Speak, not swipe! That should be the mantra for anyone using a dating/matrimonial website or app in India. The reason is quite simple really. India is in it’s infant stage when it comes to dating.Varsha Vadhyar Agnihotri
Most people do not really understand what dating means in any part of the world and this is because, as Indians, we are geared to relationships of a more serious nature. We, as people, are all bout families, extended families and friends (often frenemies included) and the idea of dating to alleviate loneliness or finding someone significant online does not exist except on apps where our parents can log in and search for us. In most cases, these apps just become an extension of arranged marriages, often with the whole family getting together to check out profiles. (Groom / bride wanted anyone?)And naturally so! There is no security, no screening and not even a certainty of the gender or marital status of the person you are communicating with!
On dating websites (think casual dating, whatever that might mean in the Indian context), matches depend on common facebook friends, love for the same kind of music, someone who happens to be in the same area! But are these the really relevant points when looking for a significant other? Or is it a matter of shred values, ethics and background? Does one marry someone who knows the same people? Do we even like everyone we know just because we have common friends or a love for music and books or are long term relationships based on something deeper? If these were the relevant bits, we would be marrying friends we have known all our lives, the ones we go to the movies or gym with!
In the day and age of social media obsession, lives revolving around pretty pictures and coming across as “cool” one needs to ask oneself, “are people really defined by a photograph?” or are they the sum total of their joys and sorrows, strengths, flaws and follies? The thing to keep in mind while creating these apps and sites is that people are people and we are dealing with matters of the heart! They cannot be defined by an excel sheet. One needs to know people, know how they think and what makes them tick. And statistics rarely provide these answers because people are ever evolving, ever thinking and ever redefining themselves and the society at large. What was relevant even a year ago is completely irrelevant today!
In the modern day scenario with dating/matrimonial apps flooding the market, what language does one speak? The language of business? Or the language of the heart? And strangely enough, very few seem to be speaking to the people who log into these apps. While there are profiles being recommended by the dozen, where are the relevant questions on shared values, shared lives and a vision of the future? Where is the plan for security and basic safety? Are employees sitting in call centers with scripts in front of them really equipped to handle queries that people may have?
The business, if we must call it that, of dating leading to matrimony (because that is what everyone seems to hope for when they log in) needs to be personal. Not personalized, but personal. Not “if you pay so much we connect you with so many profiles”. What people need is to connect with relevant profiles. And relevance is not defined just by age or money anymore. With more and more people opting to do their own searches, dating/ matrimonial sites need to evolve to address the needs of the person doing the searches and not of just the family or society at large and certainly not blindly follow whatever standards may exist internationally. India is a vast and unique society where something that is relevant to one city may be completely irrelevant in another city in another part of the country.
These apps need to be tailor made for the Indian Diaspora, keeping in mid the many factors that go into matchmaking/ dating/ marriages in this country, ranging from family status and preference to the increasingly global outlook that Indians are acquiring.
The need of the hour is to understand that the “business” is about human needs and needs to have human hearts and minds work towards evolving it everyday.