What does it cost to find love on a dating app, and is the price worth it?

What does it cost to find love on a dating app, and is the price worth it?
  • As per data.ai, Indian consumers spent $9.9 million up to December 2022 on dating and friendship apps.
  • However, many users shared with Business Insider India that they see ‘no point in paying for a connection’.
  • Meanwhile, the idea of a dinner date has also lost significance - because of the time and effort involved.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle may have met through mutual friends but most of us singles are left to fend for ourselves today — and dating apps have certainly become the way to go. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, Aisle are just a handful of the many dating apps that exist in India, usually free of cost, with an option for in-app purchases.

As per Statista, most dating apps use a ‘freemium’ business model — some enticing basic services offered for free along with an upsell to more advanced, paid subscriptions. The revenue from dating apps in 2022 in India stood at $70 million, states Statista. But, are users willing to pay for these subscriptions?

Sanjeev, a 30-year-old writer, believes that if dating apps were to set up blind dates or organize events for meeting people, he would pay for that but the current services don’t offer value for money. As he puts it, “Dating apps are charging for step 0 which has always been free.”

‘No point in paying for a connection’

While you can’t pay for love, most dating apps offer services that help improve your chances of getting a prospective match — an option for an unlimited number of swipes (Hinge), or a ‘spotlight’ version that will show your profile to more people (Bumble). Hinge also allows you to send a virtual rose and Bumble allows you to ‘superswipe’ on profiles that you like more than usual — but these features have to be purchased.

As per the data.ai report “Identifying mobile apps and categories defying economic downturn”, between H1 2022 and H2 2021 Bumble and Tinder were among the top 5 apps with the highest consumer spend.

Business Standard also reported that as per data.ai, Indian consumers spent $9.9 million up to December 2022 on dating and friendship apps to get unlimited swipes or enhance their profiles to get that perfect match.

As Mohit Sharma*, 33, shared with Business Insider India, “The apps are made to extract some money. It’s business for the apps and hence you need to pay, that’s the structure. The real features only start after paying.” Mohit has used both Bumble and Hinge.

31-year-old Isha, who’s now out of the dating game but ‘religiously used’ Tinder for a period of two years, also believes that she would’ve paid for a more filtered list of prospective matches. However, she didn’t pay for any features when actually using the app.

But 28-year-old Soumya Verma* sees no “point in paying extra for a connection. If it works, it works, no number of extra likes or superlikes can change that.”

And 34-year-old Vivek Panwar, who actually found his wife on the dating platform Hinge, shared that though he may have paid for sending a private message to someone he really liked, he never spent money on the apps when he was using them.

“I never paid for an app: maybe because there are too many fish in the sea and it never reached a desperate point,” said Panwar.

However, it’s not always a case of desperation but at times, of need. There are certain features that are only available once you pay for them. For example, on Bumble if you want to see who’s already shown an interest in your profile before you’ve actually matched, you can pay to access the beeline. Similarly, on the dating app Aisle, users need to purchase invites to initiate communication with other users.

Can’t pay for authenticity

Most users today are looking for authentic connections. Naturally, they can’t be paid for. As the dating platform Bumble revealed, “In 2023, chemistry, emotional intimacy, and intelligence are taking precedence over physical attractiveness for single Indians.”

Verma also stated that it’s disappointing that “people still lie about their intentions. There is someone for everyone here, so be honest about what you’re looking for”. 45% of daters on Bumble too, are turned off by people who are not clear about their dating intentions.

28-year-old Agrima Sahore, who belongs to the LGBTQ+ community, also stated that she wasn’t sure if paying for a service would actually improve the overall pool or increase her chances of matching with more like-minded people.

She even listed “misinformation, misrepresentation, lack of genuine effort, repeated conversations and forced small talk” among some of the disappointments of using a dating app.

Is the dinner date dead?

For most people, monotonous conversations were the biggest pain point. This also explains why people are wary of stepping out for dinner dates — if they can’t find a connection while chatting, it’s hard to build one over an entire dinner date.

“Singles are meeting for more than just dinner and drinks — opting for less traditional, more authentic and sometimes sober ways to get to know one another,” stated Tinder in its Year in Swipe Report 2022.

As 27-year-old Ira Shukla, who used Hinge and Tinder sporadically for over a period of 7 years, puts it, “I’m not a fan of going for food and paying for the ambience. But when you are meeting someone new for the first time, it's not always easy to communicate this. So I used to choose a casual scene at home because it was cost-effective. Also, more comfortable.”

Sharma also believes that “dinner dates are too formal” and require a lengthier time commitment, while for Soumya Verma, it’s a matter of safety.

“I personally just find dinner dates a tad bit unsafe. So I prefer an early coffee, giving me room to scoot before it gets too late at night,” shared Verma.

Panwar, on the other hand, believes that dinner dates are especially ineffective for people who are only looking for hookups.

“I think people joined Tinder for hookups and dinner dates were a long shot, often ending in disappointment. And dinner dates are too much effort, I guess,” said Panwar.

*name changed on request


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