Learning to love: Singles in India turn to dating coaches

Valentine’s Day looms. But what about those who haven’t been so lucky in love? In India, more singles are turning to relationship coaches who run courses and cohort-based programmes to make dating fun again

February 11, 2023 03:10 pm | Updated February 20, 2023 12:13 pm IST

A screenshot of Harshveer Jain’s (inset) programme on navigating dating

A screenshot of Harshveer Jain’s (inset) programme on navigating dating

Love at first ‘swipe’ is not for the faint hearted. Especially not with the spectre of ghosting, breadcrumbing or emotional unavailability looming large. Enter the relationship coaches, offering cohort-based courses or programmes in an attempt to make dating and finding love a healthier and happier experience. But how successful are they?

Matchmaker and relationship coach Radhika Mohta, who offers a two-week long programme priced at Rs 12,000

Matchmaker and relationship coach Radhika Mohta, who offers a two-week long programme priced at Rs 12,000

Radhika Mohta’s ‘Dating Accelerator’, for instance, is designed for singles aged 25 and above. The two-week long online programme includes frequent two-hour long group interactive sessions online. Launched in January 2023 and priced at ₹12,000, it aims to help people gain clarity on their personality and attachment style, while also helping them fine tune a dating profile that will attract better matches. “This is for anyone who wants to get ready for their last first date,” says Radhika, a Bengaluru-based matchmaker and relationship coach.

In December 2022, Gurgaon-based Harshveer Jain too launched a similar two-week programme called haveyoumeturself, on Mingout, a community driven social app of which he is the co-founder. Though priced at ₹1,999, early bird discounts could bring the price down to ₹699, and includes two hours of at-home content and one interactive session.

February is the month of love, so it is no surprise that both programmes have their second batches starting soon. Radhika, in fact, says she had no plans for doing any until April but gave in to the rising demand.

But neither of the programmes, they both stress, are matchmaking avenues. “The promise isn’t that your dating life will change. You still may not meet many people and you still may not marry for two years. But you might just be a happier, healthier person because you would have learned things about yourself. Rejection won’t feel as bad when you know what you are seeking,” explains Harshveer, who is also the face behind the popular Instagram comics account @storysellercomics, which has a following of over 4,00,000.

Mumbai-based dating coach Pratik Jain, who only offers 1:1 programmes for men

Mumbai-based dating coach Pratik Jain, who only offers 1:1 programmes for men

They say love can make your world go round. The search for it too can make people run in dizzying circles. “Even though the larger narrative of dating is casual these days, most men and women will happily give it up if they find a reciprocal relationship with someone who delights them day in and day out,” says Pratik Jain, a Mumbai-based dating coach with a following of over 10,000 on Instagram (@a.note.to.men). His offerings are 1:1 sessions only for men. A two-day course would ring up a bill of ₹32,000, while the six-months one is priced at ₹42,000. “The fact that I am thriving is not good news. Dating has just gotten so complex,” he says.

Case in point: G Arun Prasaad is curious about why Cupid’s arrow missed him. The 31-year-old says he is seeking a “serious relationship” but his search for love proved to be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack on dating apps, while arranged marriage portals were nothing short of a “fish market”. “People were considering everything from religion to caste, except for compatibility between two people,” he says.

Tired of algorithms running the show, Prasaad turned to Mingout’s cohort-based programme to get an answer to where he was going wrong. “I didn’t learn anything genuinely new,” says the content developer, adding, “But it did put some things into perspective, which clicked into place on a date I went on recently.”

That is precisely what these programmes aim to do, by shifting the focus on an individual. “If daters don’t understand what they are looking for, they will leave others confused,” explains Radhika, who became a full-time matchmaker four years ago. “I don’t want to sound unromantic, but for all practical purposes, each one of us would like to partner with somebody. The stars align when you are willing to let someone in and are in the right headspace,” she says.

Simply put, these courses aren’t a compass that point you to ‘The One’. They could instead teach you to read the map of your own emotions, needs and wants. Which is why Radhika’s course has elements that help people identify self-sabotaging beliefs and how to work on those triggers.

But how does one track progress of such intangible concepts, especially when all of it takes place online through group video calls? Well, what’s a course without some homework. Courses include shooting new photographs for a dating profile, having conversations with couples in healthy relationships about what keeps them going, and so on. “These sessions provide a safe space. So when one participant admits to deleting his ex’s number after two years or someone looks back at their past relationship and realises they might not have been a great husband, I consider it progress,” says Radhika.

For Amala Krishnamurty*, the sessions resulted in a more active participation in social events, courtesy the module on designing a social life. The 37-year-old didn’t necessarily meet someone to date but found reassurance in knowing there are prospects out there.

It’s a man’s world

There is no denying that these programmes cater only to those looking for heterosexual relationships. Yet, even in those, the ratio is skewed more towards men. In Harshveer’s inaugural batch, only 10 out of the 70 participants were women. Radhika too finds 80% men in her sessions.

“Men have a hard time figuring out why they aren’t getting matches on dating apps, so they are more open to decoding this,” she says.

Pratik echoes a similar thought. According to him, while women face problems with a specific person, “men’s troubles, by and large, are about women in general.” “There’s also the problem of men not knowing what they want or the kind of relationship they seek. Women are more sorted in that aspect,” he says.

The million dollar question, however, is if these programmes are worth it. Perhaps one way of thinking of it is like the romantic version of professional upskilling. Harshveer is hesitant to call it so but says, “It’s more about understanding yourself and unlearning inherent biases. Doing a course won’t automatically get you more dates. But you can become a better person overall,” he says, even offering customers a 100% money back guarantee.

Adds Harshveer, “I do think romance is the only human pursuit worth having. Everything else just makes you a living being but love makes you alive.”

*Name changed upon request

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