Bengaluru-based matchmaking startup Aisle has closed a pre-series A round of Rs 1.25 crore from TermSheet.io and ah! Ventures, with investments from angel investors - Mekin Maheshwari (earlier Chief People Officer at Flipkart) and Anand Chandrasekaran, Chief Product Officer of Snapdeal.
The round was led by Anand Vijay, a Bay Area-based angel investor on TermSheet.io and jointly advised and syndicated with ah! Ventures. Akshay Syal, Richard Kim, Jana Pokkalla and Manish Gautam also participated in this round.
Aisle was founded by Able Joseph out of a personal need- when he moved from Bangalore to Dubai and found it difficult to find and connect with like-minded people easily. The startup currently consists of a team of eight and is led by Able,CEO; Bivin Benny- Director, User Relations (ex-Ogilvy, ex-Flipkart) and Razee Marikar – CTO (ex-Amazon, ex-Akamai).
As an Indian matchmaking brand, Aisle aims to offer a differentiated experience to its niche audience – handpicked urban, independent Indians of today. The startup considers their USP to be-high levels of screening and filtering of its audience to maintain quality of their offering.
Users need to sign up and fill in the requested details. Aisle then verifies the credentials and if they feel that the user fits their criteria, they are added to the Aisle 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 and look for people based on their preferences.
Aisle initially started out as a web-only product but then launched their mobile apps shortly thereafter and now look to give equal importance to both platforms. In February 2015 the startup raised #xA0;1,00,000 in seed funding from a group of angel investors from Bay Area and India.
Aisle currently claims to be growing at the rate of 500-800 registrations per day across about 50 countries. While signing up on the platform is free, Aisle monetizes through 'invites'. Users need to purchase invites and can utilise them to directly connect with a person they are interested in. Aisle claims that they are currently among the top five grossing apps on both iOS and Android among the Indian consumer internet companies that sell digital goods. Others being Gaana, Saavn, Shaadi and Bharat Matrimony. Currently a majority of Aisle's users are on the iOS platform.
Commenting on this financing round, Sonia Pradhan, TermSheet.io’s COO said, “We focus on identifying interesting startups that attract the attention of product-focussed angels and firms looking for outliers. We love what Aisle is building. And that is why this is the second time we have facilitated a round for Aisle on our platform.”
Aisle plans to primarily utilise the funds raised in this round for building a strong team and effective partnerships. Giving an investor's’ perspective, Harshad Lahoti, Founder and CEO of ah! Ventures, said,
Online dating has seen very little innovation in the past couple of decades. Rarely do we see a dating app that is monetized from day one. When Aisle reached out to us, we realized the potential in the product, the execution and the traction that it had gained. We're excited to join Aisle in its journey of helping more of the 37 million single Indians from around the world, in successfully finding their partners.
While matrimonial platforms and arranged marriages have long been the norm, dating has also become mainstream in India in the last few years, partly accelerated by the numerous dating apps. Bharat Matrimony and Shaadi.com are among the top players in the matrimonial space in India.
Coming to dating, Thrill had closed a seed round of funding from investors in India, Singapore, and the US in 2014. TrulyMadly raised Rs 35 crore in funding from Helion Venture Partners and Kae Capital in March 2015. In April 2015, Matrimony.com invested an undisclosed amount in acquiring dating app Matchify. There are a few smaller players such as Woo and newer entrant Cogxio (previously DateIItians).
On the global front, Tinder, one of the pioneers in this sector, is competing with Hinge, which raised $12 million Series A funding round from Shasta Ventures in December 2014, Coffee meets Bagle, which raised $7.8 million in a series A round in February 2015, Plenty of fish was recently acquired by Match group in July 2015.
So the Indian audience is currently offered extreme options of either platforms encouraging casual dating or matrimony. Then there is a section of the population that is instead looking for serious relationships, which falls in the grey zone of the above two platforms. Aisle aims to go after this sector and help people understand each other before taking the next step.
Commenting on the online dating space, Able Joseph said, “A balanced gender ratio coupled with a trustworthy brand which has gathered a comprehensive list of users who are of similar mind-sets when it comes to attractiveness and compatibility is what urban India needs in the matchmaking space. ”
Casual dating apps have a wide user base but generally consist of people looking for short term relationships. On the other hand for people who aren't looking to get married immediately, matrimonial platforms too may not be appealing. So Aisle has identified a niche market of people who are short on-time but are willing to pay a premium to connect with like-minded people.
The new funding round and backing from angel investors, Mekin Maheshwari and Anand Chandrasekaran will help Aisle further enhance their product and get more users on their platform.