Startup Street: Is The Pandemic Pushing More Indians Towards Online Dating?
This week on Startup Street, an Indian matchmaking startup tells how users are looking for more meaningful relationships during the pandemic. The government’s e-marketplace sees startups registered double in a year. And Microsoft has partnered with an incubator to launch a programme for Indian healthtech startups.
Ready For Love
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about drastic behavioural changes, whether it comes to working from home, managing finances, or even hunting for partners.
Largely used by millennials and now Gen Zs, Aisle Co. has witnessed a broad-based increase in all its metrics since the pandemic hit India, signalling a growing want for relationships. Matches per user increased 20% since April 2020, the dating-cum-matrimony platform told BloombergQuint.
The startup, however, sees itself as a high-intent dating platform, distinguishing itself from both matrimonial websites -- where candidates are often spoken for by family -- and casual dating platforms like Tinder.
There are two kinds of people in the online dating world, those who are lonely and those who are bored, said Able Joseph, the company’s founder and chief executive officer. The pandemic brought both kinds of people on to all kinds of dating applications. However, as the lockdown extended, a lot of this boredom turned into loneliness, he said.
“The pandemic has been a reality check for a lot of people who indulged in careless dating earlier on. They are re-calibrating their lives and realising they want a stable partner.” Joseph said the June of 2020 marked the “return of romance” in Indian users -- people already a bit romantic by nature.
While the seriousness of users is hard to gauge, the startup is witnessing a reduction in the time it takes a user to switch to a paid subscription. It also reported an increase in younger users below 26 who are taking a more serious approach to dating. Apart from this, there was a 52% increase in likes sent by men compared to a 14.5% increase in likes sent by women. Tier-II users increased matches by nearly 23%, the startup said.
Aisle’s testimony remains in-line with reports of increase in activity for most dating applications. In an interview to the Times of India, Bumble’s Vice President of strategy and operation Priti Joshi reported a similar increase in high-intent dating.
In an attempt to pandemic-proof their user experience, Aisle launched a beta-version of an online speed dating forum dubbed ‘Rooms’. Any user can create a ‘room’ where prospective matches can enter for a quick five-minute audio chat at the end of which the host would have an option to match with them. These chats will we open and visible to all which, according to Joseph, gives a level of comfort to Indian women.
Planning For A Demographic Boom
The youngest of the millennial generation are now 24 years old while GenZs have entered their 20s too. Naturally, the country can expect a boom in those looking for serious relationships over the next decade, Joseph said.
Aisle has a three-pronged plan to leverage this boom, Joseph said. First is the launch of a slow-dating format more common in foreign countries where people other prospective matches in real life. The format will be launched once the pandemic is relatively under control and local governments—some in unlock mode while other place more restrictions—give a go-ahead.
The startup also plans to market the platform more aggressively to Indians overseas. Non-residential Indian sign-ups have also increased 20% on the platform, probably because of the international travel restrictions, he said.
A paid matchmaking service that will be more expensive than the current premium subscription, will be launched before the end of 2020. Under this, the application will handpick and curate a list of potential matches for the user to better match their traits and expectations. If all goes well, Joseph hopes this service can be converted into an in-person matchmaking segment—a more refined version of the ‘Seema aunty’ seen in the Netflix show ‘Indian Matchmaking’.
Startup Registration At GeM More Than Doubled In A Year
The number of startups registered at public procurement portal GeM has more than doubled to 7,438 in the last one year and they are receiving many orders from government departments and public sector units, a senior official said.
"We now have 48,038 buyers, 7.42 lakh sellers with 2.42 lakh MSEs (micro and small enterprises), 7,438 startups, 10,252 product categories, and 173 service categories. One year ago, we had 40,275 buyers, 2.98 lakh sellers, 59,536 MSMEs, and 3,509 startups," GeM CEO Talleen Kumar told PTI.
The Government e-Marketplace was launched in August 2016 for online purchase of goods and services by all the central government ministries and departments.
Kumar said that providing increased market access to seller groups like startups, and MSEs has reinforced the Make in India initiative.
Startups have fulfilled orders worth over Rs 1,800 crore through the marketplace, Kumar said adding GeM is taking a number of steps so that more and more startups, MSMEs, artisans and weavers can register their goods and services on this platform.
"Presently, over 20,000 artisans and 1.2 lakh weavers have registered so far as sellers and are uploading products in their relevant categories," Kumar added.
Microsoft, Social Alpha Join Hands To Boost Healthtech Startups In India
Tech giant Microsoft has partnered with startup incubator Social Alpha and launched a programme for health-tech startups to help them scale with advanced technology and joint go-to-market support.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of the healthcare system, disrupting the continuity of healthcare delivery practices and patient access to high-quality medical care, Microsoft said in a statement.
"Committed to address the most prevalent and persistent health and business challenges, Microsoft for HealthTech Startups aims to help entrepreneurs with technical support as well as resources for co-selling and co-building tech tools to achieve better outcomes across healthcare," it added.
Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare enables startups to access a portfolio of released and new healthcare capabilities tailored to the unique requirements of health data in the cloud.
"Being forced by the global pandemic to rethink how healthcare services across the world operate, startups in this industry are reimagining solutions for some of the most pressing healthcare challenges," Microsoft India Director Startup Ecosystem Sangeeta Bavi said.
Social Alpha has supported over 20 health-tech startups working across devices, diagnostics, treatment and access.
The collaboration with Social Alpha will provide health-tech startups programmatic support through product innovation labs, sandbox pilots and structured incubation initiatives that offer knowledge services, bootcamps and masterclass sessions with mentors as well as tech and industry experts, the statement said.