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Love in the time of Tinder: OkCupid, Tinder, Woo — which is India's best dating app?

Editor's note: So you’ve swiped right, exchanged numbers and got yourself a date on Tinder. What next? This is a 10-part series on the dating landscape among the young-ish and single-ish of India. Part IX looks at whether or not Tinder is the best dating app there is.

India recently witnessed a bout of hilarity when users of matrimonial websites — the very sanctum of holier-than- thou Indian norms — were instructed by the government to upload documents proving that their intentions were honourable. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Tinder went sanskaari on India and via an incredulous ad showed Indian children going on dates that were approved by their parents.

The writing on the wall has become clear: India is to witness no casual hookups.

 Love in the time of Tinder: OkCupid, Tinder, Woo — which is Indias best dating app?

Is Tinder really the best dating app there is? Image courtesy Tinder

Parents everywhere are pulling their hair in angst. They thought that the days where they had to spend hours on matrimonial sites to find a perfect match for their sons and daughters were gone. Millennials and yuppies are also aghast. How can they defy tradition without using hookup apps on which they explore, express, experiment and live the scandalous vagaries of youth?

Well, to both I say, pay no heed. There are many other avenues for India’s singl-ish, young-ish and skittish to socialise, fraternitise, sexualize and even franchise. Matrimonial and matchmaking sites are now giving way to dating apps such as Hinge, TrulyMadly, Thrill, Woo, Desicrush, OkCupid, and Aisle. Here’s a peek:

OkCupid

A female friend downloaded her profile on OkCupid and was inundated with messages in a matter of seconds. She hadn’t swiped or selected a single person, so these messages were not even from people she was interested in. It was clutter. Apparently, unlike most other sites, OkCupid allows anyone to send and receive messages without as much as pairing them as a match. In a matter of an hour her email inbox and app were flooded with one hundred new messages! At a cursory glance the messages were neither original nor engaging. Most were along these lines: sunny1975kapoor Please reply something we can be good friends. No one’s buying into that, no siree. My friend said that just by downloading this app she felt like she’d let herself lose into a pack of hounds.

On top of that, the app doesn’t give you a person’s real name, their location, their job, or the mutual friends list. All you get is their age and a box out that gives you a percentage of ‘match’ versus ‘enemy’. This statistical result is derived from five frivolous questions that include the likes of ‘are you okay with smokers?’ The app claims to have an algorithm that calculates the likelihood of a successful relationship, though I don’t see how random and bizarre questions could do that.

The app, my friend tells me, is like those unwanted game requests you receive on Facebook. It keeps trying to build your profile through pop-up- styled quizzes. Cloying and annoying.

OkCupid does have a couple of plus points. It makes it easy to transition from your phone to the desktop, which I imagine would be nice if you’d like to keep the conversation going. They also have the option of joining their A-list, which has perks like no ads, advanced searches filters, and the ability to browse invisibly. But such basic services come — unnecessarily — at a price.

OkCupid is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and my friend rated it as the worst dating app of the lot.

Hinge

A slightly more discretionary app than Tinder, Hinge connects you to people with whom you have common friends. The options are limited. It also has a time frame within which you have to write to your match or the app automatically unmatches you. My friends tell me that they meet the same chronically single people year after year, the ones who are also on Tinder and other dating apps, so I’m not sure how much value Hinge could add to your dating portfolio.

Aisle

Aisle has an entirely different model. It forces users to pay to connect with someone. This means that you either send an invitation, for which you pay, or you receive one, for which you don’t have to pay. I guess the app does that to ensure that only serious candidates get through to each other. This requires some deliberation and investment of time, which can work for or against you, depending on what you’re looking for. It asks you questions in partner preferences like ‘adopt or conceive’ or ‘passive or aggressive’. Again, I don’t see what definitive personality conclusions can be derived from such perfunctory exercises.

Woo

Woo comes across as a more holistic version of Tinder and Hinge. It does not reveal your name, but it tries to capture your personality, lifestyle, and ‘passions’, while giving you tips for photo uploads (for example, ‘don’t block your face with sunglasses’). It even lets you record a voice intro that gives a nice human touch. You can see the relationship status of every profile, along with your common Facebook friends. You can send crush requests to that profile to apparently ‘increase your chances of being selected’. The downside is that it’s free only for a month.

TrulyMadly

The app connects to your Facebook and immediately starts showing you profiles. The layout is simple to navigate and easy on the eyes. The app authenticates every profile to keep the fakes and liars out, though there’s always the odd sleaze ball who wriggles his way in. Each profile also comes recommended with an actual rating, which renders them dateable (or not), along with reference checks. Well done, TM.

It’s evident that TM is creating a virtual environment that is conducive for a “serious” relationship. The app is pitching itself as a modern matchmaking service that has all the checks and balances in place. And, it actually does. TM is almost like a matrimonial website, without the archaic rites of passage such as caste, class and the bio of family members.

Although it doesn’t state the name of the person, it lists their age, salary, job and the mutual activities you share with them. It also has something called TM Scenes where you can pick events that your match and you could enjoy in common.

In India more than 60 percent of dating apps users are male, with a proliferation of fake profiles. There is no security for women. Therefore — as a woman — I’d give a thumbs up to TrulyMadly.

In summary, it seems that TrulyMadly is your app if you’re looking for a serious relationship, Hinge if you’re more discretionary, and Tinder if you’re looking for anything from a fling to marriage. Does that make Tinder India’s best dating app? If you’re looking to hookup, then yes. If you’re looking for commitment, then no, since there are better options.

There is, of course, recourse for those who are not comfortable with meeting people on apps. I’m told that you can attend any of the nationwide-curated singles events organised by companies like Floh, Mix & Mingle, Footloose No More, and Sirf Coffee.

The truth is that traditional matrimonial sites have stopped working for a lot of people, as compatibility and common interests take centrestage. Though we still have a lot to learn, dating in India has gone mainstream now, and dating apps can be a platform to meet long-term and short-term partners. The problem with these apps is authenticity, safety and the fact that everyone has so many options that they oftentimes don't commit.

Still, in matters of love, destiny has the final say. One chance meeting and you’re set.

Happy swiping!

Meghna Pant is the award-winning author of Happy Birthday (2013, Random House) and One And A Half Wife (2012, Westland)

Next week, read: Ten (imaginary) Tinder profiles of India’s hottest celebs

Also in this series:
Part I — "The Tinder Man" — the 10 guys you'll see on Tinder
Part II — "The Tinder Woman" — the 10 ladies you'll meet on Tinder
Part III — The first date — who asks, who pays, who gets laid?
Part IV — The five worst Tinder dates
Part V — When the Tinder date doesn't match his/her photo
Part VI — Does Tinder lead to casual sex?
Part VII — Why Tinder has ruined love
Part VIII — Why are we so apologetic about being on Tinder?

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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2016 09:21:52 IST