Indian women getting on phones to look for dates, while men await approval

Sunday, 12 January 2014 - 7:35am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

In the chronology of conventional and conservative dating norms, first, there was the girl, poised with a tray full of tea cups, dressed in a traditional salwar kameez, entering the room to meet her prospective life partner only when beckoned. Next, there was Shaadi.com, and a slew of matrimonal websites  where Indian men and women logged in, created profiles, impressed each other and hoped to find a lifetime of bliss. Now, the smartphone-toting generation — looking for love at the speed of 3G — is increasingly turning to dating applications like Singles Around Me and Badoo, which help them find dates at the tips of their fingers.

Thrill, the brainchild of Devin Serago and Josh Israel, entrepreneurs from New Jersey, is working to change the rules of the game, by giving women the first mover advantage. Women make all the decisions on Thrill, while men may apply via Facebook/LinkedIn, clear Thrill’s checks, and wait for approval by women, before they can have a presence on the application. “Women are stalked and harassed by men on dating applications and our endeavour was to empower these women,” says Josh Israel, co-founder of Thrill. “We comb through men’s  Facebook profiles and ensure that they are not fakes, married or in relationships and do not use pictures of celebrities as display photos, before allowing a man to come onboard.”

By sliding the slider on the screen a girl can approve a guy as Thrilling or reject as him as Not Thrilling, thus rating him and moving him up or down the popularity scale. If two people find each other thrilling, they can go ahead and chat via messages. Thrill is the first such application in India which makes women the decision-makers. When Serago and Israel, came to India in October 2012, they went to pubs, met people and decided that the best way to test their idea was to create a dummy application. They could not get a single girl to sign up.

“We knew we had to flip the idea on its head, if we wanted to get girls to use our application,” said Israel. The intense grilling procedure ensures that women feel safe to sign up. The team has rejected nearly 45 per cent of the men who applied.

One wonders how Indian men are reacting to women calling the shots in the dating game.

“A lot of men are happy about it and have sent us emails telling us that they appreciate Thrill.

Some told us that India needed an application like this. Of course, the ones who are rejected are very unhappy!” states Israel.

“A man who did not get through the checks because he was married was furious and when we explained why he didn’t, he said that both him and his wife were swingers. Other people who are in relationships also apply. Possibly, they’re not happy in their present relationships and think of this as an outlet. Strangely, some people who wanted to join even had display pictures of themselves with their wives and children,” laughs Israel.

Before creating Thrill, Israel worked in international sales at a finance organisation while Serago was employed in finance. As the smartphone market continued to grow exponentially in India, they found a niche and decided to home in on the yuppie generation, aged between 22 and 25.

Research firms also reveal the stupendous rate at which the smartphone market is growing in India. Canalys, an independent analyst firm, released a report in August 2013 which revealed India as the third largest market for smartphones in the world. Research firm IDC also reported in December 2013 about how the smartphone market grew by 229 per cent year-on-year to 12.8 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.

“Young people in India have a westernised mindset. Matrimonial websites may be too old world for them and casual dating a little forward. Thrill is an option for them,” opines Israel. The application boasts over 20,000 downloads on Android devices and over 2,000 downloads on iOS.

Also, nearly 35 per cent of the active user base has made matches.

The duo are now intent on taking Thrill to the rest of Southeast Asia. and believe that dating applications hold great potential in India. It is indeed refreshing to see Indian women making decisions and choosing their partners, one thrilling swipe at a time.

Dating apps
Singles Around Me
SinglesAroundMe (SAM) is an app that lets you meet singles around you; flirt, chat, date and if it’s meant to be, fall in love.
Highs:
The app is freely available on Android and iOS. With over 5 lakh downloads, it has a huge database of singles from all around the world increasing the chances of meeting someone like-minded.
Lows:
The app is not engaging enough. There are no push notifications and you will have to check your mail. Also, beware of fake profiles!

Grindr
Grindr is a location-based app to meet gays, bisexuals and for those looking to ‘experiment’. The app uses your cellular network or Wi-Fi signal to identify your physical location so you can chat and mingle with guys near you.
Highs: Possibly the only one of its kind in India, the app has over 11,000 monthly users. In addition, because LGBT relationships are still considered taboo here (especially with the new ruling on section 377), Grindr is quite popular amongst the Indian queer community.
Lows: Not surprisingly, the app is overrun by spambots. Many fake, anonymous profiles exist and misleading information is often given on various profiles. To curb this, Grindr recently did away with the anonymous option.

Tinder
One of the most popular dating apps, almost everybody has heard of. The app does a roundup of people you should know, and lets you anonymously like or make a pass at them. If someone you like happens to like you back, Tinder plays cupid by allowing you to chat through the app.
Highs: It’s quick. No agonising over a profile for hours.
Lows: Unlike other dating sites, age is the only criteria here. It’s also stalk-friendly and addictive in a bad way, as you can see when people last logged in.

Badoo
With over 180 million users, Badoo is great for chatting, making friends and even dating!
Highs: It’s easy to navigate and well-structured but not spectacular designwise. The ‘People Nearby’ feature is its high point.
Lows: Your personal information is on display for everyone. Your profile even shows  up on Google searches so caution should be exercised.




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