When Rohini Ramnathan’s husband died suddenly in 2017, the 37-year-old thought she would never find love again.
But two years later, Ramnathan downloaded a dating app to his phone for the first time and started swiping on potential matches.
“My first impression was, ‘Wow, there are so many people and they’re all single,'” she says.
“And then I thought, ‘Wow, there are so many beautiful people’.”
Ramnathan, a radio host who lives in Mumbai, says dating apps have helped her understand and explore “the casualness of dating” in India.
Young people in India are embracing dating apps
Young single Indians are the world’s second largest market for dating app users, just behind the United States.
In 2014, Tinder was the first app to launch in India.
The top three apps in India – Tinder, Bumble and Hinge – collectively grew by 17% in January 2022 (compared to January 2019), according to research firm Sensor Tower.
Local Indian dating apps, like TrulyMadly and Aisle, have also seen a resurgence in popularity, especially during the pandemic.
According to Snehil Khanor, CEO and co-founder of TrulyMadly, the app has grown to over 8 million users, gaining more traction over the past 12 months, especially in smaller towns.
“A lot of people have realized that a dating app is one of the best ways to meet new people,” Khanor said.
A whole new world of relationships has opened up
As apps change the love game for India’s 400 million millennials, many people living in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are also juggling non-traditional dating preferences with conventional cultural expectations and pressures. of Indian society.
Anirban Bhattacharjee, 30, downloaded Grindr, an app for the LGBTQ community, in his twenties.
The creative director, who grew up in a small town in northeast India and now lives in Mumbai, says downloading the app was like finding a “world treasure”.
Bhattacharjee, who now lives in Mumbai, agrees that dating in a metropolitan city is different from dating in a small town.
“Forget about being gay, if you’re 30 and you’re not married, you better not leave your house,” he says, “because people are going to ask you a lot of questions.”
Bhattacharjee is now exploring an open relationship, or ethical non-monogamy, with his partner – who he met on the app nearly four years ago.
“Dating apps have encouraged me to explore who I am and what I want, which I don’t think is possible in the world of pre-apps,” he says.
The expanded dating spectrum can be overwhelming
Ankur Pathak, 28, who grew up in Mumbai on a steady diet of Bollywood romance.
Pathak uploaded Bumble “purely for anthropological reasons,” he says.
For him, one of the great benefits of being on an app was that it allowed him to meet people outside of his own social circles.
But at the same time, he found it overwhelming as someone who believes in finding love “the old-fashioned way.”
“We didn’t do this before,” he adds.
Arranged marriage versus amorous marriage
A 2020 survey found that 62% of millennial Indians preferred a love marriage to an arranged marriage, a number that rose to 69% for Gen Z.
These preferences are also underpinning the growth of online dating in India, with revenue expected to reach $796 million this year, according to Statista.
Pathak only lasted on dating apps for about a week, but acknowledges that dating apps have normalized the idea of casual hookups among his friends and family — and the idea that dating doesn’t have a purpose. explicit purpose of leading to marriage.
“Parents, at least in urban cities, are fine with their kids finding out,” he said.
Ramnathan says she’s under no pressure from family and friends to remarry, but dating apps have at least given her a “second chance” at finding love.