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Interview: Aisle Founder Able Joseph says, “90% of the first messages between matches are sent by women”

In a conversation with the TechGraph, Able Joseph, Founder & CEO of Aisle said, “Our number suggests that 90% of the first messages between matches are first sent by women.”

Read the full expect here:

TechGraph: What does Aisle look like these days?

Able Joseph: Aisle went from being a 10-member team working relentlessly out of our Bangalore office to help singles find love, to a team of 10 working remotely in different parts of India, while still having the same goal. The transition wasn’t easy, but we managed to find the right tools to keep us in sync. 

The daily Zoom calls took us from being colleagues to each other’s lunch buddies, support system, and all that. On the app front also, Aisle quickly adapted to the needs of its members who wanted a way to virtually meet and stay connected.

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TechGraph: What was the story of Aisle? How it all got started?

Able Joseph: Aisle was conceived out of a need for an app that would help urban, independent singles to find love online. At the time, most of the apps were either too casual which meant they’d meet more people but be single longer, or were traditional matrimonial apps in which the profiles were created and managed by parents. 

This was around a time when more Indian millennials had started being vocal about their preferences and interests and were looking for something alike in their partner but were not on board with the idea of someone else finding and making that decision for them. Simply put, we wanted to make it both convenient and cool for single Indians to find love, online.

TechGraph: How do you feel ‘Aisle’ stand out from other dating apps like OkCupid, Tinder, Bumble, and others which are available in the market?

Able Joseph: We believe that there’s someone for everyone at Aisle and wish for our members to have that seamless experience of finding that special someone, move offline, and then go ahead and delete the app together. 

This is one of the reasons we categorize ourselves as a high intent dating app. Unlike the casual ones, high-intent dating apps have much more detailed profiles and track success stories as their measure of accomplishment. 

We have designed Aisle in a way that would let members connect with others easily and make those interactions meaningful which means no swiping and the ‘Likes’ are scarce. On our apps, users connect by sending out ‘Invites’ – a written note – which are limited to 5 a day for premium users. 

If the number of Invites available to our users was unlimited, they’d lose value and the overall ‘seriousness’ of the community would dwindle. Also, Aisle is an app that is designed for desis by desis.

TechGraph: Which are your most unique features?

Able Joseph: Aisle understands the Indian sensitivities and is designed taking into account the culture, subculture, and counterculture. On our apps, you’d find information that Indians would like to know about their potential partners, which includes one’s faith, mother tongue, community, etc which is exclusive to Aisle. 

Even some of the prompts that we use in our Icebreakers have a desiring to it. Like, ‘I think Saara zamaana should…’, ‘Shaadi won’t happen until…’, ‘My Nani used to tell me…’ etc. We think this would help single Indians put forth a more realistic picture of who they are.

We also introduced a feature called ‘Rooms’ a few months after the lockdown was announced to help singles not just match online, but also have their first date via the internet. Now a user can create a Room and other community members can have an audio-only conversation with the host for 5 minutes. 

The host can then choose to match with their guests after each session or pass them if they don’t find a common ground. These conversations are fun and more revealing than back and forth texting. 

TechGraph: How did you come up with the ‘Pass’ feature?

Able Joseph: The idea was to give Aisle members the freedom to engage with other members and have fun one-to-one audio calls which may lead to something more. 

While many users do match after the call and move to personal chats, we didn’t want them to feel obligated to talk to people they didn’t find compatible. 

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TechGraph: How safe ‘Aisle’ is for the women?

Able Joseph: When women sign up on a dating app the two things they expect are safety and privacy. In terms of safety, women want the freedom to share their photos and personal thoughts without being scrutinized for it, as well as connect and talk to men they find desirable without being bombarded with unsolicited messages from random people. 

At Aisle, women get to decide who they want to connect with as well as be the first to initiate the conversations if they anonymously match with someone. Our numbers suggest that over 90% of the first messages between matches are sent by women. 

Women can also opt to Block and Report a member anonymously if they were made to feel uncomfortable during their conversation. Aisle users can also choose to hide their first name and display only their initial to avoid instances where strangers reach out to them on other social platforms.

TechGraph: What is the future of dating apps in the Indian marketplace?

Able Joseph: Greater internet penetration has gotten more people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities to warm up to the concept of finding love online. This and the fact that more women are entering the workforce, the online dating market in India will continue to expand.

Gen Z, that accounts for 475 million of India’s population, have adopted and normalized the usage of dating apps. And even though they are far more comfortable in being casual in their relationships, the lockdown may have highlighted the value of having a permanent partner. In the future, even if marriage isn’t in the books, companionship will be sought after.

Social distancing may have gotten Indians to opting to spend more time online than to meet someone offline. Going forward, live streaming and AR/VR will make technology more relevant for singles to meet someone special while being in the comfort of their homes. 

TechGraph: The past few months have been challenging for businesses. How did you deal with this?

Able Joseph: Like every other industry, the initial months of the lockdown did slow down our pace especially with social meetups being discouraged. But we also realized that now more than ever people felt the need to stay connected with the outside and so we decided to adapt and make some necessary tweaks. 

This started with our introduction of a feature “Rooms”. Currently, the feature is in beta and some of the users who have access to it are now spending over 7 minutes per session compared to 2.5 minutes before the introduction of Rooms. Since Rooms is audio-only and not 1-on-1 video, Indian women have taken comfort in engaging with other users more than what we expected. It also enabled more engagement between Indians living in India and NRIs. 

Also, until lately Aisle has been focussed on acquiring users in metropolitan cities. But since people have been traveling back to their hometowns from urban cities we felt that it is important to acquire new users in other parts of India inorganically. And so we’ve allocated a small percentage of our marketing budget to advertise in Tier 2 cities.

TechGraph: Have you noticed any rise or fall on your platform during this period?

Able Joseph: 50% of our users reside in the metros. Our numbers reveal that matches in Tier 2 cities increased by 22.85%. Some of the Tier 2 cities where we see the most organic user growth are Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kochi, Surat, Indore, Vijayawada, etc. 

We’ve been doubling our KPIs every year, for the last 3 years. We expect to be back in our March highs by the year-end. 

Respecting the privacy of our users we don’t follow up about their love lives after they have deleted the app. But we are noticing an increase in the number of couples who reach out to us proactively and want to share their stories on our social pages. 

TechGraph: Are there any new exciting developments you are currently working on for the app?

Able Joseph: The ‘Rooms’ feature started as an experimental project when we saw how difficult it was for our members to form a connection while being confined to their homes. The reception among the beta users was great. 

Each Rooms’ session was found to last approximately 14 minutes, with 70 percent of men and 50 percent of women utilizing the feature. During this period, Aisle streamed over 10,000 minutes of conversations per day. 

We think this is a game-changer in the world of online dating! Taking all our learnings and feedback from our members we hope to roll out ‘Rooms’ to our entire user base in Q1 2021. 

TechGraph: What is the roadmap for Aisle going forward?

Able Joseph: When Aisle started, our first 100 members were acquired simply by word of mouth. Fast forward to today, we still have many members, who found Aisle different from other dating apps, recommend it to their friends and family. 

We value quality over quantity and so as a high intent dating app, our focus is on community building. We hope to constantly innovate both our tech and design to provide an enriching experience to our members. At the same time, with apps becoming such a crucial part of our lives, we aim to be the go-to app for single Indians to find a meaningful relationship.