Home / Technology / News /  Post pandemic, dating apps see surge in users from small towns and cities

The pandemic seems to have changed India’s courtship habits for good. More and more young Indians, even in small towns, are relying on dating apps to find love and companionship, choosing video calls over in-person dating to know each other.

The surge in usage is especially strong outside metro cities, which now account for 70% of users of the dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and TrulyMadly, company executives said.

Dating in numbers
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Dating in numbers

Cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Lucknow, Jaipur, Chandigarh and Patna are seeing a significant surge in usage, catching up with the country’s major cities.

With virtual dates becoming a norm, a substantial number of women are now becoming more vocal on dating platforms.

Nearly 72% of users believe finding love online without meeting them in person is possible, the executives at dating apps said.

“The distinction between our online and offline world is blurring. As a result, the time spent online is on the rise," said Shalini Singh, founder of Andwemet, a dating service for 25-plus single Indians that has seen its user-base triple annually in the past two years.

Singh said there is more trust in online platforms in the post-pandemic era, and people are willing to pay for the convenience of online dating.

Usage in these cities has also been boosted with many moving to their hometowns from metros after the pandemic, she said, adding that dating apps are attracting affluent users even in small-town India.

According to Tinder’s Year in Swipe 2021, video dates have become a first-date staple for singletons, with mentions of ‘video call’ in Tinder bios growing by 52% globally.

Many Indians took to video dating on Tinder, where Hyderabad reigned supreme as the chattiest city, followed closely by Chennai and Bengaluru. Yet, young adults were also looking to make a connection with new people close to them for real-life hangouts with ‘nearby’ and ‘close by’, both increasing by 20% in Tinder bios globally, showing that real-world dating isn’t going out of fashion anytime soon.

“As we shift back to IRL (in real life) dating in 2022, the trends of last year are guiding the way India’s young adults navigate the world of dating, friends, connections and relationships," said Papri Dev, senior director, APAC communications lead, Tinder Inc.

Snehil Khanor, co-founder and chief executive officer of TrulyMadly, said that most first dates are still on video, and if things work out, users plan an offline date.

Sybil Shiddel, country manager for Gleeden, a platform designed for extramarital relationships, said during the pandemic, a large part of its user base found virtual exchanges satisfying.

“They were happy with having found companionship and that their online exchanges allowed them to unwind, laugh, flirt and sext without putting them at risk. Time spent on the app has tripled," Shiddel said.

“In 2022, when the ghost of the pandemic is no longer lingering above our heads with the same strength as previous years, Indian users still spend an average of 3.5 hours chatting," Shiddel said. Before March 2020, most Gleeden users came from Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Chennai. During 2020, 2021 and the first part of 2022, the maximum traction was seen from Gurugram (currently the platform’s No. 5 city), Chandigarh, Kochi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Noida, Nagpur, Indore, Navi Mumbai, Burdwan, Howrah and Thane.

Agreeing that video calls are now a part of the screening process before an in-person date, Able Joseph, founder and CEO of dating app Aisle, said causal hookups may be on a slow decline. “Loneliness—coupled with a few years of uncertainty—has led to a certain sense of collective fatigue that’s developed in the Indian dating landscape. Singles are found moving away from the endless loop of swiping across dating platforms and are now looking for more substance in a relationship," Joseph added.

Since the majority of the new users are signing up from smaller towns and cities, with limited matches in their location, they are looking online for suitable partners across the country, said Ravi Mittal, founder and CEO of dating service QuackQuack, which has seen an 11% jump in female users.

Samarpita Samaddar, India communications director at Bumble, said the pandemic has made “more than half of us (62%)" realise that it’s okay to be alone for a while.

“People are consciously deciding to be single, with the majority of single people (54%) being more mindful and intentional in how and when they date," she said.

A nationwide survey conducted in 2021 showed that after the second covid wave in India, emotional connection (60%) and kindness (55%) top the charts as being the most important to single Indians in dating, Samaddar said.

“Social good in terms of volunteering, donating to social causes (48%) especially rank high in preferences for millennials in India," she added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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