Tinder: North American VS Indian Market Entry

Tinder, an app dreamt up in America, is based on very simple innate needs. Firstly, the need of men to find women and vice-versa. Secondly, a need considered the most dominant in millennials – that of instant gratification – ‘We want everything quickly’; And lastly, the need of a gambler to hit the ‘jackpot’ the next time he or she swipes right. The varying reward of every swipe keeps you going, as you hope the next time you swipe right you might hit the jackpot and find the match you always wanted.

According to Forbes, Tinder’s current valuation is at $ 3 billion and Tinder is currently, 50 million members strong.

Tinder from starting in October 2012 in Hatch Labs, IAC’s ‘innovation sandbox’ in New York to becoming a world sensation has many lessons to teach. Especially, when observing the how tinder expanded its reach in America in comparison with how it expanded in India. The rules of dating in both these countries are polar opposites. In America, dating is quite normal and a part of everyday life. However, in India dating is still a taboo for the most part. The level of formality between both these sexes, the rigidity of gender roles and most importantly, the stress on conforming to societal norms as opposed to detracting away from them are other factors that are at least not the same in both these lands. Yet, in both these lands Tinder came, it saw and it conquered. How tinder did this has a lot to offer but first, let’s get a background of what Tinder actually is.


Tinder is a dating app on Ios and Android. The app presents its users with prospective matches. These matches are users in the locale who are also Tinder users. Once you have set up your Tinder profile (which involves optional linking of your Facebook profile with Tinder), the app presents you with potential matches, which you can swipe left to dismiss or swipe right to indicate your interest. If someone you swiped right on swipes right on you, you have a match and you can start a conversation with them.


Source: gotinder.com

Tinder – Facts:

The app is available in over 30 languages now and the majority is owned by InterActiveCorp (IAC). By March 2014, the app had generated one billion matches, 800m swipes and 10m matches per day, as well as 300 marriage proposals. 5% of Australia’s population had a Tinder profile at that point.

During the FIFA World Cup June 2014 in Brazil, the app experienced a 50% increase in downloads and usage in the country. Brazil is Tinder’s third largest user base, following the US and UK.

Tinder- A Great Product:

There have been dating apps before. What’s so special about tinder? People don’t frown down upon it as is the case for dating apps at least in India. Rather, it’s a badge of honor and being on Tinder acts even as an ice-breaker in conversations (to my utter surprise).

How did it happen for Tinder? It seems like a step by step process.

Step 1 – Identifying the need: Have there been times when you really liked a girl/guy from school, college or office but had no way to start a conversion with him/her? This is the core problem that Tinder solved. We’ll find out more about this in the next section.

Step 2- Creating an Intuitive UI and Leveraging Social Media Information: The UI is graphics heavy and zen in a way that it provides ample opportunity to its users to present their online personas they have already created on Facebook. This is powerful in many ways.

Firstly, you decide the image you want to project on Tinder by picking and choosing your photos.

Secondly, you can see your mutual friends with any potential match. The direct implication is you sub-consciously bank on the reference power of your mutual friends to put that match out of the ‘creep zone’. It’s a lot easier to build trust when you have a common friend. The indirect implication is you talk to your friends about Tinder. This time subconsciously affirming that using Tinder you are within the bounds of normality.

Lastly, Tinder also recommends matches based upon common interest, ensuring there’s something to talk about if there’s a match.

Step 3 – Gamifying the UI: The user experience is highly ‘gamified’. The interaction with the app is quite fluid- it’s almost effortless as you swipe. Swipe left to reject and swipe right to like, and if it wasn’t enough there is also a super-like button (well, you gotta pay to super like more than once a day). Before, you know “YOU ARE ADDICTED”.

Early Traction in America:

Sean Rad in a conversation with Alyson Shontell at Business Insider pointed out that the early traction started with literally texting 500 people. 80% of the people signed up and the next day the user base grew by 50%. However, they really discovered the heart of their customer acquisition strategy at USC, when they booked a bus for a party at USC and put a bouncer at the door to make people download the app to get into the bus. They got some 400 downloads. In a couple of days, Tinder was a hit at USC.

The Tinder team realized that this was a great way of getting the word out. The whole team would leave the office, get in a car, and drive by every fraternity and sorority in Los Angeles, then San Diego, and the Orange County, covering every school they could cover. They would go into coffee shops and talk to people about the app. In the beginning of January they had about 20,000 users, and at the end of January, they had 500,000 users, all organic.

How this worked: 

It’s very clear that the team was very aggressive and they generated enough word of mouth to get people to download the app. What’s more subtle, however, is that its a simple case of creating supply to get the demand. More simply put, “If you throw beans, it’s only a matter of time before the birds show up.” The Tinder team targeted sororities and location by location got the girls on the app. The boys in the locality joined in just because they would find girls in their locality whom they have wanted to start a conversation with for some time. The Tinder team did what was in their control, designing a great app, creating a buzz in a targeted manner and targeted to get the ‘girls’ first. Everything else, including the men joining the app followed.

In March 2015, Tinder came up with a TV commercial. However, the real magic of Tinder had already happened in how it got its initial customers.

India Story- Android Launch of 2013:

India is a complex society as far as dating is concerned. Historically, the country has believed in arranged marriages and with the high rate of crimes against women a dating app isn’t the most desirable of apps (at least by women). On the other hand, dating has become more prominent in metros, where the influence of western thought is the most visible.

While Tinder took over the rest of the world and the US in 2013, in India Tinder’s growth was more gradual. Since the Android launch of 2013, the user base grew organically in the metros. Reaching out to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in India still remained a major challenge. In 2015, on realizing the growth potential of India (since more than half of its population is under 30), Tinder leadership thought of experimenting with the Indian market. So, they set up a 5 member team in Delhi with Taru Kapoor, a freshly minted Harvard MBA, as the India Head. Taru told Economic Times in April 2016 that the app was witnessing 14 Million swipes each day.

Initial Setback:

Indian women and men don’t work the same way as Americans do and so, it was clear that similar word of mouth marketing won’t work in a country where a major portion of the society stiffens at the mere pronouncement of the word ‘dating’. So, Tinder came up with TVC in 2016. This TV commercial was targeted to create acceptance. The plot showed a candid discussion between a 26 to 30 year-old girl with her mom about her upcoming Tinder date. The girl tells her mom, very openly, that she is going out on a date with someone whom she has found on Tinder. The mother passes back an understanding smile and makes a conversation that is equivalent of pating her daughter’s back for going on this date.

While the ad was created to develop acceptance, it missed its mark. It was slammed as ‘Sanskari‘ and trolled on social media. Even despite the decent penetration Tinder already had, it was a disaster for Tinder’s social image. Why did it happen? The reason is quite basic really. Dating is a taboo in India and people won’t believe otherwise just because Tinder tells them to.

Tinder Gets Back:

Tinder, however, learned from its mistake. This initial failure to relate with the Indian people propelled it towards harnessing its true identity – it is a dating app after all and India with its huge population has a number of young people who might appreciate it for what it is.

Tinder used youtube as means of getting the word out – informing those who still didn’t know about the app and getting those who might be inclined to use the app. Some of the content is sponsored by Tinder, whereas others are organic since new youtube channels try to use an established brand (such as ) in their content to get initial traction.

What’s the most interesting to note is the fact that Tinder’s message found its target group through Social Media and especially Youtube. Tinder didn’t have to distort its message here but its true identity became fun because it found its target users here.

Here are the most popular ones:

i. TVF’s Eat, Pray… Swipe | Tinder Qtiyapa

Youtube Channel: The Viral Fever

Subscribers to the Channel: 2.7 M

Views on this video: 1.6 M 

PLOT: Harishchandra is a coder. He never forgets to take a blessing from his favorite monkey God. He opens the Tinder app on his phone and is transported to the imaginary world of Tinder, where he gets excited and disappointment, swiping left and right on the app. Somehow, he manages to get a match and goes on a date, but sadly it doesn’t work out for him. He gets a few more matches but nothing happens beyond the chat. Harishchandra starts feeling very low. Swarnita, a vedic maths teacher while using Tinder finds Harishchandra charming and ‘super likes’ him. Harishchandra gets intimated that he has been super liked. His eyes shine with hope. That’s where the video ends.

ii. Mumbai On Tinder

Youtube Channel: BeingIndian

Subscribers to the Channel: 1.5 M

Views on this video: 1.9 M 

PLOT: Sahil Khattar goes around Mumbai asking people if they are on Tinder and more information about what they feel about Tinder.

There are a lot more videos made about Tinder throughout by several other youtube channels.

So, is Tinder successful in India? Oh yes! However, we can’t say how many users joined directly because of the Ad campaigns since Tinder doesn’t release such data for the country. However, we can certainly say that Tinder increased its Brand Awareness in the country by leaps and bounds. More importantly, it has very successfully dispelled any negative associations that might be associated with it being a dating app.

What can we learn about Human Traits from the Tinder case: India vs America?

  1. Word mouth is a strong source of marketing in America (given the product is a great one) but the case may not be the same in India.
  2. Indians won’t buy anything in the name of ‘Sanskar’ (Cultural Values).
  3. Social Media Channels such as Youtube have caught on in India in a very powerful manner. Its a great opportunity for marketers of today.


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