Eventually, the app will serve purposes beyond romance. "We're working on a community feature right now," Dhaliwal said, adding that there's "enough demand" amongst South Asians seeking friendships as well.
Dil Mil, Mirchi and Shaadi.com are free, though all three platforms offer enhanced features, such as the ability to "like" more profiles, which users can pay to access.
The dating app Mirchi says it has 70,000 active monthly users, and Ali Tehranian, one of the app's co-founders, said it aims to add a "new flavor" to the South Asian dating landscape.
The app weaves South Asian culture into its aesthetic. When you open it, a henna-adorned hand greets you with a toss of red-orange flower petals, a practice at some South Asian weddings.
Lighthearted profile prompts ask users which South Asian foods they prefer over the other (idli or dosa?), which Bollywood song is "the soundtrack to your life" or whether they're a bigger fan of Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone (two major Bollywood actresses).
The seed for the app was sowed at UC Irvine, where Tehranian was a student.
Performances on campus of bhangra, traditional Punjabi dance, seemingly brought the university's entire Punjabi community together: to dance and, ultimately, to just be among one another, Tehranian said.
"People are still adopting the traditions, the values of past generations," he said. Even among younger generations, the culture remains "deeply rooted" and an affinity to be with one another persists, he said, and an app like Mirchi can facilitate that process.
For Adil Sheikh, the dating platform of choice was Shaadi.com. Or more accurately, it was his mother's choice.
She made an account without Sheikh's knowledge (it's really not a joke sometimes) and that's where Safia Gosla found him.
For Sheikh, 38, and Gosla, 39, Shaadi.com proved to be the vehicle they needed for their "hybrid" dating journey — not an arranged marriage but not quite dating in a traditional American sense, either.
"Right after I got out of college, my mom set up my Shaadi.com profile, and when I found out I was on there, I was like OK, let me edit all this stuff — like, oh my God, who is this guy she's describing?" Sheikh laughed.
He tried other avenues too: Minder, a Muslim dating app; setups orchestrated by his aunts and uncles; even the local rishta-wali, or matchmaker. No one he met was quite the right fit.
Eventually, Shaadi.com began sending Gosla emails suggesting Sheikh's profile. The "advertising exhaustion" eventually led her to like his profile.
"All the emails would still go to my mom," Sheikh said. "So when Safia sent me an interest, my mom came knocking on my door, like, 'Hey, this girl's interested. Check it out, she lives close by.' She was wearing a sari in her profile, and I was like, 'Oh, that's a very cute sari she's wearing.' "
Their first date was in July (at Houston's in Irvine), and it turned out, their connection was years in the making.
"When I asked him where his dad was from, his dad is from the same small village my dad is from, and they knew each other as kids, so our grandparents knew each other," Gosla said.
Exactly 45 dates later (the couple recorded every date in a notebook), they got married in November at a mosque in Orange County.
And according to Gosla, ultimately, dating apps aren't too different from the local rishta-wali; it's just a virtual, algorithm-driven version. "Shaadi.com was our matchmaker," she laughed.
Of course, the apps aren't magical for everyone. For Ria Jain, 26, they're a passive method to placate her eager-for-a-wedding parents. For 36-year-old Deep Agarwal, who is divorced, they're an awkward attempt to reenter the "very overwhelming" dating world after a decade-long hiatus.
And for Prince Singh, 27, South Asian dating apps offered a barrier-crushing possibility. Women on mainstream platforms may carry preconceived notions about his choice to wear a turban, so when Dil Mil crossed his radar, he was hopeful.
But nothing has clicked just yet. There's no difference between South Asian dating apps and mainstream dating apps in that sense, he said. You may worship the same ways or speak the same languages, but that doesn't guarantee chemistry.
Until then, maybe, the remedy is simple: Keep swiping.©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.