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For dating apps in Asia, love by numbers or chaperone

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Too shy to make eye contact in bars as a singleton, the 26-year-old turned to apps similar to Tinder, which boasts tens of millions of active users, where photos of potential matches are instantly liked or rejected/FILE

Too shy to make eye contact in bars as a singleton, the 26-year-old turned to apps similar to Tinder, which boasts tens of millions of active users, where photos of potential matches are instantly liked or rejected/FILE

HONG KONG, China, Jul 29 – Move over Tinder – a crop of dating apps in smartphone-addicted Asia is offering to recruit friends for group dates or send along a chaperone to steer the course of romance.

While dating apps developed in the West encourage one-on-one, often no-strings-attached meetings, many in Asia are as much about old-school courtship or friendship in a region where meeting a stranger in a bar can still be a taboo.

“My upbringing was very close to my parents, religious, traditional and old-fashioned. You couldn’t go on dates if your parents didn’t know the guy,” said Valenice Balace, who developed the Peekawoo service in the Philippines two years ago.

“I grew up with chaperoned dates and even when I was in college my kid sister was always with me on dates.”

Too shy to make eye contact in bars as a singleton, the 26-year-old turned to apps similar to Tinder, which boasts tens of millions of active users, where photos of potential matches are instantly liked or rejected.

But after one man suggested he come to her house after their first online conversation, Balace realised the set-up was not for her.

And so the Filipina entrepreneur created an app which not only discouraged users from meeting one-on-one but also offered a chaperone service for those who requested it.

As Peekawoo expanded – it now has around 7,000 members – it was no longer practical for the small company to provide a chaperone for every couple who asked for one, and so Balace’s team started organising meetups instead.

It is a model shared by Hong Kong-based app Grouvly, which sets up groups of six people for dates.

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