The notion of India and Bharat as two separate nations coexisting in the same space is not new. But look closely at our young and how they go about conducting their lives and one learns that the West-influenced India has pervaded Bharat, even as Bharat continues to live inside the heart of India.
Running a popular online dating platform in India has offered us a fascinating ringside view of how urban youngsters are forming relationships and finding love offline and online, aided by Facebook, WhatsApp and dating apps like Tinder or TrulyMadly. Nearly one out of three of users live in smaller towns or cities that we classify outside of the top 10 metros. We also frequently run quizzes and surveys among our user base of over half a million single men and women to get deeper insights into just what dating and relationships mean to them. The results are often eye opening.
"Many [men] start to believe that the women are too picky or the app is faulty. In reality though, it's just technology-enabled democratisation at work..."
A recurring feedback that we get from male users is how, irrespective of the app they choose, they just don't get many matches. Many start to believe that the women are too picky or the app is faulty. In reality though, it's just technology-enabled democratisation at work; women can now finally pick and choose the men they want to start a conversation with. Unless there is a mutual liking, the man has to keep looking.
We also get to see how men are responding to this challenge. The display pictures are getting better, profile descriptions are more detailed and real (we have mechanisms in place to weed out fake profiles) and when the match finally happens, men are upping their game in starting a genuine conversation. The app's technology is the girl's wingman here - one false move and the profile block button makes the man disappear permanently.
Women have taken over the online dating space and are dictating terms in more ways than one. They are very often content to limit the relationship to online conversations for a few months, while they evaluate the possibility of meeting a man in real life.
A recent survey we ran among our user base with 120,000 respondents revealed that 46% of women are happy to take the lead in planning a date. More importantly, just over one in three (37% of women respondents) said they'd prefer a man to plan the date. Only 54% of women actually agree that a man should offer to pay on dates.
We also find that of the women users in non-metro cities, one out of three is happy to take the lead and initiate conversations with a man, if the guy in question is hesitant or unsure about how to start a conversation with a new match. The corresponding figure for metros - quite surprisingly - is actually lower.
A separate, immersive research we commissioned recently with a group of young adults threw up some more interesting insights, especially when juxtaposed with the behaviour patterns we've gleaned from our app's usage. While there are girls and boys aplenty looking for a stable and committed relationship, there are many who just want to stay non-committal and "explore" all that is out there. Even relationships are no longer sacred - our young tell us they are fine with breaking up and moving on, when they find "it wasn't working for us". While "taking a break" during an ongoing relationship is normal, it's reassuring to know that cheating is not.
"A recent survey we ran among our user base with 120,000 respondents revealed that 46% of women are happy to take the lead in planning a date."
We know that this is a generation that is highly competitive and fiercely career-oriented, and yet our survey tells us the proportion of women and men who value a fulfilling relationship more than a career is strikingly similar, at 53% and 48% respectively.
Above all, this is a generation connected by the smartphone and its messaging and social networking apps. When connectivity is democratised, love blossoms. And our respondents also tell us of the subtle but unmistakable peer pressure to not remain single for too long.
During the immersive study, one Bangalore-based male respondent remarked how dating in India only happens "when you know someone through someone". Approaching strangers in bars or other public places is just not the Indian thing, no matter which city you live in. If you cannot find a person to date through your friends, you can only do so online. This insight quite easily captures why dating apps are catching on so fast in India.