‘As You Are’, a homegrown social networking and matchmaking app has raised a funding of $250K in Compulsorily Convertible Debentures (CCDs), from queer couples who are angel investors and also Indian-origin entrepreneurs from the marketing space.
Founded by Chandigarh-based entrepreneur Sunali Aggarwal who earlier co-founded Mobikwik, the social network commonly known as AYA was made to cater to the Indian queer people of various gender identities and sexual orientations.
Having been exposed to the challenges of the LGBTQ+ community since her student days at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and later at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Aggarwal researched existing dating and social networking platforms and saw a clear gap in the market. She later founded AYA in June 2020.
However, Aggarwal experienced hesitation from Indian investors and then decided to seek investors abroad. She said, “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 AYA and helped the startup raise Angel money via Compulsory Convertible Debentures, 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 in the United States.
Owain Morgan, Partner, As You Are, said, "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."
Morgan is a US-based gay man, happily married and living with his partner and two adopted kids.
After the landmark 2018 judgment striking down Section 377, Aggarwal 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 the Indian Queer community.
Although the platform began as a dating app, with 'Matchbox' being its prime feature, Sunali soon realised that the community needed an avenue for safe conversations and more than a space for swiping profiles.
AYA now offers users new features like 'Group Chat', 'WE, and 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. 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.
AYA has over 25,000 downloads with individuals using this judgment-free platform to date, strike friendships, network, and interact with others who share the same interests and values.Apart from AYA, the queer community also has applications like Grindr, The Delta App, and Ok Cupid, among others for dating and social networking.