Networking: Hyperlocal apps have arrived, but it’s not a good road

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Updated: July 1, 2019 2:53:52 AM

Whether one talks of Bumble Bizz, MeetUp, BlueTie, UActiv, Sofar Sounds or Betterhalf.ai, there always seems room for more social networking apps in the marketplace.

Networking, Hyperlocal apps, business model, Bumble Bizz, MeetUp, BlueTie, UActiv, Sofar Sounds, technology newsNew-age apps Bumble is a location-based social networking app.

Sonam Saini

Targetting niche audiences and achieving scale at the same time is never an easy business model to crack. Hyperlocal social networking apps that have mushroomed all over the country are beginning to figure this out.

These apps target similar interest communities, giving them a platform to meet like-minded people, explore events, etc, thereby changing the way people socialise and network professionally. Whether one talks of Bumble Bizz, MeetUp, BlueTie, UActiv, Sofar Sounds or Betterhalf.ai, there always seems room for more social networking apps in the marketplace. But these players have barely scratched the surface in terms of monetisation.

New-age apps Bumble, a location-based social networking app, recently forayed beyond providing dating matches by introducing Bumble Bizz in India—a space exclusively for women to connect in matters of love, life, and work— a year after the global launch.

“Our ‘Women in Bizz’ feature gives women the option to exclusively network professionally with other women. The idea is to help our community connect, find mentors or mentees, and build support systems outside the office,” shares Priti Joshi, global director of strategy, Bumble. Users can filter matches based on options like looking for an internship, mentorship, potential investors, networking opportunities or a new job.

Much like Bumble Bizz, Mumbai-based Blue Tie Global launched a professional networking app, BlueTie, to give users the power to discover and access the right professionals. This networking application allows users to search for professionals based on skill sets or professional certification.

Apart from professional networking, some apps offer unique features. UActiv, for instance, is meant for sports admirers and allows its users to connect with communities, games, events and workshops. One of the earliest apps is MeetUp, launched back in 2002, which allows for creating online groups that can meet offline for mutual interest-based events.

Swiping for monetisation In comparison to dating apps, most of these apps do not have a strong repeat user base. For instance, Tinder has over 10 crore downloads, while Woo has around 50 lakh installs. On the other hand, Bumble, which also offers professional networking, has around 10 lakh downloads whereas UActiv has 10,000 downloads.

So what are brands doing to boost user bases? “Our subscription model includes Bumble Boost, which lets you see everyone who has right-swiped, extend your matches by 24 hours and rematch with expired connections. Separately, users can also buy Bumble Coins to access features like SuperSwipe or Spotlight,” informs Joshi. From the revenue perspective, a lot of them have yet to achieve monetisation, with most experimenting with their strategies.

“Most of the platforms are still struggling internally on cracking the B2B formula and figuring out the best way to involve partners and brands. For many, the strategy is still work in progress,” opines Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst, founder and CEO, Greyhound Research.

Apart from the subscription-based model, advertising is another source of revenue for these apps, which will only become significant once scale is achieved. “Brands are interested in such platforms but when an app doesn’t have more than five lakh installs, then advertising becomes difficult,” mentions Nishant Singh Didawat, business head – digital media strategy and operations, Kinnect. Tinder is an exception; it has a partnership with Facebook because of its significant volume of subscribers.

A majority of the other non-dating apps enter into partnerships with restaurants or event firms to organise offline meetings. Speaking about the challenges in the space, Gogia points out there is so much overlap of data on users’ profiles that beyond a point, there is very less uniqueness left in terms of services and the value that these apps have to offer. “In the next 12 months, consolidation will happen,” he says.

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