This week, the international dating app, Hinge, launched in Mumbai. Kareena Gianani speaks to its CEO, Justin McLeod and India CEO, Samir Kapadia about the app which connects people only through common friends and social networks, and what it adds to the dating scene in India
It seems no discussion about the dating app Hinge can occur without the mention of Tinder, its stiffest competitor. Justin McLeod, Hinge CEO, knows that, and seems to have taken it in his stride.
Justin Mcleod, CEO and founder of Hinge, with Sameer Kapadia, its India CEO. Pic/Satyajit Desai
"Tinder didn't even exist when I launched Hinge in 2011, but this is how it is now. I like to think that Tinder is the MySpace of dating, while Hinge is the Facebook of the space," he says emphatically.
Better than Tinder?
On Thursday, McLeod and Samir Kapadia, the app's India CEO, launched the app in Mumbai after raising $21 million in funding. Currently, the app is present in London, Toronto and 34 US cities.
To come back to the app, and Tinder of course – they look similar; users swipe right or left depending on whom they like. The difference, however, is in the detail – in who actually pops up on your screen. While people whom Tinder matches are usually strangers, Hinge matches people within the social networks you have built over time.
"The app's algorithm connects you with people you or your friends know. It works on the lines of meeting a friend's friend at a dinner party, which, in the real world, too, is where potential matches happen often," says McLeod. Kapadia likens the app to bumping into that girl you saw at a friend's wedding but never spoke to.
A user's profile shows their first name and last name's initial, hometown, educational and work details, height, ethnicity and 16 photographs which the app pulls from their Facebook profile.
McLeod and Kapadia aren't fans of dating websites and apps that make users fill out lengthy forms to determine preferences. According to the duo, Hinge works on the principle that an app cannot know more about you than yourself.
"The app is here to help you get in touch with people who are a bit more credible than their forms, people whom your friends could vouch for. You meet people organically," says McLeod.
Love through friendship
McLeod first thought of Hinge when he hesitated to join dating websites in the US and was looking to meet new people. "Trawling through online forums to meet someone wasn't my idea of romance.
I wished to meet somebody whom I shared something in common with — the schools we went to, the people we hung out with, some common social and cultural ground… What I wanted, in short, was a curated introduction, which is what Hinge offers."
He disagrees that connecting people only within their social networks limits the dating pool. "We connect singles separated by two or a maximum of three friends. An average Indian Facebook user has 500 users.
So, if you're single, 500 friends can help you make connections with a couple of hundred singles they might be friends with, and so on," explains McLeod. Hinge, he adds, is somewhere in the middle of dating websites and apps which require a lot of work but throw up irrelevant people (like Mashup in the US), or those that need no work and throw up hoardes of matches without much of a filter. "Hinge hits the sweet spot of 'social'," he adds.
McLeod decided to launch the app in India because it is Facebook's largest market after the US — 112 million Indians use it —and Hinge relies on the social network website to connect users. "But how India dates today is just as much a reason to be here," he says. Kapadia feels that between matrimony websites like Shaadi.com and "too-casual" ones such as Tinder, singles who are looking for something meaningful have fewer avenues beyond OkCupid, and none when it comes to meeting people through friends.
Designs for India
The duo vehemently denies having used any other dating app. For now, anyway, their dating life has taken a backseat, they claim, as they need to crack the code when it comes to launching Hinge in other metros and, eventually, in Tier-II Indian cities over this year.
"We do not know what the socio-cultural challenges will be like. The version of the app we have launc-hed in Mumbai is the same that singles in the US use. But we're sure meeting that special someone through friends feels the same everywhere," they say with wide grins.