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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

The path to love is worth it: Tinder CEO Elie Seidman on dating, India, privacy

The freemium model is the way forward, Seidman believes. India will be among the biggest future markets.

tech Updated: Mar 09, 2019 16:57 IST
Vidhi Choudhary
Vidhi Choudhary
Hindustan Times
Seidman at the Tinder office in Gurugram. He visited India for the first time in February.
Seidman at the Tinder office in Gurugram. He visited India for the first time in February. (Sanjeev Verma / HT Photo)
         

For Elie Seidman of the dating app Tinder, love is worth searching for. “The core of it is you know it when you have it and until you have it you’re looking for it,” he said, during his first visit to India last month. As more people take to Tinder and similar apps in one of the world’s youngest countries, revenue in the online dating segment hit $15 million in 2018, according to online market researcher Statista.

“I think that is a massive societal change, probably one of the biggest ones we have seen in our life,” Seidman said. In India, Tinder competes with apps like Bumble, Truly Madly and OK Cupid. Seidman said markets like India, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam will be the future markets for growth, based purely on population-driven factors.

Edited excerpts from an interview on Tinder’s journey in India, expansion plans, concerns around data privacy and more…

What is on the agenda on your first visit to India?

This is an exciting time for us in India. We started out here three years ago. With young people, this device, these smartphones, have proliferated and they are being used for everything — books, music, content and video. We’re not sitting around a TV. That is number one.

Number two is we’ve actually become an important business in India. We are the second grossing app on the App Store here in India. So, we’re here to listen and learn and try to find new ideas for Tinder. 

What’s the most surprising thing about the way Indians use Tinder compared to the rest of the world?

One of the things that stood out to me is that Indian women on Tinder super-like — which is a way of showing more interest — at a rate that is much higher than women anywhere else in the world.

How much of the company’s focus is on data privacy?

In terms of data privacy, we are compliant with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) around the globe. Even though that’s a European regulation. We think that data privacy is really important and that its compliance is very important around the world.

The other differentiator is that our business model is not driven by the sale of advertising, it’s driven by the sale of premium features. We’ve become a very successful business because of that. Last year we clocked $800 million in revenue, approximately double of the $400 million the year before. It’s a business that is not driven by ads and really the ads part is where you get into the complexity that other apps might be facing.

How do you build trust on Tinder?

‘We always say, we didn’t create a parallel universe on Tinder. So the same thoughtfulness you would use in the real world, you should use on Tinder or any other social app.’

We have a community team, which is a large team that directly monitors trust and safety. This consists of human moderators, technologists, engineers and product managers. Users also report suspicious users, which is incredibly important. And there is a bunch of artificial intelligence and machine learning that’s working and helping us monitor what’s happening. But we always say to people that we didn’t create a parallel universe on Tinder, so the same thoughtfulness that you would use in the real world, you should use on Tinder and any other social app.

How critical is India for Tinder?

India is the biggest market for us in Asia. We think it has the biggest potential in the future. We think of the app as another tool in your life to make your life better. Arguably, it makes the most important part of your life better. In terms of potential India is very important and we’ve been very open about that.

The business model is selling our premium features. The vast majority of people who use Tinder currently use it for free.

Do you think the freemium model of subscription is sustainable for the app economy in India, especially for Tinder?

If you look at the subscription business model for us and why it’s been so successful I think it comes back to why this product is so important. If you think about the things you spend money on in a given month and you think about the importance of this in your life, it’s extremely important and the evidence of that is people are willing to pay.

I won’t pretend to forecast to five or ten years from now, but we are very happy with the freemium model. I would expect that it remains the dominant way we make money.

There is a light amount of ads on Tinder globally and in India. Our members are paying to meet new people, there is value to that; it’s how much you’d spend on your first coffee date. Across the globe a small minority are paying for Tinder. And that small percentage generates 95% of our revenue. It’s large enough because of the scale of our community.

Is Tinder being pitched as an app to find love and make friends or does it want to promote singlehood?

Everybody chooses their own path. Over the past 50 years, forget about Tinder, forget about technology, people have decided that this phase of life is important. In the US, in 1950, people got married at 22, I think today it’s 29. I don’t think that that means that love disappeared; it just means that the path to the destination is as important as the destination. That’s what we are saying, across all platforms, that the path is an exciting part of life.