In a Jane Austen or Nicholas Sparks novel, one may find their perfect partner in the perfect setting. But let’s face it, with the pandemic still lurking around, chances are your Mr or Miss Perfect is not at the bar, doing shots with their friends. They are more likely to be tucked inside their blankets in the safety of their houses, swiping left or right on an online dating app.
One such dating app is Aisle. According to Founder and CEO Able Joseph, Aisle is the second-most downloaded dating app in the country, and the “market leader in high-intent dating”. So how exactly does the Bengaluru-based company differentiate itself from traditional dating apps like Tinder and Bumble?
“Unlike casual ones, high intent dating apps are customised for a certain demographic, have detailed profiles, and track success stories as their measure of accomplishment,” Able explains.
Like Match.com in the US and Pairs in Japan, Aisle is designed to connect people of Indian origin from across the globe, who are looking for ‘serious relationships’.
Founded in 2014, Aisle finds a middle-ground between dating apps and matrimonial platforms. While the latter is solving for marriage, the vetting process is limited to traditions and values, and not personal compatibility. Dating apps, on the other hand, have warmed people to the concept of finding love online, by the user intent on most of these casual apps remains unestablished.
“We are solving this problem with Aisle. It is a platform meant for meaningful connections where the intent of users is established,” Able says.
In its last quarter, the app recorded 16 percent more downloads than Bumble, becoming the second-most popular dating app in India.
Aisle is certified by Startup India.
Betting on personal problems
A BBM International Business graduate from Bengaluru’s Garden City College, Able moved to Dubai in 2012. There, he worked with online shopping club Sukar, multi-platform network Citruss TV, and ecommerce giant Desado.
“Although I was very fulfilled professionally, I found it difficult to connect with like-minded people in Dubai,” he says.
Tired of the swipe-culture, Able figured no dating app catered to the Indian population looking for meaningful relationships. “No dating app catered to the Indian diaspora in entirety. I was inspired to return to India to look for a solution,” he adds.
Aisle dropped the concept of swiping entirely. In its place, it introduced the concept of spontaneous interactions. During the lockdown, Aisle was quick to replicate these interactions through live streaming by introducing ‘interact before matching’ technology, using a feature called ‘Rooms’.
For high intent users, who want the liberty to choose a partner but don’t want to wait for many days to go through profiles one-by-one, the platform launched Aisle Concierge. “It works best for users looking to enter long term relationships, sooner,” Able explains.
On Aisle, women get to decide who they want to connect with, as well as be the first to initiate the conversations if they anonymously match with someone.
While Aisle does give women control over conversations, unlike Bumble, it does not have a 24-hour timer for chat expiration.
“We have also tweaked some of the conversation prompts that we use in our icebreakers, and have Indianised them to suit our audience. We think this helps single Indians put forth a more realistic picture of who they are,” Able says.
Although the basic version of the dating app is free to use, premium users can connect by sending out five ‘invites’ a day, which are written notes.
“If the number of invites available to the users was unlimited, they would lose value and the overall ‘seriousness’ of the community would dwindle,” Able says.
Aisle Concierge is an extension of the platform’s premium service. It works like a priority-based quick-effective matchmaking by browsing through a collection of handpicked profiles.
With Concierge, members can browse through thousands of manually curated profiles and can prioritise search results based on the things that matter most to them —– from faith to mother tongue and interests.
Matching high-intent singles
About half of Aisle’s members are from metropolitan cities in India. However, during the lockdown, people moved back to their hometowns and there was a high adoption of the internet in smaller towns and cities. “We plan to focus on Tier-II a lot more this year,” Able says. Nine percent of Aisle’s users are NRIs and 20.2 percent of its revenue comes from Indian’s settled abroad.
In 2020, Aisle acquired 20,56,548 users, and enabled 7,84,445 matches. A report by Airnow Data states that Aisle saw 2,76,984 downloads from September to November. Since inception, Aisle has acquired over three million users.
Aisle gas so far raised Rs 3.7 crore ($5,00,000) from angel investors including serial entrepreneur Sanjay Mehta, former Facebook Director Anand Chandrashekaran, and Udhyam founder Mekin Maheshwari.
The dating app’s revenue over the last three years has been growing at CAGR of 85 percent. Able lays out the platform’s plans for the next two years. He says, “Our goal is to double the user growth, MAUs, and revenue.”
Dating during pandemic
The COVID-19-led lockdowns forced a lot of singles to live alone. Isolation and boredom made people crave social connection, both romantic and platonic, and ultimately incentivised them to join dating apps.
Major dating apps, including brands under Match Group, Tinder, OkCupid, Match.com, and Hinge recorded an increase in downloads and subscribers from pre-COVID-19 levels. Revenue generated by dating apps increased from $2.52 billion in 2019 to $3.08 billion last year, globally, as the number of users increased from 250 million in 2019, to 270 million in 2020. Recently, women-first dating app Bumble went IPO.
Able reveals that matches per user increased by 20 percent, and conversations by 12 percent, on Aisle’s platform, during the lockdown. He shares tips for singles looking to find the right match on dating apps:
- Be in tune with what you are looking for, and what you want to get out of the experience. Sit by yourself and imagine what your life can look like with a partner.
- Talk about it on your dating profile and with the people you match with. Always stay clear of your motivation to be on the app.
- Be in control. Just because there are people out there, doesn’t mean you have to swipe yes or no on everyone. Take it slow. Try finding a common ground. Focus on one to three matches at a time, that’s how you begin to build some real chemistry.
Business of Apps predicts revenue generated by dating apps to further rise to $5.71 billion by 2025, globally. While the rate of vaccine rollout might have picked up, looks like millennials will keep looking for love online.