Will Priyanka Chopra set India’s online-dating scene on fire?

Are you looking for love? PC’s gotchu.
Are you looking for love? PC’s gotchu.
Image: RW/MediaPunch /IPX
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After Walmart-Amazon, India is all set to become the battleground for two more American companies.

On Oct. 03, US-based dating app Bumble said it will foray into India by the end of this year. The company has roped in Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra as an investor who will act as an advisor for its India expansion.

Bumble’s fierce rival, Tinder, has been operating in India since 2013. In September 2015, India was Tinder’s top market in Asia, and among its top 15 globally. The company has seen strong growth in India, which even led it to open its first international office in Delhi.

“The large potential user base in India is very attractive to third-party app developers and dating apps are no different, especially when their home market is well established,” said Rajarshi Dhar, analyst for the digital transformation practice at business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. “According to a report I had read, there are over 70 million single people in India. It is a significantly huge market.”

India’s online dating industry is estimated at $7 million (Rs52 crore) currently and its revenue is expected to grow at 10.5% annually till 2023, according to online statistics and market intelligence firm Statista. Compared to the US, where the sector generates annual revenue upwards of $250 million, things are just starting out for the online dating industry in India.

With Bumble’s entry, things might now pick up pace.

Heating up

Back home in the US, Bumble and Tinder are at loggerheads for market share.

In August, Tinder’s parent company, Match.com, had sued Bumble for allegedly violating its patents and trademarks, and misusing trade secrets. Bumble has called the lawsuit a “baseless” attempt at intimidation.

Now, the two will fight for supremacy in India, already crowded with foreign and domestic online dating app firms.

Besides Tinder, some of the prominent dating apps in India include TrulyMadly, Woo, and Inner Circle. In September, social media giant Facebook also joined the fray with a new dating service, tested by its own employees for a few months. Besides India, the service is only available in Colombia so far.

Getting the women

What sets Bumble apart from most dating apps currently operational in India is that it allows only women to make the first move.

This feature could be both a challenge and a winning proposition in India.

The existing players have struggled to bring Indian women to their platforms because of the social stigma attached to females dating casually. In addition, there is a perceived security risk in meeting strangers in a country that’s not very safe for women.

But this might not be the case if women have control over who they interact with on a dating app, which Bumble offers.

“Dating apps are difficult to market in a conservative society like India. The society attaches (a) stigma to women who date. It’s a social anomaly and so women often stay away from them or are extremely discreet about it,” Naiya said.

Incidentally, just a week before Bumble announced its India foray, rival Tinder launched a similar feature—My Move—here. The feature allows women a choice to make the first move and restrict messages from potential suitors.

The PC advantage

Despite being a late entrant, Bumble may benefit by having Chopra as an investor and the face of the app. The company is already hitting the right notes to make it clear that Chopra is more than just a brand ambassador.

She is expected to be deeply involved with the company’s marketing plans in India.

“She’s a partner, and she’s going to help us empower not only the women of India, but will be a global force,” said Bumble’s CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd. “Women globally want to be empowered. They need to feel safe, and they need to connect.”

This is Chopra’s second investment in the tech space, after she invested in a coding school.

Already, Tinder has tinkered with the idea of using celebrity clout to appeal to potential users. It made Indian women the focus of its marketing, roping in actors such as Alia Bhatt to attract more women.