Meet Taru Kapoor, the lady on whose shoulders brand Tinder rests in India.
Last month, afaqs! interviewed Gourav Rakshit, CEO, Shaadi.com, popular online matchmaking service. He said, about Tinder, a dating app, "They'll need to do more than just white label their product in the country. In India, you need to do more than just show up..."
So, we decided to ask Tinder's local brand custodian the plan. Taru Kapoor, head, operations, Tinder India, is an alumna of IIT Delhi. She graduated from Harvard Business School last May, and has worked at Boston Consulting Group and Sequoia Capital, in the past.
India, presently, is among Tinder's top five markets, in terms of growth rate. The brand's active user base in India has grown by 97 per cent over the past three months. Tinder app downloads in India have increased by over 400 per cent over the last year. Daily, 14 million swipes are made in India; in September 2015, this figure was 7.5 million.
The app has been available in India for around three years, but it's only now that the team appears to be fortifying its physical presence in this market, what with Taru's appointment and the launch of its first office in the country, in Gurgaon.
According to Taru, it's a culmination of macro-economic trends that makes now the right time to focus on this market. "Average age-wise, India is a young country, smartphone penetration is increasing, it is Facebook's second largest market, the entrepreneurial eco-system is hot here, and people are getting very used to using mobile apps for a lot of their needs. It's time for a more focused approach in such a market," she sums up.
Taru is preoccupied with generating product trials. She says, "A lot of people use Tinder here, but there are a lot of potential users as well - people who haven't heard of it, or those who have heard of it but haven't tried it yet. We don't want people to see Tinder as 'just a global brand'."
How did Taru land the job at Tinder India? "I've been involved with startups and growing businesses before," she says, referencing her time at Pocket Gems (the firm develops mobile games) in San Fransisco, "I was interested in looking at 'entrepreneurial' opportunities. Tinder just happened. And I just jumped at it. It was serendipity, really. That's the promise of our platform, anyway."
Now, her focus is on understanding the needs of Tinder users in India. While around 90 per cent of them are between 18 and 30 years of age, the sweet spot, she tells us, is between 19 and 22. She describes these mobile natives as "savvy, cool, progressive Millennials."
And these users are not necessarily metro-dwellers. "You'd be surprised by how quickly we're growing in the smaller cities of India," says Taru, adding, "Tinder, by its very design, is hyperlocal; you meet people who're around you (by fixing a geographical radius within which the app helps you 'discover' people). The kind of conversations you'll have with people in Agra, versus Chennai, for instance, will automatically be different; the conversations will reflect the cultural nuances without us having to drive these differences."
According to Taru, the app works in the Indian market, in part, because, "traditionally, we have a lot of structural barriers when it comes to meeting new people. We're wary of meeting people outside our immediate social circles. That's true everywhere in India, particularly for women. Women just don't approach people they don't know. Tinder has reduced those barriers."
Moreover, it helps that Tinder operates on the 'double opt-in' system. That is, you can send a message to, or receive a message from, someone only after both you and the person in question have 'liked' each other ('swiped right') on the platform. "Thus," says Taru, "the conversation starts on the very premise of mutual interest. That takes away any fear of rejection. Tinder is a very 'intuitive' product."
She's not ruling anything out, we gather. For now, she's more open to brand collaborations, than on "an out and out media blast." Tinder recently associated with brands like Zomato, an online restaurant discovery and food ordering service, Terribly Tiny Tales, a social story-telling platform, and The Viral Fever (TVF), a homegrown YouTube channel that creates original web content.
Last month, TVF created a ten-minute-long digital video titled 'Eat Pray Swipe' (a play on the title 'Eat Pray Love', a popular English movie featuring Julia Roberts). The video is about a young man's tryst with Tinder. Those who've used the app, can relate to the protagonist's experiences as he meets different girls and for those who haven't used it, it's like a quick, educative 'How To' video.
Is allowing Tinder to be perceived as a near-matrimony app an effort to Indianise the brand? "Not really," fields Taru, "Tinder is a social discovery platform, an introduction platform. A match on Tinder can lead to multiple things - friendships, acquaintances, professional connections, romantic relationships and sometimes marriage. Tinder is what you make of it."
The brand, however, has incorporated a feature or two based on feedback received from users in India, such as the addition of users' education and workplace-related information, few months back.
"That was our 'top requested' feature, particularly in India," she shares, adding, "We recently integrated 'gifs' (images) in the chat, as that's something Indian users love." Indians, it turns out, spend a lot more time exchanging text messages on Tinder than users in other markets do.