With Bumble, Priti Joshi is on a mission to empower women to make the first move in love, life, and work
A typical work day in the life of Priti Joshi, Vice President of Strategy, Bumble, involves both research and analysis and creative ideation to arrive at impactful and strategic business decisions. These are done in line with Bumble’s mission to end misogyny and empower women to make the first move in love, life, and work.
An app that wants women to make the first move is now more than just a dating app. It allows women to find friendship, love or business. The app allows users to block, report, and unmatch users they consider a threat.
Priti is a second-generation Indian American based in Austin, Texas. Born in Mesquite, Texas, she grew up in Dallas, and as a child participated in Indian dance competitions, completed her undergraduate degree in Business Honors and Finance from the University of Texas in 2009, and a Master’s in Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. She worked for over seven years at McKinsey.
At Bumble Priti looks after strategy and expanding Bumble’s presence in international markets.
In a freewheeling chat with HerStory, she tells us why she chose Bumble, actor Priyanka Chopra backing the app, its foray into India, and what we can expect from Bumble in the near future.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory: Tell us about your first job. What were you doing before you joined Bumble?
Priti Joshi: I worked across consumer industries with my clients to solve problems that were core to their business. For example, I worked with a high-end retailer to develop their discount strategy (go to market, discount cadence, merchandising strategy, etc).
My first job was as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Co. in Dallas. I returned to McKinsey in 2014 after almost four years as a Senior Engagement Manager. I specialised in serving global consumer retail brands and supported them in marketing and growth strategies.
I learned a lot in over seven years I spent at McKinsey, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I worked closely with inspirational clients and had incredible sponsors and mentors - many of them women - who encouraged me to take risks (and ultimately learn from them)!
HS: How did the job with Bumble come about?
PJ: After the better part of a decade at McKinsey, I made the tough decision to look for new opportunities. I really enjoyed my time at the firm, but I was also starting to feel the desire to own the execution of the strategy I was helping my clients build - and I wanted to work for a startup where I could really help build something from the ground up.
When I started looking for my next role, I reached out to a mentor of mine from Wharton Business School - Adam Grant - for advice, and he very kindly offered to help connect me with people in his network. One of the first people he connected me with in Austin was Sarah Jones Simmer – COO at Bumble! Serendipitously, around the same time, my husband shared with one of his colleagues that I was looking for new professional opportunities in Austin. She also knew Sarah and wrote an e-mail introducing us. So, after not one, but two email introductions (sent to Sarah in the same day, mind you!), I met with Sarah to chat over coffee and there was really no looking back.
I was extremely passionate about the mission and also very excited about the team that the Bumble leadership had started putting in place - I knew I wanted to help take this mission to every corner of the world. I officially joined the team at the Bumble HQ in April 2018, leading Strategy and Analytics.
HS: What does your role at Bumble entail? How big is the India team?
PJ: As Vice President of Strategy at Bumble I get to work on many exciting things! I work with our Executive Team and our marketing teams to develop near and long-term strategic plans for our business. I focus heavily on expanding Bumble’s presence internationally, and in our existing markets across the globe. I lead our data and analytics arm to better understand the “science” in the art and science equation to drive growth for the overall business. I’ve always enjoyed bringing science to the art of business strategy, using creative insights from data and market research to ensure sustainable growth for Bumble. I get to work on complex and cross functional strategic questions we have for the business.
Our team on the ground in India is small but mighty, and our global teams - specifically at our HQ - also dedicate a lot of time and resources to supporting our efforts in India.
Our formal launch in India last year was a very special moment for me, as I was part of the core team that led the entry into the market. It was truly gratifying when we crossed the one million users in just four months after the launch. I continue to help lead all marketing initiatives for Bumble in India and work closely with our talented India team based in Mumbai.
HS: What does Bumble offer the modern Indian woman that is different from other networking and dating apps?
PJ: Bumble is an app created by women for everyone where women are empowered to make the first move and forge meaningful connections across dating, friendships, and business networking. We launched Bumble in India in December 2018 as a full social networking platform with three modes - Bumble Date, Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz - all within the Bumble app.
As we were doing our strategic research, we spoke with many early adopters and potential users of Bumble in India. One of the things we consistently heard was the desire for women to feel secure and comfortable when making connections online. For our launch, we developed a feature specific to India where only the first initial of a woman’s name would show on her Bumble Date profile. When she is ready to share her full name with connections, she can - but until then, her identity is protected. This ensures that she can’t be found on other platforms and harassed or cyber bullied by those she doesn’t want to connect with.
In addition to India-specific safety features, we have many global features that are also live in India. For example, we make it easy to ‘Block and Report’ anyone you don’t want to see on the app and we have ‘Photo Verification’ and ‘Request Photo Verification’ to help ensure that the person you’re connecting with is who they say they are.
We have thousands of moderators around the globe who work 24/7 to ensure our platform is safe. We also have ‘Video Chat’ and Voice Calls’ for Bumble users who want to experience a real-life connection without exchanging any personal information in our app. We also recently went live with ‘Private Detector’, which automatically blurs lewd images and alerts the user that they have been sent something they may deem as inappropriate.
HS: How has Bumble been received in India?
PJ: It has been a great year since our launch in December 2018. Women in India have made the first move over three million times, and are sending 2x as many messages as women in the rest of the world. Furthermore, we've seen that 60 percent of women in India use two or more modes within Bumble. This speaks to the power of the social network - and we are excited to continue to support women as they experience each of Bumble's modes - Date, BFF, and Bizz.
HS: What kind of market does India present in terms of size, geography, and culture?
PJ: In the last three years in India, as we’ve seen a significant drop in data charges, we’ve seen an influx of young Indians, particularly women, who have started browsing the Internet for the first time through their smartphones - in urban India, the percentage of women mobile internet users stands at 40 percent and men stands at 60 percent. We’ve also seen that from a user behaviour perspective, these smartphone savvy women above the age of 19 have the highest propensity for social networking, browsing and text chatting. From a cultural perspective, education and financial independence have helped in stirring the relevant theme of individualism and empowerment among women. Given these trends and insights, we’re excited and optimistic about our growth potential in India.
HS: Has Priyanka Chopra's backing worked with the Indian audience? Are you looking to leverage other celebrities and influencers too?
PJ: Priyanka Chopra Jonas represents empowered women who have made the first move across all areas of their lives. Through these first moves, she has shattered stereotypes and inspired women (and men) around the world - which makes her the perfect Bumble partner. Her voice in support of our mission and objectives has certainly helped us take our mission to all corners of India, and beyond.
HS: What has been the biggest challenge in your life and how did you overcome it?
PJ: As a woman in business, I’ve suffered from the “Imposter Syndrome” throughout my career. It’s a challenge that, in full transparency, I haven’t fully overcome yet - but I’m working on it. I actively work on it by engaging my colleagues to support me in my journey. As an example - if I ever feel like I don’t belong in a conversation, I’ve asked a handful of trusted colleagues to remind me why they think I do. I’ve found that being vulnerable and enlisting the support of others has helped me on my journey to overcome the Imposter Syndrome and its effects on me.
HS: What drives you?
PJ: I am motivated and inspired by making a difference in others’ lives. Whether it is supporting someone in my team as they are developing a new skill set, bringing the mission of ending misogyny to men and women all over the world, or helping two individuals meet to form the relationship of a lifetime.
HS: What can we expect from Bumble in the next two years?
PJ: We are really looking forward to grow as a company and take our mission to every corner of the world. We are also always looking for ways to innovate our platform and evolve our product offerings - you’ll have to watch this space to see what is next!
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)