Resetting lives, how dating apps are carving a new growth story in pandemic times
Dating as a concept has evolved tremendously in India. The growing digitisation in India and growth of technology has only facilitated people’s need for companionship. The pandemic not only brought the world to a screeching halt, but also forced people to spend more of their lives online. Driven by isolation, boredom, and lack of social connections, both romantic and platonic, a lot of singles ultimately joined dating apps. This ecosystem also saw trends like “lockdown buddies” and the players in the market evolved with the needs of the consumers.
With these changes, not only youngsters but Indian families, too, started evolving and becoming more accepting of their children’s dating life. This was revealed by a recent survey conducted by Aisle, which stated that almost 83% of the respondents believe their families are welcoming of their dating lives. According to the report, 70% of the respondents said that they would introduce their partners to their families within a year of dating. 63% of the respondents said that they would discuss their relationship with their mother, which goes by the common wisdom that mothers are everyone’s go-to person.
Commenting on the growth of dating apps amid the pandemic, Snehil Khanor, Co-founder & CEO, TrulyMadly, said, “Covid neither had a positive nor negative impact on TrulyMadly as we focus on serious, forever relationships. Though it resulted in more adoption, as the social isolation that set in owing to the pandemic encouraged a lot of people to explore dating apps as a way to build new relationships. TrulyMadly saw 92% CAGR in its revenue in the last two years, but the growth started pre-pandemic and kept on going despite pandemic. The biggest reason for this growth is the trust that users have developed towards TrulyMadly, as a safe space to find and meet new people and begin a relationship – be it a lasting friendship or love. Serious dating apps are becoming more popular because we are attuned to the younger generations' needs of having meaningful relationships, for which dating is very crucial.”
Bumble’s India Communications Director, Samarpita Samaddar, noted, “Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, we’ve seen a surge in virtual dating on Bumble. Building meaningful connections online reigned supreme in 2021 as over one billion matches were made on Bumble globally in 2021, showing over a 25% increase from the matches made in 2020. In 2021, we’ve seen an increased need for social connections with continued lockdown and social distancing restrictions, evidenced by the fact that over 9 billion messages were exchanged on Bumble globally in 2021, up nearly 40% from 2020. The highest number of messages were exchanged between October and early November in 2021 as singles all over the world headed into the start of a major ‘online dating season’.”
Social media engagement and use has increased immensely over the lockdown period, which has been more of a benefit than a disadvantage for the dating app industry. It has taught the modern human that it is possible to make genuine connections over the Internet and this further empowered dating apps to keep going in their offerings and services. However, there is a major difference between social media and dating apps: one is used mostly to stay connected with friends, family, and acquaintances, whereas dating apps are more specific about meeting people that one feels attracted to.
Able Joseph, Founder & CEO, Aisle, remarked, “Since its inception, Aisle has been a platform for users to build long-term meaningful relationships, which is why we were well-positioned to adapt and respond to the new normal brought about by the pandemic. Within a few months of the first lockdown, we launched a new live-streaming feature called ‘Rooms’ for users to interact before matching. This feature allowed individuals to host a virtual ‘Room’ and begin an audio conversation with any other interested users after which the host could either choose to match or to pass.”
He further said, “By the end of 2020, we introduced another feature, ‘Aisle Concierge' , a premium service that allows users to browse through a collection of handpicked potential matches all in one place without having to ‘Like’ or ‘Pass’ every profile. Aisle has always been a platform that empowers Indian singles to find long-term and meaningful relationships. Early 2021, we launched the ‘Settle Down’ feature that allows users to gauge a potential partner’s timeline of settling down. This brings better clarity and users don’t have to second guess the intentions of people they are connecting with on the app. During 2021, our focus shifted to building vernacular dating apps that could solve for matchmaking in Tier 2 and 3 cities. We launched three vernacular apps – ‘Arike’, ‘Anbe’ and ‘Neetho’ – and plan to launch more vernacular apps by the end of 2022. Our mission now is to truly revolutionise dating in both metros and non-metros and bring customised dating to all parts of India.”
Bumble’s virtual dating features
Speaking in detail on the various initiatives introduced by Bumble, Samarpita Samaddar said, “With current restrictions in India, our newest innovations in virtual dating will offer an opportunity for people to engage with each other in a more interesting way and showcase their unfiltered and authentic selves when chatting on Bumble. To make the virtual experience more interactive, we’ve recently announced a robust suite of innovations for our Bumble community. Additionally, our COVID Preferences feature provides our community a large selection of choices to showcase exactly how they want to date during this time (virtual, socially-distanced with masks, and so on), and what precautions they want to take for virtual or IRL dates.
Night In is a new virtual dating experience where two people can participate in an interactive game over a one-on-one video chat after matching within the app. It offers daters in India an opportunity to create more meaningful and deeper connections in addition to other existing virtual dating options.
Video Notes: This feature enables people to send quick videos to each other directly in chat to help break the ice and build deeper conversations. To show their fun side, people can choose to add five Snapchat lenses for their video notes, including Atmosphere, Reactions, and Fox Ears/Tail. This enables people to send quick videos to each other directly in chat to help break the ice and build deeper conversations.
To make video dates easier and more interesting on Bumble, people can also select the video calling backgrounds such as a picnic in Paris, a gondola ride in Venice, and a campfire under the stars, among others. These 360-degree backgrounds will imitate being together in real life and will react to your movement. The AR backgrounds will be available in Bumble’s existing video calling feature, allowing people to make their video calls more exciting to kickstart conversations.
Our ‘I’m vaccinated’ badge allows the Bumble community to share their vaccination status on their profiles with potential new connections in the app
People can now select and add up to five badges from over 150 interests that range in various categories including sports, creative hobbies, the preferred choice of activities while choosing to stay in, favourite movies, television shows, music to books. They can also choose to showcase their values and traits along with expressing their choice of allyship and support for various social causes. The launch of our new Interest Badges is another way in which Bumble continues to offer single Indians an easy way to connect with each other.
Culture & social environment
When it comes to dating apps, culture and social environment play a great role in the way differences and usages can vary from one country to another. India is a market where users particularly enjoyed video calls during this period and started subscribing for many such additional features that were provided by the dating applications. Ravi Mittal, Founder and CEO, QuackQuack, observed, “After the first lockdown, we saw an 80% increase in signups along with a 40% increase in daily chats. As people remained home mostly, it gave a chance for users to really connect over chats, rather than taking it offline.”
“As brands, we are seeing greater adoption of dating apps, an increase in traffic from smaller cities as more people shifted to their hometown, people getting familiar with the ease of finding someone to talk to online easily, we saw 11% growth in female users as well, dating apps are today not only about dating, but also a platform to make new friends in India,” he added.
Mittal further said, “We have 15 million registered users. Among this, we added 5 million users in the last 1 year showing the potential we are seeing.”
TrulyMadly’s Khanor added here, “We are now crossing 1 crore registered users mark on the platform and growing. We are seeing immense growth from Tier 2 and 3 and not just in users, but even revenue. In 2019, only 28% of our revenue came from Tier 2 and 3 cities, but in 2021, 44% of the revenue came from Tier 2 and 3 cities. While all three segments are growing in revenue, Tier 2 and 3 are growing much faster than Tier 1.”
2022 - A big year for romance
The future seems bright as more and more people are accepting the concept of online dating and the added benefit of increasing social media acceptance is proof for the same. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that people are being more mindful of what they are looking for in a partner and more intentional about dating at their own time and pace.
Bumble’s Samarpita Samaddar elaborated, “With over 70% of single Indians looking to ‘reset’ their dating lives, 2022 looks likely to be a big year for romance. We expect the intentional dating trend to continue in 2022 as the majority of single people (54%) in India are more mindful of how and when they date. While this year has brought the return of some much-loved pre-pandemic behavior, the future of dating holds many new and welcomed shifts. According to Bumble, the new year will bring us:
Resetters: The pandemic brought a lot of changes for daters, but many adjusted along the way by adopting video chat and planning virtual dates. 71% of people on Bumble in India are ready to hit the reset button on their dating journey in the new year. For 75% of people, the pandemic has made them now prioritise finding a partner who is more emotionally available. For more than half of (52%) people on Bumble the pandemic has drastically changed what they are looking for in a partner
Explori-dating: While what we’re looking for has changed but this hasn’t necessarily made dating super serious. In fact, the pandemic has made almost half of the people (48%) question what our ‘type’ even is. Looking ahead to 2022, more than half of daters on Bumble in India would describe their approach to dating as exploratory (55%)
Hobby Dates: From cooking together to pottery classes to starting your own business - 75% of Indian daters on Bumble have picked up new hobbies and skills. And now it’s also present in our dating lives as 52% of people on Bumble in India are planning their dates around their new hobbies. This is an easy way to get back into dating post-lockdown by doing something you already love and it’s a great way to connect over shared interests!
Consciously Single: We’ve all heard of ‘conscious uncoupling’ but 2022 is all about finding that someone, not just anyone. The pandemic has made more than half of us (62%) realise that it’s actually OK to be alone for a while. Looking ahead, people are consciously making a decision to be single, with the majority of single people (54%) being more mindful and intentional in how and when they date
Power PDA: With vaccination rates increasing, PDA is back in a big way, and it looks like it’s not just the celebrities that are into it. 73% of single Indians on Bumble say that they are more open to public displays of affection post-pandemic.”
“Users are now scattered throughout India, as in, earlier the user base was majority metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, which has now changed to 70% smaller cities and towns. Users are also looking for more serious relationships compared to earlier where dating was more casual. Chats have become longer too. We are planning to add Hindi as a language of choice for our users, launch video calling and advertise in more regional languages,” QuackQuack’s Mittal noted.
Aisle’s Joseph said, “At Aisle, we added 2 million users in 2020 alone. Our focus in 2020 and early 2021 was to bring the best of features for people looking to match online. As 2021 progressed, we also noticed a surge in the matches in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. We know that people value a feeling of community which is why our focus shifted to building apps for India. With this in mind, we launched ‘Arike’, ‘Anbe’ and ‘Neetho’ for Malayalees, Tamil and Telugu audiences, respectively.”
“As per our observation, in the last one year Tier 2 and 3 city users got accustomed to online dating. When lockdowns were lifted, users from Tier 1 cities started taking their dates offline. But, as the Tier 2 and 3 city users didn’t have the same advantage due to lack of places to socialise, they continued to date online. People understood the value of having a significant other and we saw that 51.2% of our users were looking to settle down within a year. This was also conveyed as more people sent out Likes, Invites and upgraded to Premium & Concierge in 2021 than they did in 2020,” he concluded.