BENGALURU: When Tinder made hooking up as easy as the flick of a finger, many homegrown dating apps followed, all trying to transform how young Indians find love.

More than four years since these apps flooded the market, traditional matrimonial websites remain the preferred choice, underlining the fact that when it comes to marriage, young Indians are less likely to push traditional boundaries.

This is borne out by the fact that sites such as bharatmatrimony.com, shaadi.com and jeevansathi.com continue to dominate the market, even as online dating platforms struggle to grow revenues and attract investors. Some of them have been acquired by larger firms or have shut shop.


A dating app generates revenue when users opt for paid services such as accessing more profiles, sending messages or curated emojis. In contrast, matrimonial websites offer a chance to find a partner for marriage, making them more successful in attracting subscriptions.

“Someone who is in their late 20s and is looking for a serious relationship does not have time to experiment and so does not mind paying if the service gives them the stability as compared to a 22-year-old," said Able Joseph, founder and chief executive of dating app Aisle.

Typical dating app users are, however, in their late teens to mid-20s and many are not even looking for committed relationships. Sometimes, they log in to these apps just to find friends.

That more than half the population is below 25 years made these dating apps—with TrulyMadly leading the charge—confident that they had a significant advantage over matrimonial sites when they began. Most dating apps were targeted at the young, urban Indian.

These apps gave consumers a platform to experiment with relationship options that might not end in marriage, but offered flexibility in the form of flings, short-term relationships, companionship or love.

But even the best of them have struggled to make money, although matrimonial sites continue to enjoy double-digit revenue growth.

“We are not like Western countries, where people are exposed to the other gender since a very young age. We do not have the concept of dating from a young age and that is why it becomes difficult to have a fling or a short-term relationship," said Siddharth Mangharam, chief executive of Floh, a platform that connects singles through events.

TrulyMadly (Trulymadly Matchmakers Pvt. Ltd), founded by former MakeMyTrip executive Sachin Bhatia, along with Rahul Kumar and Hitesh Dhingra, reported a 50% drop in revenue in FY18, according to its latest filings with the Registrar of Companies. The firm’s revenue halved to 3.60 crore in FY18 from 7.20 crore in the year earlier, documents sourced from intelligence platform Paper.VC showed.

"This is for TrulyMadly India. Our main company Truly Madly Pte. Ltd. Is based in Singapore, and all revenues are booked at the Singapore company, these are just India, Truly Madly India. Our revenue from subscription has almost doubled from 1.14 crore to 1.94 crore. We have cut down our team from about 50 people to 15 members. We have removed the advertisement model because that was falling flat for us. The company has realigned and now we are only focusing on the subscription model. We have launched a few new features like Spark, TM forever and so on," said Snehil Khanor, chief operating officer of TrulyMadly.

Frivil, another dating app, was acquired by shaadi.com for an undisclosed amount in 2016. ICrushiFlush, which got a seed round from IDG Ventures (now Chiratae Ventures) in 2015, has not been able to raise more funds. Even TrulyMadly, which managed to raise $5.7 million in a Series A round in 2015, has been struggling to bring in funds.

In comparison, matrimony.com, which owns bharat matrimony.com, recorded a 15% growth in FY18 revenue to 308.45 crore. Similarly, Info Edge (India) Ltd, which runs jeevansathi.com, saw a 17% increase in revenue to 864.62 crore last year.

Also, the dating market is overcrowded and most apps end up offering identical services. A user can always switch from one to another if the features offered are not affordable.

“This is essentially a cash-burning business if a company does not have a sustainable model," said Pawan Gupta, founder of Betterhalf.ai. The company, backed by former Google India managing director Shailesh Rao, among others, helps people find partners with “serious intent".

Apart from revenue woes, home-grown apps have seen a decline in downloads and ranking.

Data from app-tracker Sensor Tower shows that Tinder has consistently been the top grossing app in the lifestyle category for the past three months, whereas Truly Madly has been juggling between the 15th and the 16th spots. Grossing apps are the ones that have in-app purchases.

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