'These online dynamics stem from offline India, where pressure to get married by a certain age is generally greater on girls than on boys,' says Ashish Sharma.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
With the Sensex hovering above the 30,000 milestone, it was time to test my market value in the online world.
What better way to do so than on dating sites, where we are valuable to the extent that others think we are.
For example, one day the online dating market might value deep-set eyes, the next day wide-set eyes.
Online dating, therefore, is perhaps the clearest example of market principles in the world of romance.
Through it, we give a description of ourselves (goods supplied) and a description of what we want (goods demanded).
Here's a description of goods I supply on a paid dating app called Floh: 'Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, presenting (thunder of drums, blow of trumpets) Ashish Sharma: A journalist, a columnist, a copy editor, all rolled into one handsome, athletic, not-so-tall form (not so short either, think Tom Cruise).'
Suppliers like me are then matched up with consumers by the Web site (broker).
We then go on a first date (trial period) to see if we want to trade, exclusively, on a long-term basis (marriage).
Here is a true example from December 2016.
'Hi Neha (name changed). Press guy here. Liked your profile picture as well as write-up.'
'Thanks! Let's catch up next weekend?'
'Okay, next weekend.'
A few days later. 'Hey Ashish. I am free to meet tomorrow. New Friends Colony Community Centre? My number is 99582*****, let’s coordinate over the phone.'
A few minutes later. 'Er...This may come across as weird, but what's your height?'
'I am in the region of Tom Cruise, 5 feet 7.5 inches.'
'Well, I am more like Nicole Kidman, 5 feet 10 inches.'
'Is height a deal breaker for you?'
'Ashish, let's meet up anyway.'
Neha is 28. So am I.
But on Floh, I enjoy more market power than her, going by the messages above.
Two observations: One, most girls around 28 on the app are much less picky than those in their early 20s; two, girls in the late 20s are ready to lower their eligibility criteria for boys, Neha being fairly representative of the 28 to 30 age group.
Most girls in the early 20s, by contrast, get seriously picky and don't lower eligibility their bar.
These online dynamics stem from offline India, where pressure to get married by a certain age is generally greater on girls than on boys.
They say girls be married by 28, boys by 32.
This real-life pressure distorts the online dating market, conferring more market power on boys who are 28 and above than on girls in the 28 to 30 bracket.
For example, when Neha loosened up on the height criterion, 'Ashish, let's meet up anyway', I thought my luck had changed.
The 28 year old was absolutely gorgeous, long hair, intense eyes. But how could this be? I seemed to have lucked out.
Well, not really.
This lowering of standards is like an e-commerce site cutting prices to increase shoppers.
Thus, Neha changes her perception of who is eligible to bring more guys into her online dating pool before time to marry runs out on her.
In other words, real-life pressure acts on Neha and affords me greater market power in online dating.
Even though we are both the same age, I will hold out for an 80 per cent perfect woman on the app, but Neha will make do with a 60 per cent perfect man (shorty in this case).
These tendencies show on paid Indian dating apps like Floh, where boys barely need to message girls in their late 20s to get in their cross-hairs.
Remember, 'Thanks! Let's catch up next weekend?' came up in Neha's very first message.
On the other hand, girls in their early 20s can get picky.
For example, a 23 year old's dating profile reads: 'Master's degree or more; no smokers; no alcoholics; no gamblers; height 5 feet 10 inches and above; more than a year of dating before marriage; sporty; annual salary over Rs 20 lakh; age 26-32; willing to guarantee eating four dinners at home per week; at least two ex-girlfriends; but no more than four; no Virgos, no Capricorns.'
Except for three little secrets, I actually meet her criteria.