KEEP CALM

Tinder’s new ad stars an Indian mom who’s cool with casual sex—and Indian kids are freaking out

Quartz india
Quartz india

Tinder’s new ad in India has been swiped left—rather decisively—on social media.

The ad, released on May 7 on Facebook, shows a young Indian woman preening in her bedroom mirror. Her mother enters the room and asks about her plans. The daughter is reluctant to admit that she is going on a romantic date—but the cool mom not only knows what Tinder is, she is also quite happy to have her daughter use it.

“From my side, there is a right swipe for this,” the mother says. “And wear a kajal, it has its own charms.”

The scenario doesn’t resonate with most Indians, judging by reactions on Facebook and Twitter. Surprisingly, it is being panned for being too conservative, and not edgy or progressive enough for an app that is disrupting the way people meet around the world.

“In Tinder’s new ad, the date comes pre-approved by mummy,” read one headline on a news website in India. “Hey Tinder, might as well tie-up with Shaadi.com,” read another. (Shaadi.com is a matrimonial website in India, which many parents use while arranging marriages for their children.)

But this new ad does not mention marriage once. There isn’t even a hint of the mother pushing the daughter into a serious relationship, let alone goading her to search for “the one.” In a country where women are expected to marry in their 20s, and have babies soon afterwards, this mom sounds super progressive.

Even though invasion of privacy is a refined art form in Indian homes, the mother in the ad does not seek any details of the man (or woman) her daughter is meeting. Yet, her very presence in the ad is freaking out users in Tinder’s biggest market in Asia, most of them aged between 19 and 25.

The reaction reveals a lot about the uneasy relationship urban Indian kids have with their parents with regards to their sexuality. Users are convinced that Tinder is promoting traditional relationship choices. It seems young India finds it almost impossible that parents would ever accept a relationship outside the context of marriage.

They would rather brave furtive lovemaking in parking lots or movie halls than even consider the possibility of a healthy conversation with parents about dating.

It is also clear that Tinder is trying to position itself as much more than just a hookup app.

This is what the company said while releasing the ad on its Facebook page: “Tinder is how everyone today meets new, like-minded people around them—people who become friends, lovers, mentors, acquaintances, partners, movie-buddies or soulmates.”

As Tinder is bullish on India—it opened its first international office in New Delhi earlier this year—the app is likely to see a lot of Indianization. But even outside the country, Tinder has tried to promote itself as more than just a platform for instant gratification.

Perhaps it would help if the messaging is clearer. Maybe, next time, the mother can hand her daughter a condom along with makeup advice.

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