanning algorithm discourages it,” Joseph added. He said casual dating apps help people find love online, but user intent on most of these casual apps is unclear. “That’s what we solved by building Aisle. A platform designed for meaningful connections where user intent is established. Aisle currently has over 5 million downloads from the Play Store and the App Store.

Target level II and III cities

Interestingly, dates that court the urban population and are considered for city dwellers have also paved the way in Level II and III cities. Ravi Mittal, who is the founder of Quack Quack, noted that during the lockdown, their platform saw 70% of new users come from small towns and only 30% from metropolitan areas. The dating app currently has around 12 million registered users, 7 million app downloads, and around one million active users.

Joseph’s Aisle saw a 7% increase in revenue generation for Tier II cities in 2020 compared to 38% in 2019.

“Young people are more and more inclined to meet online. However, what we need to understand here is that the way love works in India is quite different from other parts of the world. People in India or Desis are inherently romantic and keep a partner at the center of all life decisions, ”he added.

TrulyMadly, which has over eight million registered users, sees a significant portion of income generation from Tier II and III cities. Khannor said the majority of Indians, especially women and Level II and III users, are not interested in casual hookups and look for platforms where like-minded users with the same intention are present. to find something meaningful.

Even international players like Tinder and Bumble have also felt a strong demand for dating in Tier II and III cities, with the latter seeing a 300% increase in registrations in small towns compared to metropolitan towns.

Why do international players still dominate?

While Indian dating apps seem to have hit the right foot in claiming to offer long and meaningful relationships, international players like Tinder and Bumble still benefit from the majority of the market. According to a report by Statista, Tinder, the world’s most downloaded app, has over 100 million downloads from the Play Store, followed by Happn which has over 50 million downloads. OkCupid and Bumble has over 10 million downloads.

QuackQuack’s Mittal believes that failed or fail dating startups are due to lack of funding, an appropriate income model in mind, and are building a lackluster product without having a clear understanding of Indian needs.

Joseph said international brands have large advertising budgets and have integrated influencer marketing into their marketing strategy. Apart from that, huge expenses are spent on ads and social media campaigns, to increase brand awareness and attract new users.

Tinder has raised $ 50 million in venture capital. Its parent company Match Group, which is also the parent company of OkCupid, raised $ 400 million in an IPO in 2015.

Bumble, which was seen as the antithesis of Tinder, in 2020 amid the outbreak, went public with a $ 2.15 billion IPO on February 10, 2021, when the company was valued at 8.3 billions of dollars.

The biggest obstacle, according to Singh, is access to capital.

“These international brands have more and more to burn. They can attract members by building their brand awareness through smart marketing gigs. If you look around, most Indian dating apps are bootstrap, which becomes one of the barriers to success, ”she added.

However, it should be remembered that some of the Indian dating apps fill in the gaps organically which only reveals their true potential. For example, QuackQuack added over 3.4 million users in 2020, which is more than some of the international brands present in India. In terms of weekly installs, TrulyMadly is ahead of Bumble and neck and neck with Tinder according to AppAnnie. Aisle claims to be the leader in the high-intention dating market in the country.


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