India looks for love on Tinder

Tinder's popularity grows in India
Tinder's popularity grows in India

A popular dating app is attracting legions of young, urban Indians who are happy to use their smartphones in a search for love, even if it means casting aside traditional values.

The app is Tinder, which despite having arrived only one year ago, is now growing its user base in India by 1% per day. The app matches users by location and then allows them to connect if both parties are interested -- and it's a huge hit in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.

"At first I thought it was a superficial, creepy kind of concept, but what it does is broaden your options," said Shilpi Roy, a young Delhi resident who has added Tinder to her dating routine.

But is this app -- which has a reputation for facilitating more hookups than relationships -- compatible with Indian culture?

In India, 90% of marriages are arranged, and dating around or having multiple partners is frowned upon. Newspaper advertisements and matrimonial websites here still promise a "homely, God-fearing and virtuous wife."

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Dakshi Kushwaha, a Tinder user and friend of Roy's, insists that matchmaking on Tinder isn't all that different that traditional methods -- which often includes a heavy dose of parental input.

"Even now when you hear of people getting into arranged marriage set up, they exchange numbers, they get talking," she said. "That's exactly what you do on Tinder. It's just now you swipe profiles right and left."

Between them, Roy and Kushwaha have met a handful of men on Tinder, and they think it's the best way to find dates. They like how it simplifies potential suitors to two main criteria: looks and physical distance.

Kushwaha said she is using the app to keep her options open, even as her parents work to set up an arranged marriage.

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Chetan Bhaghat, a novelist and keen cultural observer, said the app appeals to young Indians who have grown adept at behaving one way in front of their parents, and another way when they're with friends or alone.

"Young Indians want to date or have one-night stands, but at the same time they don't want to upset their parents or the societal fabric they come from," he said. "They're okay with having an arranged marriage, but ... they want to fulfill their lust and desires for which they find Tinder very useful."

Despite the cultural complications, Tinder's rising popularity in India might be due to its ability to effectively match users -- a feature with universal appeal.

Even in the cloistered world of Delhi high society—where everyone knows everyone -- the app is making inroads, said Chirag Aga, 27, who met his current girlfriend through the app.

"Once you reach your late twenties or early thirties in Delhi, your circle of friends is set, and making new friends is a big task," he said. "Tinder is a great enabler."

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