Spurned in US, group dating site a hit in India

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SummaryIn 2008, three young guys in Manhattan started Ignighter.com, a dating website focused on twentysomethings.

HANNAH SELIGSON

In 2008, three young guys in Manhattan started Ignighter.com, a dating website focused on twentysomethings. They sought to set themselves apart by enabling members to set up group dates: One member, serving as a point person, could arrange a date — a movie, say, or a picnic in Central Park— with a group of other people and thereby take some of the awkward edge off of typical dates.

During the company’s first year, the three founder— Kevin Owocki, now 26, Daniel Osit, 29, and Adam Sachs, 28 — hustled to get the word out.

By the end of 2008, Ignighter.com had 50,000 registered users in the US — a decent number, but not big enough to put it on the digital dating map. “People just didn’t get right away what the site was about,” said Sachs, in charge of business development.

Then, in April 2009, while checking statistics about visitors, Osit, who is in charge of marketing, noticed there was a lot of traffic from Singapore, Malaysia, India and South Korea. Sachs recalls: “We didn’t pay any attention to it at first.” But by June, they couldn’t ignore the traffic from Asia — specifically India, which by then had more visitors than any other Asian country. Ignighter was gaining hundreds of users a day, mainly from New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. “In January 2010, we made the decision that we are an Indian dating site,” Sachs said. And now, with almost two million users — and 7,000 signing up daily — Ignighter is considered India’s fastest-growing dating website.

Next month, Ignighter will open an office in India. As funding heats up for Web start-ups in general, some investors have taken notice of Ignighter and its potential in India. This month, the company closed a $3 million round of financing. Forty per cent of its investors are based in India, including Rajan Anandan, Google’s top executive in India.

Osit suspects Indians read about the service on blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch. From there, it grew in part because dating in India is still in a somewhat embryonic stage. The group dynamic also makes going out an easier sell to parents, who are worried about safety and propriety. That’s what led Rohan Bhardwaj, 23, to set up a profile on Ignighter last month. He works in Delhi. Bhardwaj formed a group with two friends and asked out two twentysomething women from New Delhi. They arranged a date at a karaoke bar, and their second date was at the Hard Rock Cafe in the Saket District Centre.

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