Stuck at home and unable to have coffee or some tasty snacks over long conversations with your date?
Now, you can do that virtually, as local offline-only matchmaking and dating apps promise to take their wares online.
Startups like Floh, SirfCoffee, Aisle, MyScoot and FilterOff, which differentiate themselves from global peers like Tinder and Bumble by focusing on interest-based offline events and meetups, are saying ‘Hello’ to virtual poetry and cookery sessions, speed dates online, Zoom events on hooking up with the right partner etc. in the time of lockdown.
These apps have seen a 20% increase in new users, mostly busy professionals such as bankers, tech workers and entrepreneurs looking to find meaningful and long-term relationships amid a skewed work-life scenario, even as the ongoing lockdown has put paid to their plans of going out.
These users, who do not mind paying anywhere from Rs 1,500 to up to Rs 50,000 for in-person meetups and group activities, tend to be typically over 25 years of age and have fewer demands with regard to their partner profile.
“In light of the Covid-19 virus outbreak, we have temporarily paused in-person dates…since nearly 50 days, Sirf Coffee has set up over 200 personalised virtual iso-dates in the comfort of our members’ homes,” said Naina Hiranandani, co-founder of SirfCoffee.
According to 2018 Nielsen report, there are an estimated 13 million urban singles in the 28-45 age group with income upwards of Rs 50,000 a month in the country.
Industry estimates put the potential market for offline meetup services at about $1 billion.
“We have spoken with over 100,000 singles to understand how urban singles in India can be successful at their relationships. We now host weekly Zoom events on various relationship topics,” says Siddharth Mangharam, founder and CEO of Floh.
These vary from finding the right person, dealing with rejection, essential relationship ingredients and more. They also take up coaching sessions, he adds.
“We are looking at hosting only interactive activities online like brewing coffee without equipment. So, users with an interest in coffee will join the session,” says Suyash Sinha, founder of MyScoot.
There is a user limit in such groups and MyScoot says it will scale up events after restrictions are lifted. “We are sure offline events will be back, though there may be a certain behavioural change,” Sinha adds.
Bengaluru-based Aisle, on the other hand, is hosting online group activities through video conferencing app Zoom. “These activities include games like Pictionary. We will be charging Rs 799 from users to join these groups,” says Able Joseph, co-founder of Aisle.
After the activity, users connect with other members.
US-headquartered FilterOff permits users to have a 90-second video chat session with the selected dating partners, before proceeding with the virtual date.
Be that as it may, some of these startups say they have observed a change in what users seek.
“Clients have really eased up their criteria (relaxing on age, geography and other partner preferences), as this period has given them the time to reflect, introspect and figure out the path forward,” says Hiranandani of Sirf Coffee.
“Given that they are experiencing high levels of stress or grief due to work uncertainty, health issues, one may think that dating is last on their minds. On the contrary…this pandemic, a circumstance that we have no control over whatsoever, has amplified the universal need for companionship,” she adds.
“The fact that we’re all vulnerable has made people look for deeper connections,” adds Mangharam of Floh.