For hundreds of years, Indians have relied on the tried-and-tested method of an arranged marriage to find a partner. But technology is rapidly changing things.
Priyanka describes herself as a typical Delhi girl who likes to hang out in the capital’s hip cafes and trendy bars. When not gossiping with her friends over a latte, Priyanka may be flirting with a potential romantic interest she met through a dating app.
“I’ve been on about 10 dates now and each time it’s very exciting,” she said.
The 24-year-old office worker says she is determined to enjoy singledom as long as she can.
“Many women of my age are feeling the pressure to get married, but I want to see what’s out there and live a little first,” she added.
Despite her excitement over dating, Priyanka is shy about being on dating apps publically. She says her parents do not know she is on Tinder and she is unsure whether they would agree with the idea of her going on dates with strangers.
“This kind of dating is so new here and a lot of people don’t agree with it,” she said.
Priyanka is one of millions of India’s swipe-happy singles who stay connected through their mobile devices at all times.
India has about 240 million smartphone users, according to an ASSOCHAM-Deloitte study. The majority of them are young, live in urban areas and access the internet through their phones.
Family Network Replaced
Traditionally, marriage was a contract between two families, and Indians used to find love with the help of relatives and professional matchmakers.
About a decade ago, matchmaking moved online when websites such as Shaadi.com and BharatMatrimony.com were launched. People could choose their potential matches based on education, ethnicity, dialect and even caste. Plenty of well-meaning parents posted their children’s profiles in the hope of finding them a suitable mate.
Then matchmaking went mobile and the dating scene changed again. Youngsters no longer needed to rely on their parents to do the matchmaking and suddenly parents and relatives were taken out of the equation. It meant daters could choose whoever they wanted to meet with just one swipe.
Parents just like Priyanka’s – may not necessarily agree with this latest dating trend, but the shift is inevitable.
Apps With Local Interface
Indians have been spoilt for choice ever since the market saw the launch of many homegrown dating apps that offer India-specific features. Global dating apps such as Tinder, OkCupid, Badoo and Hinge are widely popular, but local ones like TrulyMadly, Woo and Aisle have a massive fan base in India.
“India is in many ways different to anywhere else in the world when it comes to dating,” said Sachin Bhatia, co-founder of Delhi-based TrulyMadly. “Families used to check potential partners beforehand. Now the power has shifted to the users, more importantly to the women, who do the choosing.”
Dating technology can even aid empowerment in India.
“Women in India today have increasingly more influence over their lives. They have jobs, hobbies, independence and now they have taken one more step [forward] – they can choose their own mates,” Bhatia said.
Decoding Social Situations
New innovations have fundamentally changed the way Indian people look at sex and relationships.
“As Indians, we suffer from approach anxiety. It’s hard for us to strike up a conversation or flirt naturally,” said Rajesh Lalwani, chief executive at Scenario Consulting. “Now we have multiple channels so people can interact with one another. Technology also brings an added layer of privacy; you no longer have to conduct your affairs in public.”
For shy Indians, mobile tools offer an easier way to break the ice when chatting with the opposite sex. Instead of tired pick-up lines, TrulyMadly has a special algorithm that advises men to start conversations based on their common interests.
While robots and artificial intelligence will increasingly be utilised in acts of wooing, good old-fashioned chemistry still has its place.
“Technology will not help you fall in love,” Bhatia said. “It only aids you to meet that special someone.”
Taking Back Control
Mobile technology has given Priyanka plenty of choices and freedom to decide how she wants to take things forward with a potential match.
“I like being in control of the situation. We can then take time to get to know one another and see if it goes further,” she said.
Priyanka said she has met people she would not normally come across in her own social circles.
“The idea of finding a date without my phone is unthinkable,” she said.
Arranged marriages are still favoured by more traditional families in India, but if app companies are to be believed, millions of young urban Indians are increasingly replacing their network of families and relatives with a tool that fits snugly in the palm of their hands.
Hero image: Getty.