[App Fridays] How Aisle balances traditional marriage values and modern dating trends
While matrimonial portals have been around for a while in India for people looking for serious relationships, dating apps have picked up among the youth who are interested in something more casual. Then there is a certain demographic in the age group of 25 and above who don’t wish to register on matrimonial platforms or dating apps, but want something in between.
They want the flavour and convenience of a dating app and the seriousness and in-depth information that matrimonial services provide. Aisle.co aims to go after this segment of users, which has money to spare, but not the time.
What is it?
In its essence, Aisle.co is a web and mobile-based dating app which sets itself apart through features such as a detailed sign up process, shortlisting profiles, absence of 'swiping' etc. To become a part of the community, users must sign up for a free membership and fill in the required details. The Aisle team then verifies the credentials and if they feel that the user fits their criteria, they are added to the community.
Aisle aims to replicate the real-world experience of meeting people at a restaurant or pub, online. So on signing in, users will be able to see profiles of both men and women, like they would in the real world. Through the search bar, users can tweak their search results based on their preferences.
If the user finds someone interesting and wishes to meet them, he or she can pay to acquire ‘invites’ and request to ‘connect’ with that person. The person of interest here will receive a notification and has the option of either accepting or rejecting the invite. If he or she accepts, then the first user's ‘invite’ gets used up and their contact details are mutually shared. Users don't need to buy invites to accept incoming invitations though. If the person decided to reject the invite, the person who initiated the connection request gets his/her invite back.
The story so far
Aisle was founded by Able Joseph out of a personal need. While he moved from Bangalore to Dubai, he found it difficult to find and connect with like-minded people easily. While most dating apps in the market are free, they require the user to swipe ‘left’ or ‘right’ and many people face low success rates. To tackle this problem he founded Aisle, which currently consists of a team of six.
Aisle.co had raised USD 1,00,000 in seed funding from a group of angel investors from Bay Area and India in February 2015. The last time YourStory spoke to them, they had more than 4,000 curated active users across 30 countries, with a male:female ratio of 5:4. Able Joseph confirmed that they currently have about 23,000 users out of a pool of about 80,000 users who signed up for a membership, with almost the same male-to-female ratio.
While Aisle initially started out as a web-only product and recently launched its app, its future plans include giving equal importance to both the platforms. The company claims about 2,300 connections have occurred on the platform so far. Able added, “We’ve had about 30 couples writing in to us, to tell us that they were getting married.” Aisle is currently in the process of raising another round of funding to further their reach, hiring and expansion.
The dating segment is coming of age in India, which has, so far, considered dating taboo to a certain extent, with arranged marriages being the norm. But investors and entrepreneurs are showing interest in bringing people together. Thrill had closed a seed round of funding from investors in India, Singapore, and the US in 2014. TrulyMadly raised Rs 35 crore funding from Helion Venture Partners and Kae Capital in March 2015. In April 2015, Matrimony.com invested an undisclosed amount in acquiring Matchify. There are a few smaller players such as Woo and new entrant Cogxio (previously DateIItians). Most recently, iCrushiFlush raised a round of funding from IDG.
On the global front, Tinder, one of the pioneers in this sector, is competing with Hinge, which raised $12M Series A funding round from Shasta Ventures in December 2014, Coffee meets Bagle, which raised $7.8M in a series A round in February 2015, Plenty of fish was recently acquired by Match group in July 2015.
What we liked
The app has a pleasing user interface and provides a unique user experience, with detailed information on potential matches. The ‘Search’ and ‘Advanced Search’ features are useful and effective, helping users find like-minded people based on criteria such as mother tongue, status and current location.
The app provides relevant information about people in a shot summarised form. For example they have included different interest categories such as ‘books’, ‘fitness’, ‘sports’, television’, ‘shopping’ etc., and require users to rate their interest levels on a scale of one to ten. Able added, “We know that almost everyone loves to read books, listen to music or travel. Through this rating system, we want them to assign a number to their interest, to show people how important they perceive it to be.’
What could be improved
On logging in for the first time, I was shown profiles of both men and women across different age groups, even though I had mentioned my preferences during the sign up process. Able confirmed that this is intentional, to give users a feel of the real-world experience of meeting people at a restaurant or pub. It would be great if Aisle could add a ‘How To’ or ‘Tutorial’ section within the app to help novice users better understand their thought process.
The biggest concern in the app for many we spoke to was the feature that automatically shared contact details (which include phone numbers) with the person one is matched with. Most people do not like sharing their contact details publicly with strangers. So giving users an option to not reveal their phone numbers may be useful.
On the whole, Aisle provides a unique value proposition to users who are short on time and don’t mind spending some money to to connect with like-minded people. Compared to other dating apps, Aisle has a smaller target audience as the youth may not find appeal in such services. With a committed team, clear business model and value proposition, it will be interesting to see how Aisle scales and expands further.