The covid-19 pandemic has created a drastic shift in the way we approach work, love and life. The lockdown and periods of isolation have prompted Gen Z to seek companionship online more actively than before. It is no wonder then that Tinder, the popular online dating app, has seen a rise in the number of active users, with the number of messages sent, and swipe volumes, peaking globally.
To cater to this craving for shared digital experiences, the app has also launched new features in India, the newest one being Swipe Night, an in-app interactive event that took place on three consecutive weekends in September, allowing Tinder members to swipe at key junctures to move the story forward. These choices dictated not just the direction of the narrative but also whom they matched with at the end. Taru Kapoor, general manager, Match Group and Tinder India, tells Mint about the online dating trends observed during the pandemic. Edited excerpts:
What led to the decision to bring Swipe Night to India at this time?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the power of conversational common ground powered by shared experiences. Social distancing along with stay at home orders turned our members into chatty and creative digital daters. Think of Swipe Night as a digital ice breaker. It was launched in the US last year to great response. One saw a 26% increase in matches after this was launched. We have seen a tremendous response for Swipe Night in India as well.It’s part of our overall mission to bring people together, get some chemistry going and allow them to hang out together in a fun way.
It is themed around the ‘End of the World’ and has been directed by Karena Evans, who has worked on videos for artists like Drake. How does this experience work for users?
The event allowed members to play the protagonist during the final hours before an asteroid hits Earth. They could swipe and make choices that dictate the story flow. Based on these decisions, your choices would reflect on your Tinder bio and this helps you break the ice with potential matches. We wanted an epic story that doesn’t just help people connect but also reveals something about you. Research has revealed that Gen Z is into dystopian stories. If you had only one day to live, what would you do—the story is familiar but the treatment is unique and immersive. All talent involved was GenZ, from the director and writers to the actors. Karena Evans is only 24 and a very popular music director. These are people who can handle the complexity of the narrative.
What are the trends in online dating that you might have observed during the pandemic?
We already knew that Gen Z was good at adapting to a digital lifestyle. But the pandemic has accelerated a lot of trends for us. We have seen a significant increase in engagement and conversations. Most countries went into a lockdown between March and April, and on 5 April, the number of messages sent peaked. We saw 52%more messages being sent at that time than in the pre-covid period. In India, we reached this peak in May, with 60% more messages being sent. This was higher than the global average. The swipe volume was up as well by 32%. This is a creative dating generation. They take everything and make it their own. Take QuaranTinder, for instance, or how to Tinder during quarantine—a term that was trending recently. Gen Z is now having first and second dates online. They are having fun, albeit differently.
Reports suggest that millennials, trapped under indefinite work-from-home policies and unable to frequent social spaces, are swiping more than ever. Have you seen an increase in the number of active users during this period?
We have seen very strong traction in small towns. This trend was present pre-pandemic as well, but it has accelerated now. In the age group of 18-30, we are seeing two-thirds of all dates and relationships beginning online. And this is no longer a phenomenon in the metros but in tier 2 and 3 cities and towns as well.
Is Tinder planning to add more features to the app to cater to this rise in virtual dating?
We have added prompts for members, and the top one is “2020 has made me realize…”. Similarly, we had added a “passion” feature to demonstrate the things that you care most about. We will be launching a video-calling feature soon in India.
How do you envision the road ahead in India?
We are focusing on Gen Z, which has grown up with the internet and can’t imagine a life before that. We want to help build connections online and create Tinder as a place where they can hang out. A lot of features will continue to get added. However, human relationships continue to be at the heart of what we do. How these are initiated may have changed but the richness remains the same. We think of ourselves as introducers, with human chemistry taking over after that. Tinder helps you choose your own pace and comfort. Especially women in India, having grown up in a judgemental and patriarchal society, like the idea of having agency. It’s liberating to be able to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise. At the same time, consent, which is very important, is present at every stage. This has opened up a world of possibilities.