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'In a way, we are the LinkedIn for dating'

I am the techie. I have developed the app from the scratch and maintain it on my own, says Neha Kanodia.

Dec 5, 2019 by Ebin K Gheevarghese
'In a way, we are the LinkedIn for dating'

“I got married to a girl I found in Go Gaga”, says Meet Kanodia, the co-founder of the indigenous dating app, Go Gaga.

“I would have never connected to a doctor in Chandigarh just like that. My schoolmate introduced me to her. We spoke and we connected. I got married last December,” says Meet.

When the founder himself is the proof of the pudding, you don’t have to look around for a better testimonial.

Suffice it to say, Go Gaga’s recipe has both personal and professional ingredients. It all started when Meet Kanodia got a call from his sister, Neha Kanodia, when he was working as an investment banker in London. She called him to inform that they have created a profile for him on a matrimonial app. Meet downloaded the app, but didn’t spark to the swipe approach and limited filters of the app as he didn’t find it trustworthy. Meet started researching on the subject, and his sister weighed in as well.

“We spoke to a lot of people and realized having this intermediate is very important because that is the person who establishes trust. Back in the day, parents were the decision makers. So they picked their own intermediate. Nowadays, youngsters trust their friends more than anyone. So the intermediate should be them and that's what led to Go Gaga” says Meet.

The light bulb moment was translated to action after a significant amount of research. Neha Kanodia developed the app from the scratch. And now, the app has racked up 45,000 users in a year’s time.

The Passage spoke to the brother-sister duo to find out about what makes Go Gaga special, the dating industry in India and the pay as you go business model of their app.

Excerpts:

The Passage: How does Go Gaga work?

Go Gaga: The app has two modes. The first one is dating mode or relationship mode where you find friends of friends. The names are deliberately hidden. There's a 50% focus on the photo and 50% focus on the profile.

The user can see the common friends you have with the person you want to connect to. He/she can request the mutual friend to make an introduction. In a way, we are the LinkedIn for dating. This is one option.

The other option is to connect directly using an in-app currency called Flames. The user is establishing trust by showing the intent to connect by paying 50 Flames for 50 rupees.

Second mode is the matchmaker mode. I can act as a matchmaker for two of my friends.

Most of the current dating apps come from the West. The apps are distance based and connect you with just anybody around you. In many countries, such apps are looked down upon and there is a trust deficit. In India and all around the world, people had been meeting each other via common friends. We are just trying to bring that real way of meeting in an organised manner.

The other option where people find partners online in India is through matrimonial apps. Matrimonial apps have multiple problems. Firstly, they are mostly managed by parents. Secondly, you mostly use caste as the only filter to look for potential matches. And most of the youngsters don’t care for caste.

For distance based apps, you wouldn't know whether the person you are meeting is real or fake. And before meeting a person, you really want to make sure you are in a safe environment and are meeting the right person. With our approach, you know the person is real.

The Passage: Don't you run the risk of poisoning the circle when the dates go sideways?

Go Gaga: Let's say if I'm looking to get connected to this girl. I'll ask a mutual friend to make an introduction. The girl wouldn't know who connected. In real life, it can get awkward when you ask a friend to make an introduction. Also, there's a lot of onus on that person. Whereas what we have observed on the app is that when someone just have to approve or reject, the onus is very low, because that person is just helping the two users to create a track.

The Passage: Why just Facebook? Why not let users log in using LinkedIn like InnerCircle?

Go Gaga: We have done a good amount of research on how many people use LinkedIn in India. Only a five percentile group uses LinkedIn. Take for example, doctors. They don’t need LinkedIn. A lot of IT professionals do not need LinkedIn because they work at a company for 12 years.

Lots of people do have profiles in LinkedIn. But how many of them will be comfortable logging into a dating app is a big question.

Innercircle targets elite individuals. Even as the name suggests, it's a small circle. We don't want to involve the professional circle into it. People tend to keep the professional and personal life separate.

The Passage: How many users do you have now? What was your inflection point?

Go Gaga: We have more than 45K users. Our inflection point was around 10,000 users. Post that, we started seeing the network effect. More and more users were getting matches and seeing a lot of profiles.

Dating works best when you convert a connection on the app to a real life meeting. We have a vision of becoming a one stop dating shop where we help a user find a match, get introduced, get them to a second date, and help them with add-on services. We want to get into the full lifecycle from finding a match to setting up the first date.

Our first priority is to build the brand. Then we will move on to the second stage, which is taking dating from online to offline.

The Passage: How do you plan to spread the word?

Go Gaga: Right now, every third user comes to us through word of mouth. As much as 32% of our users are coming through reference. We use advertising to get to users. We have also done offline speed dating events in Bangalore.

The Passage: How do you stack up against Facebook's dating feature?

Go Gaga: Facebook has rolled out the dating feature in a few countries. Facebook has mainly two features. The first is event based. That's the main model where you match up with people who are going to the same event. Second thing is mutual matches. It's called Secret Crush. So you can like nine of your friends and if they like you back then you're notified that you do like each other. They haven't launched in India, mainly because India is not an events country as such.

The Passage: What makes Go Gaga different from other dating apps?

Go Gaga: Around 90% of users on Tinder are male. We have good gender parity. As per Facebook data, 30% of female users in the age group 18 to 30 use it for online dating in India. With 28% female users, we are at par with the male to female ratio in the country. Most dating apps in India have 90% men. These apps have monetised by targeting the male section through a subscription model. And there are lots of fake profiles.

Our app is not photo focused. We place a lot of importance on the general profile including details like where you work, your educational qualification, your interest etc.

The Passage: How do you convince a person to use your app?

Go Gaga: Research says, on an average, a person has at least three to four dating apps installed on his phone. One of the key factors when you decide to meet a partner is conversation quality. We make it clear to our users if you're looking for a hook-up, we are not the app for you. We will help you to find a serious partner. Just finding someone based on distance is a matter of chance. When you connect through mutual friends, there's a lot in common and the profiles will be authentic for sure.

The Passage: What’s the potential you see in India?

Go Gaga: India is a huge market. There are 262 million users in the age group of 18 to 30 who are singles. 63 million users will find their partners online, which is still 25% of the total singles in the country. So there is four times expansion potential there. Out of the 63 million only 10% are using arranged matrimony channel. 58 million are using dating apps.

On an average, user spends USD 5 annually. So the whole market size is roughly USD 300 million. It is going to be a billion dollar industry by 2021-22.

The Passage: What's the market share you are targeting? Tell us about your business model

1 Go Gaga: Our sweet spot is people in the age group of 22 to 28 - just a couple of years before marriage when they very serious about finding a partner.

One clear monetisation way that is working for us right now is Flames. People buy Flames to get connected to people. Our target group is very specific. We have 89% of our users in the age group 22 to 29. So with such a targeted age group, we know which location they are. All of our users come to the app at 4 pm India time sharp because they get one match and one matchmaking suggestion for the day at 4 pm. Since people of a particular age group are coming at a specific time on the app, we can potentially convert them into B2B advertising.

Right now, we have a lot of partnerships for cross selling.

We prefer pay as you go model because people have tried the subscription model and India is not an insurance economy. In general, people like to pay as they go, not get bound by subscription, especially on a dating app. Why bound them when they can pay it when they need? So that is our thinking behind it.

The Passage: What are your projections for next year?

Go Gaga: We're growing at 22% month on month. We hope to touch half a million user base by next year. Even with the current growth, we should reach there easily. On an average, dating app user spends USD 5 in India. We hope by next year, average for us is USD 1. So roughly, half a million dollars in revenue by end of next year.

We have recently started looking for investments to the tune of half a million dollars. The capital will go towards technological developments, IOS app and to build AI and machine learning.

The Passage: Do you give any incentives for your referral program?

Go Gaga: For each reference we give 30 rupees or 30 Flames. Referrals help the users to get connected to more people and help us get more people.

Ebin K Gheevarghese

Ebin Gheevarghese is a Bangalore-based tech journalist. He focuses on emerging Indian startups. He can be reached at ebin@thepassage.cc.

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