Third date with investors on V-Day — relationship app Aisle closes its third round


On Valentine's Day, strictly gated “relationship app” Aisle raised its third round of funding led by CIO Angel Network, and with participation from Konglo Ventures, White Unicorn Ventures, and LetsVenture.

This seed round comes after two angel rounds raised in February 2015 and January 2016 worth Rs 1.25 crore and Rs 6 crore respectively. The amount for this round, however, remains undisclosed.

Bivin Benny and Able Joseph

The backstory

Started in July 2014 by the founder duo of Able Joseph, CEO, Bivin Benny, Director, User Relations (ex-Ogilvy, ex-Flipkart), Aisle is the wise middle ground between traditional matrimony websites and casual dating applications for Indians from around the world. While apps like Tinder and India-born TrulyMadly, on one end of the scale, facilitate casual dating and brief encounters, the matrimonial websites attract singles looking to tie the knot. Thus, Aisle — “the relationship app” — is the middle ground, as it is meant for singles who are looking for partners to date long-term, that is, have a committed, conventional relationship with.

The app was born out of one of the founders' personal needs — when Able moved from Bengaluru to Dubai and couldn't easily meet like-minded people. The startup considers their USP to be intensive screening and filtering of its audiences, in the face of rapid digitisation and hence, accessibility of the medium — to maintain the quality of their offering.

Aisle wanted to build a more refined community with like-minded individuals, through their members-only feature. Thus, when one signs up, certain details are sought, which are reviewed by their team, before getting the go-ahead to join the Aisle community.

On signing in, users will be able to see profiles of both men and women, like they would in the real world. One can search through keywords, based on their preferences. Aisle makes limited connections to induce seriousness, and the intent of the user is better known here, as the app is marketed as a platform for people looking to be in a relationship.

Starting out as desktop-only, they soon launched their mobile app. Their main source of revenue, which also doubles up as their filtering mechanism, is the “invites” one has to buy on the site, three of which roughly cost Rs 2,500, in order to connect with the individual you want to talk to.

Aisle claims to have attracted many “Indie celebrities” like standup comedians, ad film actors, models, yoga instructors, entrepreneurs, chefs, musicians, etc. The platform mostly targets single Indians worldwide, who are avid users of apps like Zomato, Zivame, Myntra, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.

Third date

Aisle, run by an eight-member team, will use the newly infused funds to hire more backend engineers and content creators, apart from meeting current expenses. Says Able,

“Online matchmaking in India is a gender, age, proximity, faith and mother tongue-based business. We think it’s also essential to understand a person's taste and intent. This balance adds value to singles looking for meaningful relationships. Especially women.”

“Indian millennials are focusing on personalised details, lifestyle, and increasingly going mobile for engagement with their future partner. Aisle is solving this broken system in matchmaking and matrimony to serve this next generation,” stated Sanjay Mehta, CIO, Angel Network, and one of the leading investors.

According to said Vinod Jose of Konglo Ventures, who also participated in this round, “The space is cluttered with casual dating apps and most new investors would have missed the wave of shaadi.coms and other matrimonial sites. In this context, Aisle offers an opportunity to still participate in this space while strongly differentiating from existing players.”

Rohit Chokhani of White Unicorn Ventures says that he invested in Aisle because the platform effectively tackles the problem of stalkers and fake profiles. “Aisle is for the urban global Indian population, who are at the cusp of modern and traditional values. Aisle is just not a dating app, it's a community of the young urban global India.”

In the game of love

As of 2015, online dating is a massive $3.8 billion global market that is seeing strong growth in India and China India is estimated to have 37 million singles. Aisle has a healthy male to female ratio of users, with about 42 percent women and 58 percent men, from various geographies besides India, like the US, UAE, Singapore, Germany, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Ireland. So far, about 35,000 matches have been made on the app, with the service being most popular in the 25-34 age bracket, followed by the 18-24 category and the 35-44 age group. The app has clocked 8 million profile views, 8,00,000 bookmarks, with about 2.85 connections made by each member on an average.

There are 140-odd matrimony and casual dating communities in India. Aisle has survived this neck-and-neck race with sound revenue figures, and Able claims that they rank among the top three grossing matchmaking apps in the country while having spent a fraction of what they have, on marketing.