From Tinder to BharatMatrimony, Bumble to Gleeden, AI will get you whatever you’re looking for. It is India’s new matchmaker.
New Delhi: Dating apps have made looking for love easier than looking for a job. From needing Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to set up profiles to being matched based on a personality test, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become the new-age matchmaker.
Whether you’re 18 or 85, here is a list of apps that can help you curate your ‘love’ life, and the pros and cons that come attached to them.
If there’s one thing Tinder does well, it’s sex — and lots of it. Considered a game-changer in the digital world of dating, Tinder simplifies the convenience of ‘matchmaking’ to a mere right swipe on a phone screen. In 2016, India recorded 7.5 million swipes per day, along with the highest average number of messages exchanged per match in the world.
The dating app boasts a fairly intuitive interface — left for no, right for yes. For anyone looking for no-strings attached one-night-stands, or many-night stands, Tinder is the ideal place to browse potential partners. As of November 2018, Tinder has also added 23 new gender identity options to its app, which “empowers users to just be themselves”.
Assault, harassment, and even rape are still prevalent on Tinder dates, as per the testimonies of Indian women. Further, not many are choosing to report these encounters on the app itself. While some have found meaningful relationships through Tinder, users largely believe that Tinder is a great place to find sex, but not much else. There isn’t much space to talk about who you are, and the app heavily relies on visuals — you can add up to 10 pictures.
Tinder’s 2018 ‘Year in Swipe’ report makes for interesting reading. For example, it recommends that Indian users should swipe at 9 pm Tuesdays for optimal matching. The chances of getting lucky also increase depending on your pin code — Saket in Delhi, Andheri West in Mumbai, and Koramangala in Bengaluru are some of the most ‘right-swiped’ neighbourhoods in India.
When Bumble launched in India December 2018, it had the heavyweight backing of Priyanka Chopra as an investor and face of the brand. “Dedicated to empowering women and ending misogyny around the globe,” the press release read, positioning the app as a feminist alternative in the digital dating space.
Women make the first move, and the matched-with user has 24 hours to reply before the chat expires. Further, Bumble makes an effort to get to know you: From your star sign, political views, drinking habits to whether you want children or are looking for “something casual”, the app offers a wide variety of traits and preferences to choose from. Like Tinder, people from the same sex can also match, and it has been widely reported that Tinder’s recent introduction of the ‘My Move’ feature was influenced by Bumble’s women-centric approach.
Bumble is also more than just a dating app — there is Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF, which facilitate business and friendly relationships respectively.
Bumble is considerably new in the Indian market, resulting in a smaller user-base which, while growing, can be frustrating for people looking for many choices. Harassment or assault once a chat converts into a date is still a potential threat, but that risk comes with all apps. If you don’t like yellow as a colour, you probably won’t like the interface. It isn’t a clean interface either — the font is bold, and can appear a little childish.
Hinge describes itself as “designed to be deleted”, essentially positioning itself as the ‘relationship app’. The dating app — or rather, dating blog from the look of it — was founded by US-based Justin McLeod in 2012 and has been in India since 2015. It builds its network through Facebook — you must have at least one mutual friend with the person for their profile to show up. Unlike Tinder and Bumble, Hinge won’t let you swipe.
In June 2018, Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, acquired a 51 per cent stake in the company.
The app tries to take the randomness out of online dating. For those who find “meeting complete strangers” kind of weird, Hinge reconciles the need for organic encounters with the convenience of the internet.
The amount of information one can add to their profile is extensive, and the layout is particularly aesthetic, creating the effective illusion of a personalised blog. Instead of merely swiping, Hinge allows you to choose exactly what on the profile you actually like — if you think their answer was witty, you can let them know.
With a significantly smaller user-base than Tinder, Hinge is still taking time to pick up steam in the dating mainstream. While Facebook mutual friends can be a reassuring filter, they also limit the pools in which users find dates, and makes it harder to hide the fact that you’re on a dating app.
If you are a gay man on Grindr, all you need is a proximity setting, and you get a grid of up to 30 men within that radius. There’s no need to match, you can message anyone anything. In a country like India, where Section 377 decriminalised homosexuality until as recently as September 2018, the best bet to find like-minded people for the LGBTQ community is often the internet.
For a significant number of men keeping their sexuality a secret, Grindr affords the opportunity of discreet, inconspicuous hook-ups. The app also has a section for HIV status and the last time you were tested for STDs, in a bid to promote safe sexual practices. Like Hinge and Bumble, users can be clear about what they’re looking for — chat, dates, friends, networking, relationship, or even ‘right now’.
You can send a message, voice note, pictures, or videos to anyone, without their consent (matching). This means rampant unsolicited pictures of male genitalia, or other nude and semi-nude content coming your way. Queer artist Veer Misra told ThePrint: “While it enables people to be discreet, it also enables them to be super shady. Grindr doesn’t require Facebook to sign up, so you can put anyone’s picture and anyone’s name-you can have a completely false identity, which makes it much easier to ‘cat-fish’.”
Users have spoken of instances of extortion, rape, abuse and harassment from Grindr dates, but considering the lack of legal recourse and social stigma, this mostly goes unreported.
Aisle means serious business, at least comparatively. To start with, it’s a private, “membership-based dating app imagined in India” — essentially, for Indians by Indians. ‘Aisle’, as in ‘walk down the aisle’, sets the platform up to be more matrimonial in its endeavour. The app was initially launched by a Bengaluru-based team in 2014.
For those looking for an exclusive platform that gives the impression of quality control, Aisle is a good place to start. Getting on the app requires connecting your Facebook or LinkedIn account and filling in details of your lifestyle, demographic etc., after which you’re put on hold until after you’ve cleared a verification process.
For some, the app can go a tad overboard with its push for romance — you can, for example, ‘give a rose’ to someone you like.
Perhaps the idea behind the app name was to remind one of the sappy Savage Garden song Truly Madly Deeply from the 1990s, or just to inspire some classic romantic notions. But besides finding love, Truly Madly is all about targeting the Indians in the market.
Started by Sachin Bhatia, who co-founded MakeMyTrip, the app matches users much like the other apps. But Bhatia says Truly Madly goes a step forward by trying to build trust with customers, especially women. “Your preferences and our science,” the developers say, will help you find someone.
The app includes trust-based scores that clue users to the veracity of the profile. The score is based on an ID proof uploaded to the app platform, and recommendations by friends (remember Orkut testimonials?). The app also has a ‘Select’ variant, like Tinder Gold and Tinder Plus, wherein you are shown specific profiles based on a quiz. This is, of course, for a price.
The interface isn’t that intuitive. The information about the person is all over the place, so you’ll have to really study a profile. It also lets you start a conversation with someone even though both your profiles haven’t matched yet.
BharatMatrimony was part of India’s online spouse-search revolution. Founded in 1997, the platform has sprouted multiple other sites to cater to specific choices based on region. The app has over a million downloads, and like other players in the market, has different services based on how much a user spends.
Assisted service helps people navigate the BharatMatrimony universe. An elite service means you pay more to get a more bespoke selection.
The app’s colour scheme is still the saffron-green theme, as opposed to the calmer red (Tinder) or blue (Betterhalf) that newer apps have. The registration process is hyper-specific, which may result in very few to no matches.
The Shaadi.com app is old game in a new kit. Started as a website in 1997, Shaadi.com is all about finding your future spouse. Over time, the site has opened itself to more modern tastes and lifestyles-now, you get options such as ‘spiritual’ listed under religion, alongside the usual Hindu/Muslim/Christian etc.
If it’s your first try at finding a husband on such a platform and you aren’t quite sure of what to look for, you can simply try the ‘Surprise Me’ tab. The app also has several versions, depending on how much you’re willing to spend. VIP Shaadi caters to the affluent Indian looking for matches with a similar bank balance, while Shaadi Select gives you an advisor who will hand-hold you through the process.
Unlike dating apps where two profiles have to both choose each other before striking up a conversation, Shaadi.com let users message each other directly — both sides don’t need to agree to it. There are also plenty of profiles on display, essentially giving one the sense of browsing through a virtual husband market, which it essentially is, but doesn’t have to feel like one.
“Let AI brew your love story” — that’s the catchphrase founder Pawan Gupta is going with.
Betterhalf’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered abilities promise to do what regular human interactions and your family’s social connections didn’t-find you a spouse.
The app curates your choices based on more than just the usual parameters — language, religion, pay package — but includes a personality test. These include questions on whether you are energetic, sociable, likely to pick a fight, or how you deal with difficult situations. Once partners are drawn up, you’re told how well of a match the algorithm thinks you are — most profiles have an average 80% compatibility.
The app requires a LinkedIn account to set up a profile. It has a very clinical approach and can take the romance out of the process. Once you set up, you get access to 10 choices. If you want more options, you pay.
It’s fun to cheat and it’s also about women empowerment — that’s what this app champions. Started in France in 2009, Gleeden is all about taking a bite of the forbidden fruit. It’s fashioned as a women-driven alternative to Ashley Madison (another platform for finding extra-marital partners), with a credit-based system for male users. The website says it’s free for women but charges men.
Gleeden is essentially about giving women the choice and freedom to, well, cheat, and perhaps also find validation outside of failed/unhappy marriages. In its words: “Women are empowered for ultra-discreet encounters.”
According to one woman’s account of the app, the platform can be “a lot of noise” with many people shooting messages your way. By its count, Gleeden has more than 4.8 million users.