Vice President Of Strategy, Bumble, Priti Joshi sat with NewsX for an exclusive conversation in its special segment NewsX A-List. Bumble is a location-based social application that expedites communication between interested users.

Priti started by addressing the global Coronavirus pandemic. She said, “First and foremost, our users are at the front and centre of everything that we do. And so we have done everything in our power to make this time easier, a little bit better for them as they’re trying to navigate the world of dating and connecting in a virtual way or in a socially distanced way. What we saw is right at the beginning of the pandemic, we saw actually that our users were really excited to get to know one another. So we saw an increase in messages sent by 20%. Right as the pandemic was on set, we also actually saw that users were using a feature that we have in-app called video chats. And the use of this feature increased by about 40%, right at the beginning of the pandemic. And so we’re seeing that our users are very much craving connection, but also doing it in a safe and socially distanced way.”

Ms Joshi further said, “We’re seeing an increase in something called slow dating. And slow dating is the phenomenon where users are getting to know one another, virtually, whether that’s through the video chat feature, or they’re sending many more messages back and forth. And they’re establishing a connection before they even think about meeting in person. Now, once they do meet in person, what we’ve introduced on our app is a series of badges that indicate how comfortable you are, when you meet in person and how to meet. So you can either indicate that you just want to go on a virtual date, you can indicate that you want to meet in a socially distanced way with the mask on or that you want to meet socially distanced, and go on your first date that way, but we’ve introduced these other features as well to allow our users once they’re past the slow dating phase, to get to know their potential connections in real life and safely.”

Also read: “India needs to become a service provider, manufacturer for the world”: Rituraj Sinha, Group MD at SIS Group

Also read: ‘Don’t follow trends’: Designer Gauri Khan advices women

Talking about how Bumble stays digitally in touch with its users, Priti said, “As I said earlier, the most important thing for us is understanding and hearing from our users and understanding what they’re looking for. So we have many different ways in which we are interacting with them. I think, first and foremost, we’re working very closely with dating experts and connection experts and also mental health experts during this time, to help share tips and tricks on how you can stay connected and feel strong and safe in those connections during this time. Another thing that we are working really actively on is just understanding what success looks like from our users. And so we’ve heard from so many users around the world about successful relationships that they have entered since the onset of the pandemic, one of the users that has shared her story with us has said that she sensed a seismic tonal shift in the way that the conversations are going on Bumble and everyone is more vulnerable more open and therefore it’s leading to more honest conversations.”

Throwing some light on the future of virtual dating, Ms Joshi expressed, “I think what we’ve seen over the last six to eight months and what I think we’ll continue to see is this concept of virtual dating or pre-dates will continue and will stick around, it’s actually a really wonderful way to get to know somebody and to lay the initial groundwork. Before you decide, yes, I want to see this person in real life. Yes, I want to continue a relationship or connection with them. So I suspect that virtual dating and video chats and voice calls will be around for a while.”

Bumble has recently come up with a new feature of podcasts where it has collaborated with some very well-known names. “We feel so fortunate to get to put out a lot of these really interesting digital podcasts and other assets for India to hear. So first we launched a series called ‘Is Romance Dead?’ in partnership with the improv actor and comedian Kaneez Surka and oh my Gosh, it is so exciting! I’ve been able to listen to the first few episodes, it’s available on many streaming platforms throughout the country. But basically, it’s this concept of exploring romance and talking about romance through the eyes of others and different kind of industries or sectors. So whether you’re thinking about that as a part of music, or food or drink, or literature or science, what does romance look like in all of these avenues. We’ve also launched our season two of ‘Not Another Lockdown Dating Show’ and this is back by popular demand, where we’re basically exploring what it’s like to navigate the new rules of dating and we’ve added a little bit of comedy to it, a little bit of a twist to it so that it’s hopefully a little bit more entertaining. And then last, but certainly not least, we’ve just launched an integrated digital marketing campaign call ‘Love Will Find A Way’ and this concept was really inspired by what our users in India, were telling us. We launched this in July. And it’s basically a series of digital stories that talk about all of the hope and all of the excitement that one has to look forward to as they are building connections during this time,” said Ms Joshi.

Talking about the future of these campaigns, Priti said, “We’re only going to do more, you have to stay tuned to hear more about what we’re working on. But, you know, in the very least, to know that all of our podcasts are multi-series podcasts. And so you’ve got many episodes to look forward to in the near future.”

Priti Joshi, as an individual is a professional with considerable expertise in the industry for many years before Bumble as well. Talking about her journey, Preeti said, “I have enjoyed this transition more than you could ever imagine. I think my time at McKinsey & Company was really incredible, and that I learned so many important things around how to solve really really complex problems and how to work really collaboratively across different organizations and within different parts of the business. I also think I really learned good communication skills and interaction skills, right with clients and with colleagues. Now transitioning and getting to work here at Bumble has been one of the highlights of my career, being able to, you know, take our mission of empowering women and helping women make the first move across love life and work in everything that they do is a mission and a reason that is so exciting to come to work every day.”

Priti Joshi shared her excellence mantra with NewsX. She said, “I am a big believer of work hard, play hard. I think that you know, if you find something that you really, really love to do, as I do here at Bumble, it will feel like you are working hard but you’re also playing and enjoying it while you’re working. And so for me, it would be work hard, play hard.”

As the Coronavirus pandemic is not completely over yet, Priti Joshi said, ”We certainly hope that this pandemic is coming to a close soon enough. But in the meantime, I think the most important thing for Bumble and for our users is making sure that we’re allowing and facilitating our users to form connections in a safe and socially distanced way. And so I expect and I hope that our users will also get to see great innovation as it comes to how we can help to continue to form these connections and help to support our users as they are going on these journeys of hope and excitement and forming these connections in a positive way.”

Also read: ‘Remote shopping beginning to contribute 10% of monthly sale’: CEO of Jewellery Division at Titan Private Limited Ajoy Chawla