Dating is uncommon in India. Educated women are still conservative and politely decline when asked out. They don’t even shake hands much, let alone display other gestures of affection.“ This is the gist of the ninth edition of the travellers’ guide and scholars’ manual released by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) recently . The handbook is one of the foremost travellers’ guides for foreign tourists in India.
The guide maintains that though `educated women’ have set aside inhibitions, dating is where they draw the line. “Educated women have cast aside many customary inhibitions…They will talk to the student when he is introduced to them. The modern Indian woman is traditional in some ways. She may refuse politely if a man asks her out for a film or outing. Dating is not common in India. But is dating in India really so uncommon?
Delhi’s women at least, pooh-pooh the suggestion. And now, thanks to the rapidly growing popularity of dating apps both in the metros and smaller towns there are figures to prove just how `out there’ Indian women are in the dating game.
IN DELHI, PEOPLE ARE DYING TO DATE SOMEONE: DELHI WOMEN
Now dating is not uncommon at all. In Delhi, at least, people are dying to date someone, as if staying single is a crime. I’ve used these apps myself so I know that almost everyone I know is on them a marketing professional from east Delhi, tells us.
Nisha, an air-hostess, says, “Saying Indian women don’t date as they’re conservative is a generalization. I decline a coffee invitation only if the person is being creepy . That doesn’t make me conservative. If there was no dating here, dating apps would be bankrupt and I wouldn’t have so much trouble finding a table for two on Saturday evenings in Delhi restaurants.“
If ICCR knew how many dates from these apps rejected me because I was too `straightforward and bold,’ they might want to change their opinion on Indian women.
ICCR telling foreign visitors that Indian women will decline dates is a disaster for all Indian women. I mean, we actually look forward to foreigners asking us out! The number of European or Australian guys I’ve met through dating apps proves that.
UP TO 140% INCREASE IN USERS 2016 ALONE DATING
APPS Apps say that the growth of their user base shows that dating isn’t just common, people are open to adopting new platforms for it. In the last few years, India has adopted lifestyles very similar to those in global mega cities. We have seen a meteoric rise in the number of female users. Woo says it has a user base of 25 lakh in India, with 30% of those being women. They have seen a 50% growth in users in NCR in the last three months alone.
It’s the same story with other major dating apps. 20% increase in female users in the last six months nationwide. Delhi is among our best performing areas, with a 26% increase in users since the beginning of 2016.
Among other apps, Affimity has registered a 140% growth in users since January 2016, while matchmaking app Banihal has seen its weekly user base grow by 10 times since late March. Tinder did not reveal user numbers, but even they have registered big growth in the last one year.Since September 2015, the total number of swipes per day on the app increased from 75 lakh to 1.4 crore. Clearly , more Indians are using dating apps than ever before.
ICCR IS MISTAKING LACK OF PDA FOR LACK OF DATING
Dating apps say that the ICCR handbook seems to have assumed that a lack of public display of affection means the absence of dating. It seems that ICCR is incorrectly relating PDA, including hand holding, to dating. While PDA is still mostly a big city phenomenon, dating is much more pervasive than what’s believed, present even in rural India
And though social barriers to dating remain, they are being overcome increasingly now. India is a large and heterogeneous market with social norms and attitudes that vary greatly across different areas even in the same city . However, the one common factor we’re seeing is that there’s a definite shift in social interactions, which is being led by the youth and enabled by technology .In India, there have always been some structural barriers that have made it difficult for people to meet new people and forge relationships outside their immediate social circles. However, with more platforms to make connections, some of these social barriers are starting to break down. We have seen an increasing number of youth, and particularly women, finding new ways of expanding their social circles.
IN DELHI-MUMBAI, FEMALE USERS EQUAL TO MALES
Dating apps say in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, female users are already at par with male users.
The proportion of female users on most apps is 30 40%, and the gap is closing steadily , an indication that growth in female users is quicker. Woo has 30% female users while Truly Madly has 35%. Their user base of over 10 lakh female users is the largest among Indian dating apps. The figures are larger for smaller but more niche apps that target metro cities. Banihal has 40% female users nationally but in Delhi, the figure stands at 47%. Affimity , an `interest-based social network,’ has bucked the trend to be a female-dominated dating platform with a whopping 72% female users.
HALF THE INTERACTIONS ON DATING APPS STARTED BY WOMEN
In fact, apps say that women are also more proactive in starting conversations. Up to half the interactions on certain platforms are initiated by women. Women in metros are as much in control of their decision of who to marry and date as in the west. We see that women in NCR and Mumbai are equally represented in number of users and also when reaching out with a message to connect.