The road between tinder and

The road between tinder and

TrulyMadly, a modern matchmaking startup, founded by Sachin Bhatia and Rahul Kumar of MakeMyTrip, and Hitesh Dhingra of, aims to do what traditional matrimony sites haven’t done in the last 15 years – understand and address the compatibility needs of the 20-something group, and develop trust scores to verify validity of member profiles


If you’re a social media junkie, you can’t have missed the eye-catching photographs on Facebook, of 20-something men and women carrying placards that say, “I love pink, and I’m not gay”, or “I run an NGO and I still love my H&M blazer”.  All these messages conveyed one common message; that the youth of today want to break stereotypes. But, who designed this campaign, and why?

Meet TrulyMadly, a modern matchmaking site, founded in February 14, 2014, by Sachin Bhatia, the former co-founder of MakeMyTrip, Rahul Kumar, former senior product manager at MakeMyTrip, and Hitesh Dhingra, former founder of TrulyMadly was founded based on a fundamental principle, that the founders wanted to break the stereotype created by traditional matchmaking sites, in which the profiles (of a boy or girl) are usually accessed and managed by the parents. It aims to be the matchmaking site for youth in their 20s.

“We wanted to start a venture in the consumer Internet space which has already done well but needed a certain amount of restructuring to meet current needs. After exploring various sectors such as travel and jobs, we arrived at matrimony,” says Bhatia, and adds, “It seemed interesting for two reasons; one, while the sector has a huge potential to succeed in India, we noticed that the existing players hadn’t done anything different in the last 15 to 20 years. And, there were entrepreneurs who tried to bootstrap a western concept in the Indian ecosystem but failed, because our value systems are different. And a concept like Tinder (a US-based dating site) would only attract a lot of controversy,” he claims.

Of course, added to this was the experience that came from listening to stories of neighbours’ daughters, cousins or friends hunting for prospective partners on matrimony sites. “Often, they would realise that the person they portray themselves to be on the profile was different from what they were in reality. There was no secure means to verify a profile either. This was the trigger point for us,” notes Bhatia.

The social experiment

As a first step in this direction, the TrulyMadly team divided itself into teams of four and held an extensive market research with 5,000 single youth (in their 20s), and newly married couples or couples in a serious relationship. The objective of this survey was to arrive at a compatibility algorithm; a means to determine what makes a man and a woman compatible. They put together the data and sent the research papers to an eminent relationship psychologist, who helped them arrive at a close-to-perfect compatibility algorithm.

Then, the founders developed a TrulyMadly mobile app for the Android platform, where users can register and begin their search for a compatible partner. In fact, to address the security and verification issue, the app provides a Trust Score for each profile, which is determined based on the member’s social networking profile, identify proof, employment verification documents and such. “So, the more documents or information they share, the higher their trust scores,” notes Bhatia. Since founding, the app has recorded 40,000 downloads, and in the coming months, the app is expected to launch on the iOS platform as well.

Setting the idea in motion

The startup is self-funded for now and Bhatia clearly states that they don’t want to raise funds until the startup has certain metrics in place. “By March 2015, we want to gain substantial traction on social media and on the Android app, launch our iOS app, and then consider external funding. Otherwise, there’s no point in having a lot of money and not knowing where to invest it,” admits Bhatia.

Currently, TrulyMadly has 15 employees on board, and the founders plan to recruit two to three more people in the coming months. “We look for people who are entrepreneurially inclined and are willing to take ownership of tasks at the company. For now, our employees have been primarily recruited through word-of-mouth and through references provided by current employees,” states he.

Fuelling brand presence

TrulyMadly’s first marketing campaign, Breaking Stereotypes, was jointly conceived by the founding team and its agency, Drizzlin’. The campaign identified common people (youth in their 20s), who had broken stereotypes in their own small way, held a photo shoot and shared the photographs on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. “While online advertising would’ve attracted people to the app or website, the idea of a matrimony site with a difference may not have been conveyed effectively.  We wanted to design a social, organic campaign that will have a longer shelf-life, and will trigger the interest of our target audience,” reasons Bhatia. And rightly so, the campaign went viral as soon as it launched. Within a month, the campaign recorded 2.6 million impressions on Facebook, over 10,000 Twitter mentions, and 55,000 shares.

As a next step, the startup is planning to roll out a video campaign next month, with a focus on love, dating and relationships. “When we started our first campaign, we wanted the concept to be more broad-based. But now, we realised that focussing on these three elements will give us and our users better clarity on our positioning,” says Bhatia. Moreover, last month, the team created a new character called Aditi, on the Twitter page, to connect better with its followers. “Aditi is a handle given to an employee at TrulyMadly, who tweets and blogs about relationships and the man-woman equation. In less than three weeks, we’ve gained over 600 followers,” he indicates.

A third, bigger focus for TrulyMadly, going forward, will be on content marketing. “During the MakeMyTrip days, we used to spend a lot on online and offline advertising to acquire customers. But now, given the impact of social media on brands, we’re focussing more on creating great content, in the form of videos and blogs,” reflects Bhatia. In fact, he indicates that content marketing is the cornerstone of TrulyMadly’s marketing strategy.

Above all this, another crucial element that counts for an idea to become successful, is getting together a good founding team. “If you notice, each founder at TrulyMadly has our own area of expertise. For example, Hitesh is good at sales, Rahul is good at product development, and my expertise lies in marketing and strategy. Ultimately, what I wanted was to get people who have the skills that I don’t. And we’ve been reasonably successful so far,” says Bhatia, on an ending note.

Sachin Bhatia takes us through a step-by-step of how his team designed the ‘Breaking Stereotypes’ campaign, a key element they missed out in the campaign which cost the brand dearly, and the key lessons that came out of it 

Brainstorming a campaign idea

We initially thought we’ll associate the Breaking Stereotypes campaign with a famous celebrity such as Shah Rukh Khan. Soon, we realised that though the campaign would gain massive traction and bring visitors to the website, it may not have a lasting impact on the brand. So, to connect better with our audience, we decided to find people on streets, people who have broken stereotypes in their own small way. Initially, we searched for such people within our own circle, and as the word spread, more people volunteered to be a part of our campaign. 

Then, we searched for a photographer, and finalised on Vicky Roy, the boy who fled from his home at 11 (years), and later created a photo documentation of the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre at New York. He certainly broke many stereotypes!

The Holy ‘Viral’ Grail

The content (on the placard) was designed by the people themselves. Once we saw the photographs coming in, we knew that it would resonate well with the audience. 

We did not spend any money in marketing the campaign at all. The people who were a part of the shoot voluntarily shared their photos on Facebook and Twitter, and the word spread around organically. In fact, only after it reached a certain point did we intervene and encourage people to create their own placards and share photographs of how they broke stereotypes.  

For the entire campaign, while we allocated a budget of Rs. 25,000, we overshot it and spent Rs. 40,000. The costs primarily involved paying the photographer (Rs. 1,000 per photo shoot), rentals, transportation and such. 

The one big mistake, the one big learning

While we did face small operational challenges, the biggest mistake we did was to not associate the Breaking Stereotypes campaign with our brand (TrulyMadly) strongly. For example, the Breaking Stereotypes hash tag became very popular on Twitter but not many people (or even media) knew that the campaign was developed by us. 

Moreover, initially, we didn’t want the brand to be associated with just love, dating and relationships; we wanted it to be more broad-based. But now, we want to tweak that and put the focus back on these three aspects. In fact, next month, we are launching a new video campaign based on these three elements. 

Advertising Branding Dating MakeMyTrip Marketing Sachin Bhatia Startup Marketing TrulyMadly

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