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In their search for love, South Asians swipe right on dating apps catered for them

Anumita Kaur, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Dating Advice

About two months after matching on the app, they met for coffee in San Francisco. A few months later, he met her parents over dinner in San Jose. By April 2019, they were engaged. They married in November 2021 in her parents' backyard in San Jose.

"You can connect really, really well with a person who is from a totally different culture, I 100% stand by that," she said. "But I wanted it to be easier for me. It's so nice when you have a person who can articulate the emotional nuances of being from two different cultures and feeling understood and feeling accepted in that."

One of the original behemoths in South Asian online dating is Shaadi.com. Founded in India in 1996, its name translates to wedding.com.

By their mid-20s, South Asians in the U.S. and abroad often are ducking and dodging suggestions to assemble a Shaadi.com profile, and jokes about mothers creating profiles for their kids remain evergreen.

Still, the website, and newer apps, serve an enduring need. As in most immigrant communities, the generation of South Asians raised in the U.S. often contends with an eternal negotiation of bridging motherland and current land.

"American society is very individualistic. And so the idea of arranged marriage is absolutely the furthest thing you can get from American expectations of dating and life. These are 'supposed' to be your own decisions, right?" said Rifat Salam, an associate professor of sociology at City University of New York.

 

"In South Asian culture, you consider your family in the choices that you make," Salam added. "Having the app gives you real autonomy. You can filter the choices yourself, but you can do it without going too far from those [family] expectations."

Dil Mil founder and Chief Executive KJ Dhaliwal leaned into this idea, saying that "with the rise of products like Tinder and Bumble, there was a clear opportunity" for a South Asian dating platform (without the looming pressure of marriage that Shaadi.com connotes).

In the initial research for Dil Mil, the team found that "over 80% of South Asians date and marry within their same community," Dhaliwal said. "They tend to seek out partners that are of a similar upbringing, of a similar cultural background, because it gives them that sort of deep-rooted need for identity, preservation of culture."

He said Dil Mil has a core market in the U.S., U.K. and Canada but declined to share the number of monthly active users. Dil Mil was acquired by Dating.com Group in 2019. The deal valued the company at up to $50 million.

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