Tinder is aping Bumble to beat Bumble in India

Bumble rumble.
Bumble rumble.
Image: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
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Can Tinder change gender dynamics in India?

As competition heats up—US-based rival Bumble enters the market this year-end—the online dating app, operating in the country since 2016, has been adding features that could potentially empower sections of the Indian society.

The app, believed to be the market leader in India, is already changing the way young urban Indians date. Now, with the launch of “My Move”, it is even letting women take the initiative in the mating ritual. My Move takes on one of Bumble’s hallmark features of allowing only women to begin conversations on the app. Besides, Tinder is also making space for more gender identities.

And all this is quite radical for India.

In an interview with Quartz, Tinder’s India head, Taru Kapoor, spoke about the company’s success in India so far and why it is undeterred by the increasing competition.

Edited excerpts:

In 2015, Tinder said India was its top market in Asia. How has the growth story been since then?

India continues to be our top market in Asia. It is also one of our fastest-growing markets.

We are now a part of popular culture, lifestyle, and everyday conversation. In India, we have received a lot of love from women in particular because, given how society has traditionally been, it’s very hard for them to meet people. There’s a lot of friction in the real world that gets broken by Tinder, which provides a safe, personal platform for everyone to be who they are and connect with people as they would like.

You’re reportedly struggling to get women on board in India. 

Women are becoming more engaged on Tinder in India. In our society, women face a lot more barriers and judgement. The agency that Tinder provides is levelling the playing field by taking away the unsolicited attention. You have a lot more control over interactions and the freedom to express yourself. For our platform to thrive, it has to provide great value to everyone, but especially women.

Why did Tinder choose to launch “My Move” only in India?

We are constantly looking at ways to grow our user experience, and we don’t believe we’re ever done. A core value for us is that every user should have a choice. My Move was an attempt to allow women to have more control over their experience and really have this true choice in navigating the platform in a way that works best for them.

We spent a lot of time talking to women in the community and found that there are some women who prefer to take the lead. There are also some women who don’t want to take the lead, and that’s okay. True choice is enabling people to be who they are and communicate in a way that they are comfortable with.

Bumble is entering India by this year end. Will that mean a fiercer battle for market share?

Competitors come and go. We are not really focused on market share. We are the market leader. We’ve done that because we focused on giving value to our users. As long as users find our experience great, we’ll probably continue to grow.

Priyanka Chopra has partnered with Bumble in India. Are you also looking at some such tie-up?

We have a history of partnering with a lot of celebrities, brands, and communities that resonate with our user base. We partner with people and issues that millennials care about; for example, with (Mumbai-based non-profit) Humsafar Trust to launch more genders on Tinder in India. This is something we care about.

Why did Tinder choose to launch more genders at this moment in India?

We believe we have a responsibility as a global platform to speak to our core values and also send a message about inclusiveness, acceptance, and equality. It’s been a landmark year in India when it comes to gender and sexuality. It’s time, and our platform must be reflective of this reality.

How important will India be for Tinder in the future?

There are a 100 million young single smartphone users in India today. That’s a large demographic, and it’s growing. The cultural paradigm has been shifting continuously for the last several years. Young people want a lot more say in their life—who they love, date, and marry. And technology does become a facilitator. There are also a lot of macro factors in India, such as female education and women’s independence, which continue to rise. We expect that online dating will become more and more popular.

So you’re also targeting smaller cities?

Tinder is growing in smaller cities. In fact, in smaller cities, we have grown faster in the last one year. Cultural norms have evolved, and more people are dating every year. There’s a large rural market.

What is Tinder’s team size in India? Are you planning to expand?

Currently, we are a small team focused on marketing, localisation, and understanding the consumer. It may evolve over time. However, at this moment, we are not really looking to hire anyone else.