Dating has gone through monumental changes over the decades. Thanks to technological advancement, hanging out virtually with a special someone is popularised for its convenient approach. Several applications exist that have helped people find 'the one'.
While online dating is an intriguing concept, it has its limitations. The internet may guarantee an individual's safety, but it can be compromised on such platforms. Many argue about its authenticity as it may not show an accurate picture.
Such apps leave out communities due to how they are conceptualised. Despite the law taking its course, decriminalising homosexuality has not helped reduce the stigma towards the LGBTQIA+ community in India. Popular dating apps are making progress but have a long way to go.
In light of this, a one-of-a-kind homegrown dating app called 'As You Are' promises to be a safe and judgment-free zone for queer people in the country. It was started by a woman named Sunali Aggarwal to make a welcoming ecosystem for the community.
Accommodative In Nature
After Section 377 was repealed, India's LGBTQIA+ community was looking for spaces where they could delve into dating. The mainstream dating apps welcomed the members with open arms by introducing inclusive features, but a lot more work was needed to bridge the gap.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Aggarwal explains the limitations, "When you such popular apps, one might feel intimidated by the kind of content they have, pictures the people share. During my research about such spaces, I found out that more than 94% of Indians in the community are closeted. If this is the actual number, these apps do not cater to them largely. They were designed for those who are out and proud, comfortable with their sexuality."
It was these findings that led to her creating the app. 'As You Are' came up with a wholesome way to bond with each other based on shared interests and locations.
The name itself proves that the app is a no-judgment zone. "One of the brand names that stood out while brainstorming and all of us agreed upon was this one because it brought out and conveyed what we wanted to say. Just be as you are and love people, and accept them for who they are. I think that stuck with everyone in the team, and that's how it came about," Sunali Aggarwal adds.
Fostering Long-Term Relationships
Most dating apps have the 'swiping' feature to choose from an array of people from different locations. Before interacting with a certain person who may stand out to us, it is a prerequisite.
'As You Are' is no exception, but with a twist. Taking the conversation further with The Logical Indian, Aggarwal elaborates, "We are trying to build an app that is midway between dating and matrimony. Going forward, our target is matrimony. People should be able to find long-term relationships over here. Also, while you swipe to browse, it will not decide for you. One can keep going back and forth, but that is not a decision-making point."
Judgment And Pressure-Free Zone
What makes this app stand out is the no-pressure aspect. With the advent of social media, people are expected to put themselves out there. Therefore, 'As You Are' focuses more on genuine relationship building rather than delving into the superficial aspects. Since it also caters to closeted individuals, it gives space to people who do not wish to upload their photos, but their interests could say something about them.
Apart from dating, the app also has various chatrooms and groups where queer people can interact. "We have come up with a community platform based on our research, where we realised that people want to consume more content in the LGBTQIA space. So, we have created a space where people can ask questions without judgment. Suppose, if someone wants to ask about coming out of the closet, they can post anonymously, and we expect the community to give the appropriate response, share the stories that instil courage in them to deal with the situation," Aggarwal shares with The Logical Indian.
A Welcoming Ecosystem
Since its inception in 2020, 'As You Are' has garnered over 25000 downloads. Not just for dating, people are signing up to strike friendships and networking within the Indian queer community and indulge in meaningful conversations.
Concluding her conversation, Aggarwal emphasises the space being an 'ecosystem', "We are trying to build an ecosystem where people come on board and help each other. It is not just for companionship, and it caters to all sorts of lifestyle needs where the community may need help. This is a cohesive platform only for the LGBTQIA+ community."