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DATING MEET MARRIAGE

Dil Mil, a dating app for the Indian diaspora, is redefining “arranged” marriages

By Ananya Bhattacharya

Only around 10% of Indian marriages are for love, the rest are arranged or semi-arranged by families. Generally, parents facilitate talks and perhaps even take decisions.

This traditional system seems to work given that divorce rates in India are among the lowest in the world, albeit some argue it is problematic. But with the proliferation of dating apps and evolution of matrimoniall websites, the concept of arranged marriage is changing. The bride and groom are often able to take the reins, so coercion is lower and efficacy, higher.

However, when an Indian wants to meet another Indian outside the country, the search can be tough. Cue Dil Mil.

Last week, Dating.com Group announced its acquisition of the San Francisco-based dating app for expats from India and other south Asian countries. Dil Mil has over a million users in the US, the UK, and Canada. Already, Dil Mil has led to over 20 million matches and averages at least one marriage per day.

The deal, made through a combination of cash and stock, values Dil Mil at up to $50 million (Rs357 crore). The app complements Dating.com Group’s gamut of brands such as Dating.com, DateMyAge, LovingA, Tubit, AnastasiaDate, ChinaLove, and others. “Each targets a particular community,” according to a company statement.

In Dil Mil’s case, one scenario is emphasised: eventual marriage.

“Over 80% of south Asians marry other south Asians, but south Asian expats are geographically dispersed across the world, making it hard for them to meet each other,” KJ Dhaliwal, founder and CEO of Dil Mil, told Quartz. “Historically, most of them have met offline through their local social circles.”

Made in heaven?

By 2040, seven in 10 people are expected to meet through dating apps, Dating.com Group points out. The Indian diaspora is the largest in the world, at 30 million, and naturally, it will partake in the trend.

This demographic is ripe for dating disruption. The diaspora is not only large but also exhibits the highest family income and postgraduate education ratio among foreign-born populations in America. Most of its users are aged between 18 and 35, with a median age of 25. The largest market is the US where a blend of first- and second-generation south Asian Americans is active.

Its targeted strategy is its gameplay. It is focused on one particular segment of users unlike most other such services that are open to all. “Dil Mil is a niche market leader. The market includes both Indian expats and local Indian people,” said Maria Sullivan, vice-president of Dating.com Group and board director at Dil Mil.

Following in the footsteps of women-centric apps like Bumble, Dil Mil allows Indian women to join but only non-resident Indian (NRI) men.

Playing the community card further, relationships and marriages aren’t the endgame for Dil Mil. It also wants to create a full-fledged brand that spreads south Asian culture via technology, events, music, and art.

“This includes creative campaigns with Bollywood superstars like Shilpa Shetty, ‘Love is‘ with leading south Asian influencers, and events like the Sessions Music Festival in New York City,” the press release said. “All are meant to encourage community connection, holistic wellness, and an exploration of what love means. Because of this big vision, the brand’s growth potential is tremendous.”