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A UK-based site focusing entirely on Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and Indian singles, Asians 4 Asians has been around since 2000.
Many apps are linked to user Facebook profiles, which makes it possible to roll out targeted advertising.
Some, like Paktor, the region’s most popular app with some 5 million registered users, offer in-app purchases: members can buy virtual gifts to potential sweethearts, as well as tickets to singles’ events organised by the start-up behind the app.
Investors are also attracted to the apps’ potential in a region where consultants KPMG says 60 per cent of the population is aged below 35, and where incomes are rising.
Funding details are scarce, but Vertex Venture, a unit of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, participated in two funding rounds worth a total US$12.5 million for app Paktor, while Peekawoo has raised US$100,000 from investors including Kickstart Ventures, a unit of Philippines’ Globe Telecom.
“Dating websites, like real estate and job portals, touch on a fundamental need,” said Justin Hall, principal at Golden Gate Ventures, which invested an undisclosed amount in Thai dating app Noonswoon.
“In Southeast Asia, there is massive potential.” Homegrown apps hope their understanding of local cultural norms will give them a leg up over global rivals such as US-based Tinder, which has millions more users but which is seen as a conduit for finding sexual partners, as well as friends.
Perfect Match's Asian Singles' section of their website is well populated, and it's both easy to navigate and attractive to look at.
Having said that, the site doesn't cater specifically to Asian singles (anyone can join Perfect Match).
To allay female members’ concerns about unwanted advances at face-to-face meetings, Peekawoo initially offered chaperones on request and Singapore-based Lunch Click makes checks to ensure its local users are really single.
“Our members have to know that this is no hook-up app and there is no hanky-panky,” said Zuraimie Ismail, the founder of Mat & Minah, an app for Muslims seeking to find a potential spouse on their own, and not through family matchmakers.
Another company that ties into a larger database (Successful Match), Asian Women Date (formerly Asian Chats) has a few unique features that few other Asian dating sites offer, such as greeting cards, news relevant to Asians, and several verification options to allow users to prove their income, age, education, and occupation.