About a decade ago, there was still an air of stigma around dating. Cut to the present, dating has taken over the previously dominating arranged marriage system in India. And among the changes, the rise of online dating is the most noteworthy.
Shalini Singh, founder, and we met, a matchmaking service for single Indians, says, “In a rapidly modernising India, it is easy to forget that not too long ago, arranged marriages were the norm. While the concept of arranged marriages is still very much alive and well in India, the Indian dating scene has undergone a drastic transformation in recent years. With the advent of dating apps and other digital platforms, there has been a marked increase in the number of people who are interested in finding a life partner online, someone who shares their values and beliefs.”
However, online dating is not just limited to romance; it now has a broader horizon. Ravi Mittal, CEO and founder of QuackQuack, an Indian dating and matchmaking app, says, “We saw a massive surge in numbers post-pandemic. Our survey shows that around 40% of male and 60% of our female users are using our platform not only to find love but also for genuine friendship.” Talking about the gender ratio of users, Mittal says, “ On a refreshing note, our app is now witnessing a large number of female users, approximately an 11% rise, bringing a much-needed drop in the lopsided male-to-female dater ratio.”
How has dating evolved in recent times
Dating scenes have changed significantly, especially since the pandemic. People are getting used to the idea of finding the one from the comfort of their homes. Mittal says, “We saw around 56% of daters have their first date virtually. And contrary to popular belief, our users are inclined towards a more serious and exclusive relationship, as evident from the longer chats among mutual matches.”
While dating has become more acceptable, people are also taking out the time to find an ideal partner to have a committed relationship with, unlike pre-pandemic, when casual dating was having a moment of its own. From physical appearance to emotional availability, people's preferences for what they want in their perfect matches have changed dramatically.
Now that dating is deemed normal, so is choosing to stay single. Mittal points out how people are not settling for just anyone, even if that requires them to remain single for an extended period. Among some of the positive changes in the matchmaking scenes, people deciding that being alone is okay till they find their perfect someone is quite noticeable, including a surge in matches based on ideals and beliefs. “For instance, Green Dating has been on the rise. Around 52% of GenZ daters match with people sharing similar views on environmental issues,” Mittal adds.
One may think these changes are limited to the metros, but what's more interesting is the recent shifts in dating culture in the smaller cities and towns of India. Mittal explains, “Approximately 44% of our users come from tier 2 and 3 cities. The smaller towns, where talking to the opposite sex was once considered taboo, are slowly changing their perspective on dating.”
What are people looking for in a partner?
Being committed and loyal are the most coveted qualities people want in their potential partners, and there has been no compromise on that. Matches with the same emotional wavelength, for example, having similar ideas about what counts as cheating and what doesn't, have a better chance of making their relationship work.
Mittal elaborates, “We see users focusing on shared core values. From political inclination to their take on climate change, religious beliefs and views on other such intellectual matters are taken into consideration while matching with a fellow dater. 25% of female daters aired their opinion on how differing core values can trigger nasty fights among couples leading to an eventual breakup.”
Emotional intelligence is in demand
People are now conscious of their mental health. Hence, emotional intelligence is in high demand when looking for an ideal match. “31% of our female users disclosed wanting to date a man emotionally secure enough to display his feelings. 36% of men listed willingness to openly communicate during a fight and empathy as non-negotiable requirements while seeking a romantic partner,” says Mittal.
Additionally, those who write witty bios receive comparatively better responses. 41% of daters from Tier 1 and 2 cities want their partner to have a funny bone. “A sizable number of female users, approximately 64%, said they want their partner to be a good listener. Young daters are over the silent and broody type; they want to be heard and want people who are not afraid to express themselves,” notes Mittal. A supportive nature is also a highly sought-after character in a potential partner. People want a partner who challenges and encourages their beliefs and helps them build a better life.
Has the Indian matchmaking scene evolved?
Over the years, matchmaking has become significantly more complex, according to experts. Anuradha Gupta, founder and CEO of Vows for Eternity, a premium matchmaking service, says, “We have consistently challenged the status quo, whether it has been about expectations from parents, gender equality, or stereotypical gender roles. We are also seeing a significant number of people choosing to get married much later, which has its own pros and cons. On one hand, they get to experience life and discover themselves; on the other, people are more set in their ways and less adaptable.”
Today, men are also looking for ambitious women who are strongly passionate about their careers. Gupta notes how stereotypical roles of a traditional marriage do not resonate with the younger population. She says, “Women have made significant advances in their education and careers, and the gap between men and women in terms of what each considers compromises and adjustments is wider than in previous generations.”
COVID-19 brought in a major shift as well. Firstly, a lot of people could get through the pandemic because of family support. And there were some people who didn't have family and realised how much they missed that at times; it's only in times of crisis that we realise that sometimes. Gupta, who has facilitated approximately 1,200 marriages so far, feels, “There is still a lot of progress that needs to be made, but the process has started, and people are finally moving in the right direction.”
Women are looking at a level playing field
Talking about what women want in their life partner today, Gupta shares, “Women are just as well educated, if not more so, driven in their decisions and do not make excuses for it, and they want a family. They have evolved to become significant contributors at various levels and wear multiple hats. But juggling different roles comes with its own set of complexities and is very challenging; it needs a certain level of maturity and self-confidence from both men and women. In that sense, the lines between gender roles have become relatively blurred. This naturally leads to the fact that one is looking for more well-rounded individuals who can wear multiple hats – be well educated, well travelled, mix well with each other's friends and families, and collectively contribute to raising children and homes.”
It is a lot more about coming together as a team. Whether individuals meet organically or through a set-up, they look for chemistry and attraction, which is a given when individuals look for a spouse. “I believe many things have to come together to make a partnership work. It is very important for two people to be aligned in their goals and values. And then there are a number of smaller subsets of individual journeys, family backgrounds, and childhood experiences, which really set the tone and foundation,” concludes Gupta.