Called the ‘feminist dating app’ by many, Bumble ensures female users get to be on an equal footing with men by allowing them to make the first move
Seeing women make the first move in their personal and professional lives is still unusual in a patriarchal country like ours. But Bumble, a social networking app that encourages dating, as well as professional networking and getting a BFF to pursue shared interests with, aims to change that. The app ensures that female users get to be on an equal footing with men by allowing them to make the first move—a man can’t get in touch with a woman unless she swipes right and sends the first message. “Men and women are equal. Bumble is not an effort to disempower men… the way we see society, women are placed lower than men and by having the woman make the first move… gives her an equal footing… this is very important not only for dating, but also for business networking, job search, etc,” says 29-year-old Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO, Bumble, which was launched in the US in 2014 and currently has 50 million users in 140 countries.
For Herd, Bumble came from a very personal experience. As a young woman growing up in the US, she was always told to wait for men to make the first move. “Don’t approach a man, don’t be too forward, you must let the man do those things… this went against my desires,” says Texas-based Herd, adding, “As a woman, I felt I deserved to be an equal, be it deciding who I hang out with on a Friday night or whether I want to send a message to a guy I think is cute. I struggled with this my whole life and when I wanted to build a social connection platform to really empower women to be treated better digitally, to be safe online and to have respect, I knew we had to recalibrate human behaviour.”
Bumble’s India beginnings took place last year in New York at a dinner that actor Priyanka Chopra and Herd were both attending. Herd—who also co-founded dating app Tinder, but left it earlier in 2014—realised that Chopra and she had common goals and visions about the future of women. And so the actor came onboard as an adviser and investor, playing an integral role in the brand’s expansion in India. Bumble, which launched in India in December 2018, will initially focus on the top eight metros in the country—users can avail the app in Hindi and Hinglish on both iOS and Android.
On the social networking app, men play a passive role. Only a woman can message a man first—this, however, doesn’t apply if two women swipe right and like each other. Once the woman has liked a man and the man has liked her back, she has 24 hours to message him after which the connection will disappear—she gets another 24 hours if the man chooses to extend the connection. The man can, however, use this privilege only once. Additionally, in India, the app allows women to sign in with only their initials if they are uncomfortable giving out their full names.
Bumble has two other interesting features—Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz—both of which make it different from a typical dating app. If a female user selects the BFF option, she will come across profiles of several women from all walks of life looking for girl friends to spend quality time with and pursue common interests. This feature also allows you to make healthy connections with female friends. “There is nothing more painful when there are toxic friends around… Bumble is trying to recalibrate toxicity,” says Herd. Bumble Bizz, on the other hand, is where you get to network with people and build contacts.
Initially, however, Bumble entered the market only with its dating feature. And why not? Online dating is, after all, very popular. As per a recent survey by digital research consultancy Mindshift Metrics, the online dating space has been growing at an explosive pace in urban India. Nearly, 33% of the couples surveyed had met online and, by 2040, the survey projects that this number will increase to 70%.
One thing, however, that keeps cropping up is a comparison between Tinder and Bumble. But that is unfounded, as Tinder users, irrespective of gender, can message one another once both have liked each other, increasing the chance of women receiving unsolicited sexual messages. With Bumble, that chance is very low because men can’t send a message unless the woman has messaged them first. “I believe you can’t compare us to any dating app. We have so much more to offer. Our verticals extend into platonic relationships and professional ones, and our brand goes beyond this platform,” says Herd, adding, “We do not see Tinder as a competitor. We are trying to do something unique, trying to empower the world, and we are trying to allow women to do it on their own terms.”
But will the fact that Bumble allows women to take the dominant role come in the way of its popularity in India? “Anything that challenges societal norms and encourages equality and empowerment is always going to be risky. I believe that women every single day put themselves on the line. But risking something is better than being complacent and allowing things to just continue,” says Herd.