Interview: How Gleeden is Growing in India

GDI had the pleasure of speaking with Sybil Shiddell, Country Manager, India at Gleeden to discuss how the extramarital dating app is growing across India. She shares how the app spread to smaller towns, and how attitudes towards extramarital romance have changed.

Can you tell us about Gleeden’s plans for growth in India? 

Gleeden has been steadily growing in India since its launch and gathered almost 2 million users since 2018. We are investing in PR and media relationships mostly, and we successfully managed to position ourselves as experts in the dating industry. We will continue to create original content for the country, collaborating with influencers, pundits and celebrities and we wouldn’t mind going big with advertising, like we do in other countries. We have yet to find open doors in that sense, it’s not easy to present a business like ours, but I remain optimistic that we can find the right channels and the right message. 

Why do you think Gleeden is seeing growing popularity in India’s smaller cities and towns?

The growth that we saw in tier 2 and tier 3 cities depends mostly on the effect of the pandemic: people were secluded in their homes for the past two years and had little chance to travel. With restrictions in place and little if no possibility to travel, Gleeden users no longer needed the discretion provided by big cities. On the contrary, without the possibility of meeting the person, the fear of being caught outside vanished and even people from smaller and more provincial towns took the big step to subscribe to the app and search for profiles in their area. Moreover, getting in touch with other members in the same town allowed people to share what was going on in their neck of the woods, allowing a new level of intimacy and deeper connections.

If before March 2020, most of Gleeden users came from Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Chennai, during 2020, 2021 and the first part of 2022 the most traction came from Gurgaon (currently our #5 city), Chandigarh, Kochi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Noida, Nagpur and Indore, but also Navi Mumbai, Burdwan, Howrah and Thane have popped up on our radar. 

What is Indian society’s perception of infidelity and how does the app navigate the general public’s attitudes towards infidelity?

Indian society is no stranger to infidelity, insomuch that it became officially legal in 2018 with the abolition of section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.

According to a study that we commissioned in January 2020 to IPSOS, 55% of Indians had already been unfaithful to their current partner at least once at the time of the interview (54% of whom were men and 56% women). Indian society is no different from any other society that applies the bonding of marriage, and where infidelity always lies in wait. Mankind is curious by nature and has hard times in remaining faithful to one person in the long run. Especially in a physical way. That’s why infidelity is part of human history since the dawn of time

During the last couple of years, however, we have witnessed a mentality shift: more and more people – especially late millennials – are starting to embrace the concept that monogamy is not forcefully the only way, and more and more couples are opening their marriages to adventure and experimentation.

Yet, the vast majority of people still tries to stay faithful and deny their desires. And when they fail, giving in to adventure, very few have the courage to tear down years of marriage with a separation or a divorce. People still prefer to sweep the dust under the carpet. Hence the success of a dating app like ours, that is very straightforward and transparent in its intent.

Why has virtual dating become commonly accepted in India and what do you think this means for the future of dating in the country?

Working for an app devoted to extramarital dating such as Gleeden have put us in the privileged condition to see the rise of virtual dating before it was even “a thing”. Since Gleeden is not a traditional dating app but caters to people who mostly seek an extramarital adventure, the need for real-life experience is less urgent. Our users don’t need to find their significant other, to spend their life with, but rather a distraction from their routines, a way to add some spiciness to their daily lives. And many of them are more than happy with virtual flings. 

A “virtual affair” allows people to tell themselves they are not doing the actual deed, releasing pressure on themselves to fully embrace the experience. Therefore, the virtual experience is most of the time enough, providing them with a satisfying experience without forcing them to act out of hand, especially married women. We don’t think that overall virtual dating is going to replace actual IRL connections, people will always feel the need to connect, see, hear, talk and touch. However, virtual dating will allow people to be more selective and to explore in the real world only to the most meaningful connections.

What is next for the Gleeden platform? What can users expect in the months ahead?

We are beta-testing audio bios, so that users can hear the voice of the person they would like to pursue. We are also having fun with the Metaverse lately, and we can’t wait to share some big news with our users.