When Shivam Kaushik started thinking of his new app, he wanted to offer something that promises a safe environment by letting people from the LGBTQ+ community book a restaurant for a first date. “There are a lot of scammers and groups active out there on LGBTQ+ dating apps who usually loot users and then mentally and physically harass them,” explains Kaushik, now co-founder of Glii.
Launched in 2020, Glii focuses on safety, something rival apps like Tinder and Grindr have failed to address. “There are a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community in India who end up meeting the wrong person on these dating apps,” Kaushik tells indianexpress.com over a Zoom call.
Apps like Grindr, with over 13 million monthly users worldwide, were initially pitched as platforms where queer men could connect. But of late, there has been a surge in cases of exploitation on these apps.
While platforms like Grindr may provide gay men with temporary relief from their anxiety and loneliness, the platform has always been seen as a casual dating site. Of course, there have also been cases where users have made a genuine connection that has turned into a serious relationship.
Glii, Kaushik says, is for those who are seriously looking for a friend or relationship. “We are giving you a match, we are giving you a restaurant,” he adds. Having worked with the Oberoi Group and Marriott International, Kaushik wanted to merge dating and hospitality in his app. Once you get a match, you can book a restaurant on the Glii app, and meet in a “safe” spot. Instead of inviting a stranger home or agreeing to go to his place, meeting at a restaurant offers both a chance to figure out if there is chemistry before taking it to the next level.
The Glii app, founded by Kaushik along with Teya Sharma, Rohit Sharma and Ankur Chawla, has so far 45,000 downloads and 15,000 monthly active users. The app is free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play store with a paid version that offers more features. The 10-person team behind the app has members from the LGBTQ+ community to bring in the right sensibilities.
A tie-up with restaurant aggregator EazyDiner, gives Glii access to over 8000 restaurants in India. These are still all LGBTQ+ friendly restaurants, but the plan is to have a safe zone within select restaurants earmarked for Glii users.
Meanwhile, Glii is taking the help of Athi, an NGO that works for the LGBTQ+ community, to start sensitising staff towards these guests. For now, a majority of users are from tier-1 and tier-2 cities, Kaushik reveals.
Glii uses AI to learn a user’s behaviour and then recommends a suitable match. There is also a mechanism to filter out fake profiles and also for users to report such identities. “We ask everyone to behave decently on our app, otherwise, they will be blocked,” he says.
Glii has so far raised Rs 1 crore, though it’s been a tough ride. “Some of them were not comfortable putting their money in while others wanted to wait a few months to see the growth of the app,” the 28-year-old said. Given that same-sex couples still find it tough to enter pubs and cafes in India, the long term plan is to open Glii cafes.