Aishwarya Ramesh

Love in the times of a right swipe

After the COVID pandemic, how have attitudes towards online dating changed? We take a deep dive to find out.

In a pre-internet world, love may have blossomed over stolen glances, warm cups of coffee or long walks on the beach. The world lives a little differently now - with first dates happening on Zoom calls, first glances being stolen through dating app profiles and first words spoken to each other on chat; thanks to the COVID pandemic.

There are two types of dating, broadly - casual dating (to get to know a person) and high-intent dating (to get into a relationship or get married). One factor common to both these types of dating is that increasingly, people are becoming more open and more accepting towards them.

Aisle’s new campaign targets this shift and attempts to speak to an audience who wants to indulge in high intent dating, even while they look for love on casual dating apps. The digital first campaign consists of 4 ads that talk about the pitfalls of modern online dating - ghosting, rude language, fake profiles, and judgment.

“Sadly, these occurrences are quite common. We wrote the scripts in house and our starting point was the experiences of the women who work at our company,” says Able Joseph, founder and CEO of Aisle.

He points out that in the USA - at least three generations of people were familiar with the concept of online dating but in India, we are probably the first or second generation to try finding their own partners via online dating apps.

He recalls that Aisle was founded on 14 July 2014 and when they entered the scene, they called themselves an Indian matchmaking app - because at the time, the term ‘dating’ was still looked down upon. The biggest difference he finds between then and now is that the company finds it easier to acquire new users - especially women. The ratio of men to women on the app is 70-30 according to Joseph.

Able Joseph
Able Joseph

Aisle attempts to create differentiation for itself in the dating apps space with a sign up process that is more elaborate than just entering your favourite genre of music into your profile. The app attempts to create credible profiles and it does not offer users unlimited swipes in the way that a Tinder or a Bumble does.

The monetisation model that Aisle follows is called Aisle Concierge and its pricing begins at Rs. 2500 per month to allow users to browse a catalog of profiles at one place. Aisle also has Aisle Premium - which starts at Rs. 999 per month.

“We want people to prove their intent to join our platform, we don’t want to make it easy for anyone to sign up and gain access until they are serious about it,” says Joseph.

Joseph adds that people post 40-50 years old, otherwise called Boomers - have accepted that their children want to take control of their lives and are willing to give them more independence.

“When you look at matrimonial apps - 70 per cent of the profiles are created by parents and the other 30 per cent are created by individuals. We want to target that 30 per cent,” he says.

Snehil Khanor, the CEO of TrulyMadly stresses on the importance of compatibility between partners. “When you get married older, you have to understand your partner to gauge compatibility - that’s the purpose of dating in a nutshell. Dating is seen as taboo in India, but love marriages are seen as aspirational. It’s a strange dissonance.”

Snehil Khanor
Snehil Khanor

He adds that now, there is increased acceptance of online dating and of dating apps like TrulyMadly. “More than 50 per cent of our users and our revenue comes from Tier II and III cities,” he says. Khanor says people understand the difference between serious and casual dating apps and puts TrulyMadly in the former category.

However, he stresses that dating apps don’t compete with matrimonial services like, or “With matrimonial apps, parents are creating profiles. With dating apps, individuals are creating the profiles. That being said, parents are also becoming more progressive and accepting of their children’s choice of life partners now.”

TrulyMadly also has a monetisation model wherein users can pay Rs. 699 to access the whole database of profiles to select and message the individual from. Khanor additionally says, the app is selective of the members it onboards to maintain exclusivity and genuineness of profiles.

Critiques/acceptance of online dating

Divya Agarwal - vice president - strategy & planning - Ogilvy begins her analysis by pointing out that earlier, people would meet at cafes or at parties - there was always that degree of separation when it came to bumping into someone.

“But with the covid pandemic - a lot of those connections got severed. There’s an increased acceptance of online dating now because it has become a natural medium to reach out to people. It’s a natural progression because all of our lives are moving on to screens and therefore the idea of finding a partner through a screen seems to fit in with the rest of our behaviour,” says Agarwal.

Divya Agarwal
Divya Agarwal

Agarwal’s problem with online dating is that there is always a choice overload. “People are always looking for the next best option. While it gives you a wide range and easy access, it becomes difficult when you get inundated with options. That I find is a problem with the format of online dating. However, this is a function of our lives becoming more digital - we’re inundated with choices on OTT platform, social media platforms too,” she points out.

She adds that there many changes happening within and around Indian families – nuclear structures, single parents, higher divorce rates, etc. “Therefore, the idea of meeting someone on a dating app is no longer looked down upon. Would you look down upon someone ordering food from Swiggy, or, landing a job from LinkedIn?" She asks.

“Aisle is trying to straddle the divide between Tinder, Bumble vs the other "serious" contenders of online matrimony. This space has a lot of scope for product innovation rooted in human behaviour and variables that look at relationships from more depth,” she opines.

Shalini Sinha chief of its consumer intelligence unit and director of strategy of Creativeland Asia mentions that we culturally, are rooted in match-making. “Our minds are primed towards ‘endings’ and longer-term relationships that are societally approved (read: marriage). Hence, the popularity and easy acceptance of platforms like or Bharat Matrimony.”

Shalini Sinha
Shalini Sinha

Sinha explains that there is a certain sense of duality when it comes to dating apps. “On one hand, youth today are much more open to embracing western concepts like ‘dating’ and there is growing awareness and trials of dating apps as well. On the other hand, an app connecting one to strangers, as a concept is still alien and subject to a lot of scrutiny. When we, at Crossbow Insights, connect with youth today we hear the same. While there is one set which is already onto these apps and experimenting, there is another set that is apprehensive and watching from the periphery.”

She adds that though these apps are gaining acceptance - the topic of dating is still taboo and the sense of judgment persists when it comes to family.

(Hero image courtesy Alexander Sinn from Unsplash)

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