Technology is changing the way millennials find love and dating apps-the newest form of tech-courtship has found resonance among many. But, only time will tell if dating apps will make an impact in India’s tradition-heavy social structure.
As cities grow bigger, India’s urban population will constitute approximately 40% of the population by 2050. This migration is already under way signaling a change in the way society behaves and interacts.
A marked change introduced by urbanization and technology is the way young people meet prospective partners. Match-making went online with websites like Shaadi.com, bharatmatrimony.com and simplymarry.com. Now, there is something even for the ready-to-mingle single who are looking to date before jumping on to the ‘getting hitched’ bandwagon.
The first one to bring the dating app concept to India was Tinder, an app that was launched in the US in 2012. Globally, users have swiped through 1.6 billion profiles and has been downloaded over 50 million times. Following Tinder’s popularity a host of homegrown apps have flooded the market—and they claim to fill a key gap that many have identified with Tinder—of being a platform that helps people who want a relationship. Today India has 10 dating applications for the smartphone user.
Trulymadly, Waltzz, Aisle.co.in, Woo claim that they focus on helping you find a long-term partner not your next hook-up buddy. Aisle charges you for sending three connection requests (Rs 2000). For Woo, a monthly access pass is for Rs 250, quarterly and annual pass costs are Rs 550 and Rs 1500 respectively—to ensure seriousness among users.
All these apps have been downloaded over ten thousand times which means that there are lakhs of Indians using them to find love, companionship, or whatever suits them.
What a woman wants Versus What a man wants
Talking to approximately a dozen people throws up an obvious fact: the two genders seem to be on the App for different reasons. Women generally want to go the chat online-talk on the phone-meet for a date and then see how things progress while men want to go the Like-meet-have sex way. Four out of the six men we spoke to were on Tinder, Trulymadly to meet girls for hook-ups as it allows them to do so in relative anonymity with no future. Rohit Sharma, a 27 year old from Delhi says, “I am not looking for a relationship, and marriage is a long way off. Tinder is a great place to meet women who are not looking for any strings. I have been on it for about 6 months and the swiping is actually addictive.”
Girls are on it to meet someone new and have a fun first date experience. Mansi Reddy, from Delhi says she has been on close to 12 first dates, and second dates with three. She explains her personal check list, “I look for compatibility – does he travel, have similar interests, appear to be open minded. After we match, I ask questions like where he is from, what he does, why he is in Delhi, if the answers are interesting enough I fix up a place and time to meet him. There have been tons of times I have matched with someone, not found them interesting, found them to be pushy, dull, closed minded and decided to not continue the conversation. It’s not just what he looks like, in fact I have swiped right on some not so attractive men but liked what their profile says, or liked that they travel or even just because he has a dog.”
Age is also a factor
However, not all men are in it for sex. The reason for being on the app seems to change with the age group one talks to. Men closer to 30 are on these apps to get into a relationship as they are considering marriage and a more permanent state of being a couple of years down the line. So for men like these, Tinder was a turn-off as it has very few checks in place and many women are not what they seem on their profiles. Sumanto Bhattacharya, a freelance writer says he was looking for something firm and his experiences could be best described as superficial. Girls didn’t seem to be interested in a good conversation so even getting to a first date was difficult. He got off the app after six months because after seeing hundreds of faces and descriptions, the names were just a “blur.”
For girls, the hunt for a long-term partner/ prospective husband begins at 25-26 when parental pressure begins to mount at home to get married. In such cases, while parents get on to matrimonial websites, girls are getting on to dating apps to try and find someone on their own and to make a connection. Leena D’Souza from Mumbai says, “I have had two serious relationships. At 28, my parents have told folks at Church to look for a boy for me. I would rather find someone on my own and get to know him, so I am on Trulymadly. It’s been about three weeks on it and the profiles are alright. I am giving this till the end-of this year to see if anything happens.”
But, do the apps work?
Even though the Apps claim to have matched thousands, there are some who have been on at least three of them and are yet to find a partner. Amrita Homray, a PR professional in Mumbai says, “The new apps say they have an algorithm in place that will help match better but after about six months on Tinder, three months on Trulymadly and two weeks on Hinge make me wonder. There have been some good profiles but if you really look and be there long enough, there comes a time when the men being shown could best be described as “awkward”.
With ten apps the probability of meeting someone new is that much more but with many unsatisfied consumers, there seems to be a gap in what the apps offer and what those using them want. Anubhav Mishra, a 28 year-old from Mumbai introspects, “On the apps, your decision to even read the person’s name is based on how the person looks. So we are making instant judgements without knowing who the person is. But, that is also the only way to take a call because there is nothing else to recommend them. So am happy to try an app if that could get me someone but I am not at all hopeful.”
With so many negative views, is the platform to blame or the user? Or is it yet another instance of the two genders looking for different things with an added complication of being in India and there are just too many variables to make a match of it.
It’s not the apps, stupid
Historically, matchmaking in India has happened through facilitators. First, there were the family brahmins and priests, then there were the helpful ‘rishtedaars’, followed by friends in colleges and neighbourhoods and now the internet. But, the relationship has to exist between two individuals.
Dr. Mansi Hassan, a psychologist in Mumbai summarises the situation, “Those coming on to dating apps come with mixed expectations—they want to meet someone but it is after exhausting all possible avenues earlier. So they are not sure about the platform but are giving it a shot. Then comes the stage where you are choosing to go out with people who look ‘interesting’ but obviously that may not be the case in reality. If the first couple of dates fail, then you become more of a cynic. Coming up with a good partner, especially where both people are comfortable and acknowledge each other’s needs is a process and obviously needs time. You meet on a dating app, hit it off, get married six months later and then realise that both want different things from life. Today 50% of the marriages that are broken, have met online – either a matrimonial website or a dating app. Relationships are between people, you have to go with your eyes open and you have to invest in it.”