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Conservative India swipes right for Mr Right

While young Indians may like to dip their toes in the dating pool, it is marriage that they are more likely to invest in

By The Editorial Board

  • Published 19.05.19, 9:47 AM
  • Updated 19.05.19, 9:47 AM
Indian conservatism has, more often than not, proved to be more than a match for the lifestyle choices that global conglomerates have tried to market. Dating apps struggle to generate revenue, while matrimonial websites are enjoying double-digit growth
Indian conservatism has, more often than not, proved to be more than a match for the lifestyle choices that global conglomerates have tried to market. Dating apps struggle to generate revenue, while matrimonial websites are enjoying double-digit growth (Shutterstock)

Love, the adage assures, always finds a way. However, if it does not, there are algorithms or mobile applications to lend it a helping hand. Of the billion-plus search queries that Google gets from India, dating is the topic that Indians are most interested in. Google’s recently released report shows that interest in dating sites and apps among Indian users grew more rapidly — by 40 per cent — than that in matrimonial portals — the figure was only 14 per cent — in 2018. It is not difficult to imagine the dated detractors of romance — from khap panchayats to Yogi Adityanath’s anti-Romeo squad — frothing at the mouth at the turn of events. After all, it is easier to rough up pairs of girls and boys on the streets, marry off love birds or, in the case of interfaith couples, murder them, than it is to try and police hormones on the internet.

But there might be no need to sharpen the swords just yet. Indian conservatism has, more often than not, proved to be more than a match for the lifestyle choices that global conglomerates have tried to market in this country. Take, for instance, the customized sales pitch of Tinder, the app with the biggest share of the dating pie in the country — a concerned, but apparently consenting, mother asks her daughter dressed in Indian chic to apply a touch of kajal before she dashes off to meet Mister Right. Hard data also show that while young Indians may like to dip their toes in the dating pool, it is marriage that they are more likely to invest in. Tinder may be one of the most downloaded apps on Android phones, but most online dating platforms in India are struggling to generate revenue and attract investors. Dating apps strike gold when users opt for paid services — such as accessing more profiles or sending messages. Few people, it seems, are willing to invest money to find dates. Matrimonial websites, which offer a chance to find a partner for life, are more successful in getting subscriptions, and are enjoying double-digit growth in business.

But things were not always so rosy for matrimonial websites. There was a time when parents — the primary subscribers of such platforms — were sceptical about the scope of subterfuge on the internet. Gossip, after all, travels faster than email and if there was something awry with the prospective bride or groom, word of mouth was considered more trustworthy than an online profile. The trick that changed the fortunes of matrimonial websites was catering to the popular demand of introducing tailor-made filters on the basis of caste, ethnicity and religion.

Dating is not about hearts meeting in India; it is often a symbol of rebellion. It invests young people with the power to transcend narrow divisions, while giving them the freedom to express their desires. But dating apps are yet to be liberated from the yoke of ‘tradition’. If they take their cue from successful businesses — is not McDonald’s serving potato burgers in India? — they may soon have filters for caste, faith and colour. Tinder for Thakurs or Bumble for Brahmins, anyone?

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