When the first of the dating apps, Tinder, came to India in 2013, whether people would take to it at all was the question. In a country where matrimonial websites took centrestage, a primarily-hookup-oriented app seemed like a bit of a business risk.

Today, though, Tinder is the top application people pay for in India, followed by popular streaming app Netflix.

Size of Indian dating sector

Statista research shows revenue in the Indian online dating market will grow from $54 million to $76 million between 2019 and 2023

The dating market has grown massively to over twenty apps in the last six years. And so far, they’ve all been competing to grab the attention of the 20-something demographic. With each passing day, holding their attention gets harder. Every dating app must try something new to try and cut the snaking queue.

US-based Bumble, for instance, since launching its app in December 2018 in India, has shot up to become one of the top five downloaded apps in India with over 2 million downloads. Its USP? Getting women—in heterosexual matches—to initiate conversations. The idea was to shift the performance pressure off men and make the whole chatting experience for women less, well, uncomfortable.

It worked. According to Google’s Playstore app review figures alone, Tinder, owned by US-based Match Group Inc, has 3.6 million. That’s followed by Bumble, a similar France-based GPS-enabled dating app Happn, and Korean dating app Azar, all at 1.4 million. The other India-based dating apps that follow are Woo at 72,000, TrulyMadly at 66,000 and Aisle at 40,000 users. These numbers are indicative of their total presence not app downloads.

Bumble also offers the option of connecting with people for platonic friendships and growing one’s work network. The app’s sudden rise suggests that there’s a case to be made for dating apps gunning to crack niches where the leading app Tinder won’t tread or hasn’t succeeded. All of them are trying to find that sweet spot for sustainability.

With app-based dating’s quick growth, matrimonial brands—which still hold top shelf in India, with 3x more matrimony brand searches than dating brand searches—don’t appear to be growing as fast. According to Google’s 2019 report, online dating search is growing at 43% against matrimony in India, which is growing at 13%.

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Make no mistake. Marriages in India are still sacred. If anything, dating apps are starting to inch away from their casual dating or hookup association to brand themselves as platforms for finding “true love”. Gurugram-based TrulyMadly, which identifies itself as a ‘dating and matchmaking’ platform, is now focussing on a whole new business with ‘love marriages’.