Online dating is a wide open territory in the country. It is rather remarkable that online dating which has swept across other Internet enabled markets has taken so much time to take root in the country. This has a lot to do with Indian culture and its stigmatization of dating among youth.
However, there is a huge change afoot. What has been traditionally under the rather authoritative purview of parents has now transformed to the advantage of youngsters. This change began in urban areas and can grow even more as more youngsters start waking up to the comparative benefits of a dating culture.
This provides a rather big opportunity to technology startups who want to connect young people together. We have services like Bharat Matrimony and Shaadi.com but they operate from a very old school perspective. What the youngsters in the country need is a service which can easily help them find interesting people.
Due to the lack of dating services in the country, quite a few youngsters in cities have started using US based services like OKCupid and Tinder. However, these services do not have a lot of traction here, which makes the whole exercise pointless. From a perspective of scale, you really can’t meet the right people if a lot of them do not use the service!
Thrill is a mobile first app which wants to solve that problem. Arguably the first mobile dating app to come out of India, it is all the more interesting because Thrill was co-founded by two US entrepreneurs who noticed the huge opportunity in India and moved here to build the service.
Both the founders, Josh Israel and Devin Serago started Thrill in November 2012 and the service currently has apps for Android and iOS. I gave it a run and here are my thoughts about the app (My thoughts here on only reflect the male point of view. Women who have used the app may please add their experiences in the comments.)
Interesting features of Thrill
More power to women: Thrill is interesting because of its central promise. Men cannot automatically join Thrill’s network. They have to be voted in by Thrill’s community of women in order to join. Men can be ‘thrilling’ if they have a normal amount of Facebook friends and interests.
Also, stuff such as having your pic as your profile photo, not being married or not having a girlfriend helps. Once you are voted in by the women, men can use the app to find interesting young women all around them. I think this is a great feature. It will definitely help curb online harassment of women (something which exists very much in the country!).
Gamification mechanics: As a user you are still restricted from freely viewing all profiles on the network. You can unlock four potential matches everyday by ‘shaking’ your phone. Also, the more interests you list on your profile the better, as it helps you unlock more matches. All this increases your points. You can also earn more points by sending app requests to your friends on social networks.
Profile enhancement: You can’t do much on Thrill if you are a new user. The only thing you can do is to enhance your profile. This means adding your interests. There are sections like Food, TV Shows, Celebrities, Fashion, Tech and so on where you get to rate activities as thrilling or not thrilling. You can keep doing this to juice up your profile and thus unlock matches based on common interests.
Chat and matching: Users who get matched can chat with each other within the app itself. Women have the option to block users who might harass them. After you unlock someone’s profile by shaking your phone, you can rate them as thrilling or not thrilling. Their profile also shows you the match rating which is calculated based on comparing both your interests. Hence, filling up your profile is important. After you have rated a person, you will have to wait for the said person to rate you. If the rating is positive, you will be matched and then take it further.
All good so far.
So now here are critical points about the app.
Quite confusing: The online dating concept is new to India and it helps to simplify it for users who are definitely going to check the app for the first time. Thrill does very poorly when it comes to explaining the app to its users. While the UI is good enough (better than most apps),the app flow is rather bad! I have been checking out the app for 2 whole days and I still get pretty confused because of the way its been laid out. (If you have used Thrill, please let me know if this is my isolated experience or if you share the same thoughts).
Rather slow and suffers from performance issues: If the user experience is bad, then the app’s performance is worse. It hangs frequently and lags horribly adding to the frustration experienced with Point 1. These two points alone make me want to uninstall the app and never use it again. My app performance is based on my experience with the Android app. iOS users, please post your experience in the comments.
My only feedback to the Thrill guys would be to make it as simple as they can and double down on mobile performance. Thrill clearly has a golden opportunity in India but their app fails to meet expectations largely due to the performance issue and user experience.
I recommend OkCupid to anyone who wants to take their first step into online dating. It has a small amount of Indian users but is rather good at what it does.