Tina Chulet has always tried to take the path of highest resistance for the sole purpose of challenging herself. Tina is the Founder and CEO of Waltzz, a mobile dating app, focused on creating a serious and safe platform for women to date online.
HerStory spoke with Tina to know more about her journey as an entrepreneur and the challenges that came her way.
Almost 40 years ago, Tina’s father moved from Jodphur in Rajasthan to Chicago where she and her elder sister were born and brought up. “I was always the loud, curious, impatient, and creative child. I have travelled the world and ultimately here I am – the Silicon Valley of India – Bangalore.”
Tina stepped out of home at the age of 18 to attend the Wharton School followed by management consulting at the age of 22. At that young age she had a life most can only dream of. But the charm soon wore off when Tina realised she did not want to play it safe anymore. In 2008, she sold everything she owned and moved to New Delhi for a job with an international advisory firm focused on young entrepreneurs. Following her stint at Endeavor, she joined Suminter India Organics and then CitrusPay.
Tina left Mumbai in 2012 for two years to pursue her MBA at the Kellogg School of Management and within a week of graduation was back on a flight to India, ready to start her own venture. In those two years she and her husband continuously studied ideas from Uber like transportation management to mobile gaming to ultimately settle upon mobile dating because Tina is a true believer in the power of such apps as she has witnessed their impact on her life. For example, her sister, her cousin and another of her husband’s cousin found their match through a dating app.
Armed with the power of belief of such apps, the other pieces of the puzzle too fit in — be it the large proliferation of dating sites around the world, the growing smartphone market, the changing culture or the burgeoning population of young adults. So Waltz was conceptualised.
“Unlike other online dating apps, I don’t believe in one-click profile creation through Facebook; ultimately knowing the basics, like religion or native state, do matter, especially to individuals pursuing serious relationships,” says Tina.
The app asks users their dating intentions (casual, semi-serious etc.) so expectations can be managed especially for those using the app to seek a serious match.
To appeal to women, Tina also added a handful of women safety features, including invite-only for men, four-way profile verification, and reporting options to block those who asked for personal contact information.
Tina’s team though small, has members who don multiple hats. Perhaps that is the reason that they find competition challenging. “Though the market is extremely young right now and while several players have entered the dating sector, it is unclear what the winning model will be. Tinder has done a great job with market education in a community that has not previously been very comfortable with the term ‘dating’. But Tinder does not cater to the local market like Waltzz does. I welcome the competition as it helps us to quickly educate the market.”
The app is focused on women but Tina is sure that it will not drive the men away. “We love men as much as we love women. But the men understand that a platform that is safe for women will ultimately bring more women online and perhaps improve the chances of finding the perfect match,” she says.
“Being a woman entrepreneur is my strength!” Tina feels being a woman has worked to her advantage and has opened doors for her. “For a dating platform, being a woman is great. In part, it is because women trust other women and right now the founders of the competitors are men. Additionally, we are working with a platform that is largely about the psyche of men and women and thus my woman emotional quotient (EQ) is a plus.”
Life with another entrepreneur
Married to Pranay Chulet, Co-founder and CEO of Quikr, Tina is happy being able to share her insecurities with someone who has built a successful company and is a source of strength and inspiration. “Most importantly, a little reassurance from my husband goes a long way in helping me put my head down and push forward.”
Waltzz and Quikr work independently and though Tina and Pranay are not involved in each other’s companies they still do seek support from each other. Tina uses Pranay as a sounding board for all topics from marketing to hiring to fundraising. For Pranay, getting the perspective of someone who is removed from his business yet with a business mindset helps.
“But we keep the discussions very structured. We allocate time during a coffee at Starbucks, or in a car ride or in a preplanned meeting on the calendar. And I always try to enter a meeting as prepared as I would with any other professional,” shares Tina.
Women in tech
Tina shares that she does not have an answer to why there are so few women in technology,“although there are dozens of ideas out there,” she says.
Talking about her experience she shares, “When I knew that my positioning would be focused on women, I was convinced that I needed a team of female developers. I offered incentives to recruiters to find me women and personally called up every female developer in Bangalore and Mumbai listed on naukri.com. None of the women bit the bait. At least in the case of Naukri, probably 90% of women were working for large companies, perhaps filling diversity quota requirements. And unfortunately the women weren’t interested in leaving a steady job with a brand name. I am, however, still searching for women developers out there!”