As You Are, a homegrown social networking and matchmaking app exclusively for Indian queer people of various gender identities and sexual orientations, founded by Chandigarh-based entrepreneur Sunali Aggarwal in June 2020, has raised a funding of 250K USD in Compulsorily Convertible Debentures (CCDs; a form of capital that must be converted to equity after the maturity time) from queer couples who are angel investors and also Indian-origin entrepreneurs from the marketing space.
Sunali is a UX designer and ex-co-founder of Mobikwik.com. After the landmark 2018 judgment striking down Section 377, she heard from a few friends about the lack of safe online dating space for Indian LGBTQ+ people. These conversations prompted her to embark on a new venture – As You Are, a matchmaking app exclusively built for Indian Queer community.
Sunali Aggarwal says: “After being faced with some hesitation among Indian investors, ‘As You Are’ sought investors overseas. We found our first-ever partner to raise investments via Owain Morgan. Coming from the private equity space, Morgan partnered with us and helped raise Angel money via Compulsory Convertible Debentures, which is largely from queer couples and Indian-origin entrepreneurs in the US.”
The app’s first investor, Shivan Durbal, an Indian entrepreneur based in the US, shares: “I love what As You Are is doing to help the community, helping develop meaningful relationships in a safe and long-lasting way. I think the team will come to realize and exceed the goals they’ve set for themselves and their consumers. That’s why I’ve invested hard-earned capital to help them grow, which the community needs, and I hope it permeates more markets over time. While I hope for profit, I also hope for the impact it makes.”
Owain Morgan, Partner, As You Are, says: “India is early in the process of being much more accepting of LGBTQ+ relationships. We’ve seen these transformations in other countries and once they begin, what was unthinkable a decade ago becomes the new normal. Till now India lacked a significant online social platform that serves all LGBTQ+ people, as As You Are understands the challenges that are unique to India in bringing the community together, from the diversity of culture and language across such a vast country to the hesitancy to come out and the social risk it entails. LGBTQ+ people are whole people and have a multitude of needs and wants, and bringing them together as whole people was important to us.” Morgan is a US-based gay man, happily married and living with his partner and two adopted kids.
Although the platform began as a dating app, with ‘Matchbox’ being its prime feature, Sunali soon realized that the community needed an avenue for safe conversations and more than a space for swiping profiles.
A key differentiator setting apart ‘As You Are’ is its manual verification of profiles, to ensure that all profiles on the app are genuine. Besides matchmaking, users can try new features like ‘Group Chat‘ and ‘WE, As You Are Community‘ to connect with other queer users.
In ‘WE, As You Are Community’, members can take part in discussions with like-minded individuals that encourage them to be their true queer self, whether it’s a judicial news discussion or venting about erroneous queer representation in movies. The second feature, ‘Group Chat’ is a place for members to engage in chat in invite-only groups created based on similar interests or hobbies, be it gaming or baking.
As You Are can be downloaded from the Play Store.