Published: 28th June 2021
As You Are: This NID grad's dating app for the LGBTQIA+ community is Made in India with Pride
Sunali Aggarwal launched AYA in June 2020. Today, the app has more than 14,000 downloads and over 11,000 active users across the country
It was in early 2019, just a few months after homosexuality was decriminalised in India, that Sunali Aggarwal began researching about the LGBTQ community. She wanted to explore the dating and social networking space to find out how online dating worked for people belonging to the community. What she found led her down a new path. "While some people from the community were on some dating app or the other, there was definitely a lack of enough people. I wanted to find out how people from the LGBTQ community met each other and form long-lasting relationships," says Sunali, who is based out of Chandigarh. It was then that she decided to work on developing an app called AYA or As You Are.
Sunali says it's the only homegrown dating app that's meant only for queer people. And it is not just meant for a section of the LGBT community but the community in its entirety, including transpersons, people who identify as intersexual and pansexual. "We launched a website in December 2019, which was only shared with our close friends and family but received a great response," says Sunali. She and her co-founder Aditi began working on the app and launched it in June 2020. Today, the app has more than 14,000 downloads and over 11,000 active users across the country.
But how safe is the app and is it free from the perils of online dating? Sunali says, "We have a rigorous verification process. The user has to upload a selfie to verify their profile and based on that they are either allowed or not allowed to use the app," Sunali and her team have rejected over 2,000 profiles to date as they didn't meet their verification standards. The process is manually done right now, but in the future, Sunali plans to automate it.
A unique feature of the app, according to Sunali, is that the profiles are not photo-focused. "We want to encourage people to have a conversation, get to know each other and form long-term relationships. While photos are there, the profile is more focused on details about the individuals," says Sunali, who has been working as a UX designer for several years after graduating from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. "We are not looking at it as just a dating app but more as a matchmaking app. In the future, when matrimony will be legalised, we would like it to be considered as a matrimony app," Sunali explains.