EXCLUSIVE: Jitesh Bisht, CEO – Meotida, on his dating app HiHi, Crushes, Flirtscart, and more

image-Jitesh Bisht - Founder CEO - Hi-Hi dating app - MediaBriefJitesh Bisht is CEO of Meotida Private Limited, makers of the HiHi app – a community of young and dynamic individuals seeking friendship and meaningful relationships from a tap on their smartphone, as it were. Jitesh’s aspiration for HiHi is that it be known as the most likeable and secure dating app for Indian users.

The young leader brings seven years of diverse experience in AdTech, Influencer Marketing and Mobile Gaming, with expertise spanning domains like management consulting, performance advertising and programmatic trading.  Prior to Meotida, Jitesh ran a successful tech start up and has held senior roles at global market-leading organisations including Tappx, Cheetah Mobile and InMobi.

Here, he speaks about the online dating apps space, his plans for HiHi, and more. Jitesh, who is a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons.) from the Rajiv Gandhi Prodyogiki Vishwavidyalayal, an MBA in Marketing,  and an AMCAT-certified Marketing Manager, has not confirmed or denied if his own profile is on his dating app HiHi. Because we forgot to ask. But for the rest of our exchange, read on.

How and why was HiHi founded? How did it all start?

The dating industry has a huge presence in European and American markets and it has been there for several decades. In 2014, the first dating app was launched in India, and today, the country is largely dominated by the foreign dating apps which do not understand Indian cultural values.  Domestic dating apps are doing great work because they understand the market and Indian culture very well.

Hihi is one such home-grown dating app developed by Meotida Pvt Ltd. We conceptualised the app in 2019 and undertook a thorough research, evaluated the Indian market and learnt about the existing players in the dating vertical  — both Indian and international.

During the market research, our team identified the gaps that are not being fulfilled by existing players. With this research and the company’s understanding of the cultural sensitivities of Indian people, we developed our business model and built strong a marketing plan before launching the first version on the Google PlayStore on 6th Aug’ 2020.

Since there are so many global and local apps available pertaining to dating, how does HiHi plan to stand out and apart?

India has enough potential for dating brands to grow and the growth of technology has only facilitated people’s need for companionship. Before 2014, the dating concept was at a nascent stage in India. But over time, Tinder, OkCupid, Aisle, Bumble and several other dating apps have saturated the market and have proved the concept with some remarkable work.

In the last few years, brands have seen a lot of reforms around the dating industry and everybody is trying to have a share in the Indian market. Many of the foreign players have entered the market with huge investments to acquire the massive user base. They see India as a huge opportunity due to the size of the country and its young population.

Our research told us that most of the users are not very happy with these foreign apps when it comes to getting the right match on the platform. In view of this, we developed HiHi as a dating app suitable for Indian users who are looking for meaningful, long-lasting relationships, and that is what will help us stand apart.

The current focus is to improve the application and release it with some additional features which will enhance the user experience. These features will allow users to communicate more efficiently.

How  many users are there on HiHi at present?

These are very early days, actually, and the numbers wouldn’t provide an accurate picture of HiHi’s potential. Yes, virtual dating is around, but it is more like a small part of the real dating experience of meeting and speaking with someone in person. Moreoever, with very few feet on the ground due to social distancing, these are indeed early days and we have been using these months to tweak our services and keep creating greater awareness amongst our TGs.

Even in these restrictive times – at least, for a dating app – we do have more than 70000 downloads and a high percentage of active MAUs. Do remember that we launched in August 2020 and came out with a second version of the app on 24th December 2020. A third version too is expected shortly, with full functionality. The team is also actively connected with the first set of users to understand their expectations and feedback.

What are the most unique features of HiHi?

The app comes with some unique and strong value propositions. These include:

  • Limited number of likes: This is a feature that allows users to send limited number of likes in a day, and one can use it wisely. The users can buy more likes — as many as they want in day — to send to the person of their choice.
  • Crushes This feature is different from likes and has a higher value. For example, if someone actually has a crush on a profile and believes that the person needs to know about it, well, just send them crushes to let them know!
  • Flirtscart This unique feature is for people who are not comfortable making the first move or sending the first ‘Hi’. Flirtscart offers templates of messages to select one that one might feel appropriate to initiate a conversation,  and this can be sent to the user before the match.
  • VIP Status This feature allows you full access to the platform. Knowing that not everybody has the same purchasing power, HiHi offers different tiers of services.
  • Boost your profile This gives a user high priority during the most active hours on the app in a day. In this period, the user’s profile would be shown to other users in his or her proximity and as per the filters one may have selected.

image-Hi-Hi-dating app - information about all aspects-MediaBrief-1A typical B2C model involves traffic related problems? Do you also see this as a challenge?

Dating companies believe that the growing demand for online dating in India is driven by its female population. However, there is an issue of a much higher number of male users. And that is because of difficulty in acquiring female users on the platform for various reasons. Females need a lot of validation from other users, and they wait until it becomes a brand.

Studies say female user-bases across most dating applications is only 10-15%, with  at least 70-80% profiles being cluttered by males. The HiHi marketing team is focusing on this aspect and running targeted campaigns to position our app as a safe platform for female users, and informing them how they can interact with interesting profiles.

So what media are your using to market HiHi to the end user?

Most of HiHi’s users are on social media platforms, and hence we are are running their campaigns on Facebook, Snapchat etcetera. All these platforms provide extensive targeting capabilities to marketers. So, right from the beginning, the HiHi team has been focusing on these areas and wse hope this approach will help us increase the percentage of female users on HiHi to 20-30%.

Going ahead, the team will work closely with communities and will conduct virtual events that will have more female users. We hope this will nudge us strongly towards equilibrium in the male-female gender profiles, which is our eventual objective.

Which age groups are your main TGs?

Hi-Hi targets users above 25 years of age. We believe 25 to 40 is the age group in which people look for serious relationships. These people like to improve their profile, spend more time on the platform, they like to play around with all the features that the platform offers.

Like all the platforms, HiHi also has a subscription model. It offers a month/3 month/6 month subscription plan for its users and then has several other upsells on the product. All of that is designed in such a way that the user stays on the platform for at least 3 months because that is when an app can generate some revenue from the user.

This particular segment will be the right target audience for the app because these users belong to the working class and have an appetite to spend 700 to 1000 rupees on a dating platform for a month.

Looking at crimes against women,  and considering safety, do you have any special features to protect them?

Safety of everyone is very important. Dating platforms like HiHi can educate people about community guidelines and how to conduct themselves while interacting with other users. HiHi has been doing extreme analyses of users’ behavior on the platform, which will help improve the trust score of each user. As the app gets bigger, it becomes ever more important to keep an eye on fake and misleading profiles, and we are taking rigorous security and privacy measures.

What future do you see for home-grown dating apps in the Indian marketplace?

This is the right time for home-grown players to be aggressive in the market and gain an edge over their foreign counterparts. Casual dating has increased significantly in Tier II and III cities. But none of the companies are focusing there since most of their user base come from metro cities.

There is a shift in content consumption due to smartphone penetration. Smartphones, which have brought the social network within palm’s reach, can be handy tools to find love as well. Internet is available in the remotest part of the country.  Therefore, India will be a huge market, and whoever knows the pulse of it, will lead it. It will be a long journey for home-grown players, of course. The dating app market will be valued at $100 million in the next five to eight years, and domestic players will be a big threat to international players.

The lockdown enforced by the pandemic has been a challenge for the dating industry, which by virtue of the desirability of a date involving personal meetings and conversations, would have been hampered by the social distancing and restriction on movement and fraternizing. What kind of shift have you noticed during the lockdown, and what seem the likely sentiments going forward?

The restrictions imposed by the pandemic had filled 2020 with numerous challenges, but technology has played a vital role. It seems that the quality of communication between people has changed a lot. People have become more cautious about dating now. Many people have switched to online communication, using text, expressing through emoticons and online calls. There are a lot of users spending quality times on applications and open to meet new people and talk to them virtually. This is due to the fact that people have been rethinking the importance of human relations.

Speaking of ourselves, HiHi has seen a great improvement in the engagement rate and user growth in cities like in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. This is good for the business health. Higher engagements leads to high LTV (high lifetime value) and therefore, recurring subscriptions. We’ve seen a 5x growth in our users’ daily sessions. Traffic increases dramatically in the evenings from 6PM to 11PM. So there has been an uptick in general, in user traffic and session length, and we expect the trend to continue after the pandemic ends too.

Your thoughts, please