Growing digitalization of our lives has driven growth and value of online social network apps that have changed how we interact. The reach of apps such as Facebook and Wechat are attractive for investors even just for their sheer user base. Another category that has not gotten much attention is dating apps.
Online dating has become commonplace globally, yet the market is still geographically and demographically segmented. In the Western world, Tinder holds the undisputed top rank for lifestyle apps and even in the overall rankings. In Asia, Tinder is also the most popular dating app in some countries, but have lost to regional upstarts in others. However, the fact that the most popular dating apps are largely variation on Tinder's swiping features demonstrates that easily finding dates with a few finger swipes has an universal appeal among young generations.
Tinder is the Most Popular Dating App in SE Asia
As it turns out, Tinder is also winning many of the markets in Southeast Asia. In fact, Tinder is so dominant that its overall download rankings were at least 100 places ahead of its competitors’ in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines. For instance, Tinder ranked as the 93rd most downloaded app in Singapore in April on average, while the runner-up Paktor, founded in Singapore, placed at 299th.
In India and in Indonesia, the online dating market has been slightly more hotly contested. In order to break the cultural stigma against dating apps, Tinder spent over $200 million in India alone to attract more users. However, Tinder’s marketing efforts in India to change dating norms may have made it easier for new entrants to grow quickly as well. For instance, FlirtyDesires and HookupsFinder have edged closer and closer since the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, Tinder maintained its top spot in the market with an average download ranking of 69th, compared to 108th by FlirtyDesires and 161 by HookupsFinder. Similarly in Indonesia, Tinder is leading the market with an overall ranking of 93th compared to 111th ranking of its closest competitor Beetalk.
Beetalk: A Contestant for the Best Dating App in SE Asia?
In Southeast Asia, Beetalk has been establishing itself as one of the leading dating apps. A subsidiary ofGarena's, Beetalk is essentially a combination of Line, WeChat, Tinder and Snapchat. The all-in-one feature of the app may be why more people are using Beetalk. We have written many times on how Instagram stories cannibalizes SnapChat by taking away its unique selling point; it seems that Beetalk’s features such as Flip, Shake or Whisper might be doing the same to Tinder. Beetalk has had remarkable success in its home country Taiwan and is expanding overseas. In Thailand, for instance, Beetalk ranked as the most popular dating app with an average ranking of 31st while Tinder has been locked into its 151th position.
In other countries in SE Asia, however, Beetalk's success is yet unclear mainly due to competitive pressure from Tinder. As we mentioned earlier, Tinder is still ahead of Beetalk in Indonesia, and it has recently caught up to Beetalk's download ranking in Vietnam. It remains to be seen whether Beetalk's new features will enable it to overtake Tinder as the dominant dating app in Asia; so far, Beetalk's success has been limited only to countries where Line has been successful. Overall, Tinder is still reigning as the online dating king in the region. Not only that, one could easily glean from Instagram and Snapchat's example that Tinder could always copy Beetalk's features should it prove to be beneficial.
Homegrown Apps Winning in Korea, Japan and China
Despite its success in the region, Tinder has not been successful in markets like Korea, Japan and China that have been traditionally closed-off for Western companies. Each of the East Asian countries has its own dating app with unique features that made them successful. In Korea, Tinder had risen from a monthly ranking of 1,002nd in January to 750th in April but was still widely off the leading Korean dating app, Charmy, which placed 248th on average. While similar to Tinder, Charmy's matches users based on their "ranking," which is determined by other users.
Japan's top dating app Taple Birth is also a variation of Tinder that matches people based on their hobbies and interests. Match Group tried to penetrate the Japanese market by acquiring Pairs which certainly has been successful. However, rankings for both Pairs and Tinder, sitting at a monthly ranking of 486th and 492nd respectively, have lagged behind Taple Birth's ranking of 316th.
Lastly, Tinder is shut out of China because it requires Facebook to verify its users, which is also blocked off in the country. However, Tinder’s identical copy cat, Tantan, has filled the fast growing demand for dating apps in China, with a monthly high rank of 47th in March before falling to 80th in April in the overall download ranking. China also has its own pioneering dating app called Momo which was released a year before Tinder did, which ranks right below Tantan at 85th as of April.
Implications for IAC and Match Group
Tinder is owned by a company called Match Group, who owns a series of major online dating services in the US and in other countries. Match is in turn controlled by IAC, who owns 82.5% of Match. They are both trading in the low teens multiple of EBITDA in 2017.
What's really interesting here is that IAC and MTCH's stocks could be potentially quite undervalued due to the global growth opportunity that Tinder brings to the table. These companies' businesses have mostly been domestic to US, but Tinder's success globally, especially in huge markets like India and Indonesia, could result in explosive growth for the company's bottom line.
|IAC ex MTCH
Match's revenue accounts for 40% of IAC's revenue, and grew by about 15% in 2016. The bulk of growth from dating businesses came from an increase in paying users, of which international users still only account for only 40% of total. As Tinder continues to expand overseas and international users become the majority, Match group's revenue growth could accelerate since its international user base is growing at close to 40% compared to N. America's growth of 15%.
Outside of Match, IAC also owns some prominent assets like Vimeo and HomeAdvisor, whose businesses are expected to accelerate growth in the coming years. As a result, both IAC & Match Group’s fundamentals seem strong going forward. Interested readers can learn more from each company's respective investor-relations websites in the link.
Dating apps searched were limited to those apps that contained dating specific features. Most were ranked in both lifestyle and social networking categories. To accurately gauge their relative popularities, apps were compared based on the average monthly download ranking in 2017 from 11 countries: Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, India, and Philippines. The average of the rankings for each month in 2017 was used to determine their popularity within each country.
*Views expressed here represent those of the author’s alone. This article is not a recommendation to take any type of action in the financial market.