Aishwarya Ramesh

Desi dating apps take on international rivals, matrimonial sites

Though the end goal is the same – to find a partner, maybe get married, Indian and international dating apps are positioned distinctly. We try to decode why.

Indians no longer feel shy about dating, relationships, living together and everything in between. Thanks to COVID-induced social isolation, many people have become more open about trying out dating apps. Many have even found love and a life partner on these apps, which seems ideal. But the apps tell a different story with their marketing messages.

It was well before 2020 that Tinder, Bumble and Hinge landed in India, but they have been gaining traction since the pandemic. When it comes to advertising and marketing messages, these brands focussed on the fine nuances of relationships, such as compatibility and consent.

Whereas dating apps like QuackQuack and Aisle have simpler messaging – focussing on finding a life partner. Aisle takes cheeky digs at Tinder and Bumble in its campaigns that highlight that it is not a ‘casual’ app at all.

Popular American dating apps
Popular American dating apps

Ravi Mittal, founder and CEO of QuackQuack, mentions that it’s one of the most downloaded dating apps in India. Over a Zoom call, Mittal informs afaqs! that the company focusses on performance-based campaigns so that people in small towns and cities – Tier-II and III ones – are aware of the app.

QuackQuack’s latest digital-first campaign is with actress Aahana Kumra. The 10-15-second ads will be live across various mediums, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. The agency that worked on these ads is Hyderabad-based Raasta Studios. Mittal also says that the company is looking at advertising on OTT platforms such as Disney+ Hotstar.

"When it comes to advertising, Tinder and Bumble tend to focus more on urban audiences. A Tier-II or III audience may not even understand the ads."

Mittal explains that post-pandemic, 70% of QuackQuack's users now come from Tier-II and III cities, and there’s an 11% increase in the app's female user base. The company has been around for 12 years now but, thanks to the smartphone boom and cheaper Internet access, it has added 10 million users over the last two years alone.

Able Joseph, founder & CEO at Aisle, mentions that India is a diverse country. And so, it may be more difficult for two people, who may not speak the same language, to strike up a conversation.

“Initially, there was this hesitation from people to reveal their faces online and it became difficult to create trust. When Indian apps like Aisle, TrulyMadly, Woo, etc., came forward, we attempted to convince urban Indians to add a face to the names on their profiles.”

Joseph adds that on the surface, it appears as if Aisle competes with matrimonial apps like or, but he argues that Aisle has a mixed audience, with Gen Z and millennials too.

“We do, however, compete with the likes of Bumble and Tinder. Our positioning has always been that we are an app better suited for Indian singles than western ones.”

Joseph agrees with QuackQuack’s Mittal, mentioning that it was challenging to bring female users on board, but the situation has changed now. He mentions that during the pandemic, more users came on board, seeking human contact and companionship. The company’s cost of user acquisition dropped and its user base grew.

An approximate gender breakup on QuackQuack
An approximate gender breakup on QuackQuack

Divya Agarwal, former vice president, strategy & planning, Ogilvy, mentions that apps like Tinder and Bumble may be more evolved and established, hence, the focus on different aspects of a relationship, such as compatibility.

Divya Agarwal
Divya Agarwal

“Indian apps are still largely unknown and that may be why the brands are attempting to drive awareness using functional messages. Aisle is probably competing with the traditional market of arranged marriages and online matrimony by trying to differentiate itself from other established casual dating apps,” Agarwal mentions, referencing its campaign from a few months ago, where it specifically mentions that it is not a casual dating app.

“Old timers like Tinder are almost synonymous with the category and, therefore, are looking to drive a little more insightful messaging. ‘Start something epic again’ is an interesting positioning that keeps Tinder purposeful, while being playful and keeping the category codes,” she adds.

Anchit Chauhan, AVP, planning, Wunderman Thompson, recalls that during the initial stages of its introduction in India, dating apps earned a bad rep for being a platform that encouraged casual hook ups.

“Some international brands, especially the ones that came to India first, are deeply affected by that negative association. Hence, most of the new entrants in the category try to assure women of quality matches, as opposed to men, who are just looking for casual hook ups. That’s the space that platforms like Bumble, Aisle and TrulyMadly have created.”

Sumeer Mathur, chief strategy officer, Dentsu Creative India, states that different dating apps fulfill different needs with the intended TG.

“Young users who are tired of hook ups, may try an Indian dating app. A lot of people who are heavy users of these apps, use multiple ones to cast a wider or a different net. The smaller town, more traditional audience may feel left out by the global apps and their positioning. These apps are more Indian, as they view dating being a precursor to relationships.”

Sumeer Mathur
Sumeer Mathur

Chauhan anticipates that as society evolves and becomes more accepting of dating, live-in and other modern relationships, the lines between dating apps and matrimony platforms will become blurred.

“However, right now, and the likes target parents who often pay for their services and, in most cases, create the profile of their children. While dating apps target the person who’s looking for a partner.”

Dentsu’s Mathur explains that matrimonial services are a new form of the traditional newspaper matrimonial columns.

“These apps help in finding the right match for the prospect and the audience comprises both individuals and their families. As they mimic society at large and play matchmaker, caste, religion, community, location all become hugely important in the way profiles are accessed and selected.”

Anchit Chauhan
Anchit Chauhan

Chauhan adds that with a lot of social platforms in India, women users tend to attract unwanted attention from men. “For any dating platform to be successful, it needs to attract and retain women with the promise of quality and safety. Once you have the fairer sex on these platforms, men will follow.”

Agarwal feels that Bumble is trying to drive behaviour change at large by encouraging women to make the first move, and urging men to update and verify their profiles. “Both necessary shifts are needed for the category to flourish.”

Mathur adds that the brand positioning around credibility and intentions may encourage women to join dating apps. “In India, dating is seen as the first step in a relationship, and western apps are perceived as meant for dating solely, not for love in the Indian context. In the end, the players are ensuring that whatever the kind of relationship you seek, there’s an app for it.”

“While and are like newspaper matrimonial columns, the western apps have brought in a global dating culture to India. The Indian dating apps may be looking to further offer a differentiated product and address some of the alienating aspects of existing apps.”

“For instance, most profiles on the matrimonial apps are jointly managed with parents, and the goal of marriage carries with it the pressure of being selected and finding someone. On the other hand, while global apps are individual-driven, there is some stigma attached to them, in the minds of some sections of society.”

(Hero image by Amy Shamblen via Unsplash)

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