If there was a single word to describe 2020, it would be disruption. The massive disruption in our lives has changed the way we live and work. With most of us restricted to our homes, we have been practically living our lives online. Social interactions too, have been restricted to online (or on the phone) the past few months. But there’s only that much one can do on social media. While dating apps such as Tinder have had a home run during the pandemic, it is only now that people in India have a chance to have a shared, interactive experience. Taru Kapoor, general manager, India, Tinder and Match Group, talks about the changes in dating preferences in India due to the pandemic, competition, and Tinder’s support to the LGBTQI+ community. Edited excerpts:
What are the challenges of dating in a post-Covid world? Did you notice some interesting trends?
The situation evolves every day, but there is a large, important, cultural shift happening—one we’ve seen for a while in Gen Z, but it’s now accelerating and expanding because of Covid-19. The pandemic has accelerated a generational shift in the way we date, and online dating is now just dating. The Coronavirus has dissolved the line between our digital and physical lives.
Covid got us to open up. In India, May 3 was the peak of chattiness: on that day Tinder members sent an average of 60% more messages vs. the start of lockdowns in early March—above the global average. In India, conversations have been up an average of 39% and the average length of conversations is 28% longer. There were 3 billion-plus swipes on Sunday, March 29; this is more than on any single day in the history of Tinder.
To help users better introduce themselves to potential matches, Tinder recently released Prompts, a new in-app feature that lets members respond to questions or finish a sentence to display on their profile. Of all available Prompts, ‘2020 MADE ME REALISE’ had the highest adoption, signalling how much our daily lives have changed from every perspective—including how we gauge compatibility with potential matches on Tinder.
Additionally, we saw the highest Passport usage (changing location within the app) for members was within their country, and this was reflective around the world. As people had to leave their communities and cities to move back home, Tinder became a way to stay connected to the community they will re-enter eventually. India saw a 25% increase in the rate of Passporting to other parts of the world. This was before Passport was widely available for free.
How did Tinder as a company respond to the pandemic?
As a brand that is focussed on Gen Z (more than half of our members are now in the 18-25 age group), we want to be a place where members can hang out and get to know each other. For our Gen Z members who have grown up socialising digitally, we are creating a compelling experience for them to not only meet new people but connect with them in a natural way.
While Covid-19 has accelerated and magnified these observations, they represent trends we’ve been thinking about for some time. Swipe Night—conceived in early 2019 and launched in the U.S. last October—will be coming to India soon [it launched on Saturday, September 12, at 10 a.m. and will be available till midnight on Sunday, September 13; it will be available for the next two weekends]. This gives members a chance to hang out on Tinder and have a shared experience that they can talk about and bond over.
The pandemic has made it easier to imagine a future where our members hang out on Tinder and get to know each other better in the process. The first wave of Tinder and dating apps triggered a profound socio-cultural shift where it became a norm to find someone new from a digital community and connect with ‘matches’ as deeply as before. Now is the time for a second wave of innovation at Tinder where, particularly for our Gen Z members who have grown up on the social Internet, we find new ways to help them build connections and share experiences.
What measures have you taken to protect users’ data?
When it comes to Tinder members’ data, we’re focused on keeping our members safe and their data private. We have strict policies and technical systems in place, including encryption for member photos and messages and tools that restrict employee access to member communications and other member data.
Unlike other social apps, our business model is focussed on providing members with premium features, including in-app upgrades and subscriptions, to enhance their experience on our app. We do not sell data to third parties or depend on advertising to maintain or grow our business. In fact, in 2018 less than 5% of all revenue was generated through advertising.