Many people don’t want to say they’ve met their partner on a dating app, Abolfathi explained, but something like Azar might not have the same negative association, since it’s not really akin to, say, Tinder
If you don’t pay for those add-ons, you’ll easily find yourself chatting with someone on another continent. Prince said that, aside from people in Turkey, he’s spoken to users in Hong Kong, Thailand, India, and France. Part of the novelty of Azar is the ability to flirt across borders: The app has embedded Google Translate’s API, which allows speakers of different languages to send translated messages in real time.
“Spending time on Azar is [a way of] coping with stress for me, as I’m in the middle of finishing my thesis,” said Ulfa, a graduate student from Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province, who heard about the app from a close friend and asked to use only her first name for privacy reasons. She’s rarely connected with other users in Indonesia, talking instead to foreigners who help her practice English. “Most of the users on live video here are Turkish men,” she said.
Hyperconnect is based in Seoul, but 99% of Azar’s user base is outside of South Korea, according to the company. That makes the app one of only a few Korean social media platforms to prioritize international users. While official demographics are not publicly available, the app’s public paigns, interviews with users, and hours spent on the platform suggest some of Azar’s main markets include Turkey, India, the Gulf states, and Southeast Asia.
On YouTube, for example, Azar’s official channel has published dozens of promotional videos in Turkish, including one that garnered more than 38 million views. Notably missing from the global pool of conversation candidates are people from Match Group’s home turf in North America – Ulfa said she’s never spoken to a user in the U.S., even though the app is available there.
In the last two years, Match Group has made efforts to reach more users abroad. In 2019, the company announced it would hire 40% more employees in Asia. The hiring spree coincided with the launch of localized paigns in Korea and India, the opening of a new office in Jakarta and Seoul, and the appointment of devoted leadership for its Middle East and Asia operations. “With more than 400 million singles outside of North America and Europe, two-thirds have not yet tried a dating product,” the company said in a press release at the time.
Match Group has a history of aggressively buying up its competitors, most famously Tinder and Hinge (it also tried and failed to acquire Bumble). Still, it’s not clear exactly how a “social discovery” app might factor into the company’s long-term ambitions. Match declined to answer questions about the acquisition and pointed to its official press release.
Bringing apps originally built for American users to local dating cultures in Asia and the Middle East has been a challenge for Match Group
“There is still a stigma [with] online dating in Asian ple, a market like the U.S.,” said Abolfathi, the business professor. Azar, though, may provide one way to circumvent that problem.
“Going beyond dating and trying to frame you can find out more it as a platform for conversations with another person may be a way to convert noncustomers to customers in the Asian market,” she said.
“I don’t know, it’s just like talking to people, and all of them are men,” she explained. “If the conversation is really going well, it may go further than friendship. I can’t trust people easily on here; it’s more like they talk sweet to me, or they just flirt.”
Much of that revenue is likely driven by in-app purchases. When users tap through Azar, they’re greeted by a barrage of prompts encouraging them to buy Gems – tokens used to acquire everything from stickers and virtual gifts to extra daily matches. Users can also pay $ to gain “VIP” status, which allows them to narrow matches down according to stated gender and country (the cost may vary in different markets).