These days love is not in the air, but it is on the app. Indians are taking to online dating like never before. “People who were earlier sceptical about finding love online are now shunning their inhibitions and joining dating platforms,” says Snehil Khanor, co-founder & CEO at dating app TrulyMadly. Khanor calls it the pandemic effect. The pandemic-inflicted mental unease made people realise the significance of companionship. Users today are scheduling their first dates via Zoom video calls. “In a pre-pandemic world, people would have perhaps resorted to a phone call,” says Khanor.

With more users subscribing to online dating apps, companies are planning to roll out a host of features in the days to come. While privacy and safety issues continue to be a core focus area for all the platforms, a noticeable emerging trend is firms’ aggressive push to go local. TrulyMadly, for instance, aims to make the app available in 11 Indian languages—including Assamese, Bengali, Tamil, and Telugu—by the end of the year. Users can currently navigate the platform in English and Hindi. 10-year old dating app QuackQuack will soon launch the app in Hindi. Founder and CEO Ravi Mittal says the company will consider introducing more regional languages on the app after collecting feedback from users.

The move to go local is an astute business strategy, given the traction online dating is increasingly gaining in small-town India. For QuackQuack—that added as many as five million new users or about 40% of its total user base amid the pandemic—smaller cities like Bareilly, Kanpur and Guntur account for a considerable proportion of app sign-ups. TrulyMadly expects tier two and three cities to jointly generate more business for the company than tier-one cities in the next one and a half years. While the firm’s total revenues have seen a four-fold growth since January 2020, cities like Patna and Bhubaneswar alone have grown as much as ten times in terms of revenues through that course of the same period, Khanor claims. “Thanks to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, people are now exposed to the same content. Thoughts and ideas are flowing faster,” says Khanor.

Women-first dating app Bumble just announced a broader rollout of its language badges feature, which allows user profiles to showcase the number of local languages they are familiar with. Bumble’s community can now select up to five badges from over 30 languages in India. The company believes that the introduction of the feature will add an element of familiarity, and help people communicate more easily with their potential matches.

Tinder wants to give Indians more control to navigate the app and make dating a more flexible process for them. The company has launched an Explore section for users in the country that will enable people to connect and chat before they match on the platform. “A new generation of daters is asking for more from us in the post-pandemic world: more ways to have fun and interact with others virtually and more control over who they meet on Tinder,” says Taru Kapoor, GM at Tinder and Match Group India.

Presented with a huge market opportunity, companies are trying to make online dating a seamless and safer experience. While QuackQuack is toying with the idea of facilitating direct video calling on the platform to bring about an aspect of credibility, TrulyMadly plans to introduce an end-to-end encrypted chat system, given the rising threat of cyberattacks. Earlier this year, the firm enabled private browsing, a feature that allows for the discoverability of a profile only when the user wants it. Khanor says women, in particular, find it to be very convenient as it adds to the privacy framework.

Trends suggest that more women have taken to online dating post-pandemic. QuackQuack has seen a 10% jump in female user base, says CEO Mittal. In August, Tinder launched a comprehensive in-app Safety Center in India. It gives members easy access to tools relevant to their well-being while using the platform.

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