Digital Love in India

How Dating Apps are Changing Marriage

A couple take their wedding vows during their wedding ceremony in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, January 23, 2011. Amit Dave / Reuters

The office of Truly Madly, an online dating app, sits on the dusty outskirts of Delhi, India. But inside, it could easily be mistaken for a hip start-up in San Francisco: young men and women in hoodies, skinny jeans, and sneakers lounge about on beanbags in the New Age office, which is nestled between art galleries and handicraft shops. In the two years since its launch in 2014, Truly Madly has raised $5 million in funding and amassed close to two million users.

Arshad, 22, who hails from the small town of Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh, joined the marketing team of Truly Madly six months ago, after graduating from one of India’s top colleges. “My family is very conservative, and I wanted to break out of the shell and do something different,” Arshad told me. She has not told her parents about her new job. For Arshad, and many young Indian women, her family prefers that she settle down and get married, but Arshad moved to Delhi to pursue a free, independent lifestyle. She refuses to let her parents dictate her future or her life partner. “I’m a Sunni Muslim and my parents want me to marry a Sunni Muslim,” she said. “For me, everything depends on the person, not the religion.”

In the offices of Truly Madly, nearly half of the 40 employees are women; most are under 30 and have moved to Delhi from small towns in search of their fortunes. Many, including Arshad, have dated men of their own choosing.

A couple sits on the seafront on the eve of Valentine's Day in Mumbai, February 13, 2009. Security has been tightened in several Indian cities after threats by right-wing groups to disrupt Valentine Day celebrations, local media reported. Arko Datta / Reuters

According to Sachin Bhatia, the CEO of Truly Madly and formerly the co-founder of one of India’s most successful travel start-ups, MakeMyTrip, his inspiration for the app was not Tinder per se but the cruelty of arranged marriages. “I saw so many

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