Blogger’s Park: How Indians find love

When it comes to dating, one app does not fit all

The main drivers and market opportunities that propelled western dating apps to succeed couldn’t be replicated en masse in India because of its own unique set of courting traditions.

By Able Joseph

One of modern India’s biggest assets has to be its unique diversity. With endless varieties of customs, languages and ethnicities contributing positively to the upward trajectory of development in every sector, how can the dating industry still rely on a ‘one app fits all’ approach to help Indians find love online?

Courting users

Contrary to popular belief, of the 600 million plus internet users in India, only a fraction is natively English/ Hindi speaking. This is a clear indication of the fact that digital adoption is being led by users in rural India. A quick search on the internet for surveys will show that Indian language internet users are expected to grow at a rate faster than English users. Owing to the impact of the ‘Digital India’ campaign and affordable data, there is massive growth potential to reach hundreds of millions of first-time internet users in tier II and III cities by leveraging regional audiences. Youth all over India are now phone-savvy with the advent of apps like TikTok, and also want to find their partners independently due to which the number of matches in tier II and III cities have increased in recent years.

With a population exceeding 1.3 billion, of which nearly 20% is in the prime dating demographic, India is a prize that most dating apps are vying for. Western dating apps entered India at a time when it was considered to be a conservative market. Fast forward to now; these apps have gathered full force with their marketing campaigns focussed towards millennial and Gen Z Indians. Today, there is a change in mindset about love and marriage, starting with Gen X, because of the content they consume, which is more progressive than what the previous generations consumed.

Desi touch

The main drivers and market opportunities that propelled western dating apps to succeed couldn’t be replicated en masse in India because of its own unique set of courting traditions. The way love works in India is quite different from the other parts of the world. Indians are romantics at heart and keep their partners at the centre of their life decisions. Although the entry of western apps introduced people to online dating, these didn’t fully meet Indian dating needs. Some fields like faith and income are important to families in India, if not for singles themselves, and not all apps considered that. Then came a second tranche of Indianised dating apps that were designed to suit the dating needs of the Indian populace. While successful, these ‘homegrown’ apps work on a macro level and are still unable to deliver in tier II and III markets because these users prefer to communicate in their regional language and dialect.

Speaking to someone in your language establishes trust. When you offer people a chance to communicate in their native language, the platform doesn’t feel alien. The app no longer remains a data-driven algorithm, but more like an opportunity to meet like-minded people. Vernacular dating apps, therefore, are the need of the day. Strong social bonding has been found to be an important determinant in traversing relations online and offline as well.

Having said that, local dialects in the Indian language set-up are very difficult to process because of their variation and different contextual backgrounds. To increase penetration beyond their typical markets, apps have taken the multilingual route. A translated app works better, but still lacks customisation, and doesn’t serve the audience in its entirety. To solve this problem, the features of vernacular apps are made culturally specific to the respective regions. As vernacular becomes the flavour, apps will take to customisation to enter niche markets and geographies.

The author is founder and CEO, Aisle

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