Online dating, a foreign import to India, has settled well in the country’s mindscape. Now the coronavirus pandemic has only added new momentum to the segment, which has, over the past couple of years, seen the number of apps expand.
For Austin, Texas-based Bumble, a carefully constructed India strategy has also fueled growth.
Giving women the upper hand by allowing them to make the first move, it also laid emphasis on verifying accounts. “In our consumer-focus groups, one of the things we consistently heard of was the desire for women to feel secure and comfortable. Therefore, it was important for us to prioritise safety features in India,” Priti Joshi, vice-president of strategy at Bumble, told Quartz.
Driven in part by these measures and the general increase in adoption of dating apps among young Indians, Bumble’s user base has quadrupled since its launch in December 2018 to surpass 3 million.
Yet, as the market evolves, Bumble will need to work hard to stay relevant. A year after she last spoke to Quartz, Joshi explains how the dating platform’s India business is doing now, and how Covid-19 is changing trends in the country. Edited excerpts:
Since Bumble launched here, what have you discovered about India’s dating ecosystem?
Before the launch, we spent about a year doing strategic research. We found that a lot of homegrown apps offered matrimony services and people were interested in finding matches. On the other hand, there was a desire for dating.
We recognised that Bumble could also serve those who didn’t want either. There are people in India who want to connect with others for friendship, for work. And we saw this as an opportunity to bring to India a women-first social network to form those connections in love, life, and work.
Are your features for women’s safety exclusive to India?
For our launch in India, we developed a feature where only the first initial of a woman’s name would show on her profile. When she is ready to share her full name with connections, she can—but until then, her identity is protected. This helps ensure that she can’t be found on other platforms by those she doesn’t want to connect with.
We also have many global features that are also live in India such as photo verification, block & report, and voice and video calling. A private detector feature also automatically blurs out intimate images and alerts users that they have been sent something inappropriate. From there on, the user can decide whether to view it, block it, and report it.
Has this strategy been successful?
With over 90 million users globally and more than 1.5 billion first moves since the app launched in 2014, we’ve gathered a lot of insights about dating attitudes. Women in India have made the first move on Bumble over 9 million times. They are also sending twice the number of messages than women elsewhere, and over 40% of them use more than one mode (Date, BFF, or Biz) on Bumble.
Has Bumble’s usage been impacted by coronavirus?
Right now, we are seeing increased use.
We’ve observed an 11% increase in Gen Z registrations during the week ending March 27, versus the fortnight before, which only underscores the natural behaviour of this age group to migrate to digital platforms for connection and entertainment. More than two in five chats are turning into something more meaningful with a large number of messages exchanged.
There has also been a 17% increase in video calls during the week ended March 27 from a fortnight ago. We have seen users around the world mention Covid-19 and coronavirus more and more in their profiles.
What’s the way forward in India?
India continues to be an important growth market for Bumble. Our strategy has always been to adopt a holistic, consumer-first approach. We’re constantly leaning on a consistent brand narrative and leveraging data, influencers, content, and experiential marketing.
We kicked off 2020 with the rollout of our integrated campaign, “Dating Just Got Equal,” which aims to challenge antiquated dating rules. We also look forward to taking our mission to new cities and communities over the year.
In light of the current pandemic, we launched a Bumble Community Grant programme to support local businesses around the globe. We are giving away up to Rs1 lakh ($1,326) to 150 small businesses in need in the US, UK, Russia, Germany, Australia, India, France, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, and New Zealand.