Finding Love

What happens when a publisher and a dating app play matchmaker? Almost nothing.

Penguin Random House joined hands with Tinder to help bookworms in Delhi find each other – and, maybe, buy books together.

Modern love is the publisher's enemy. The dating ritual leaves no room for reading. Books? Swipe left.

Perhaps that's why Penguin Random House decided to join its foes instead of fighting them, announcing a partnership with Tinder, the popular dating app. But to do what, exactly?

Answer: to help booklovers in Delhi meet and to “promote book reading and literature” (that can't be what it's called these days) at its annual literary and cultural festival, Spring Fever 2016, which ended on March 20. Hook up over a book, in other words.

What began as a brainstorm over how to promote Penguin Random House's romances through conversation and discussion eventually led to the association with Tinder – though with a chaste objective: encourage love, for reading. (Yeah, right.) Or, in corporatespeak, as Hemali Sodhi, senior vice-president and publisher (children), Penguin Random House India, puts it: "We're making books and writers discoverable to a new set of converted and potential readers in the hope that this will also lead to larger conversations and interactions around books and reading."

And what would be in it for Tinder? Here's a hypothesis: the app might have got circumspect people, normally wary of finding dates online, to sign on. After all, who doesn't want to find love over favourite books and authors?

Maybe, just maybe, not too many people.

Those who do, though, were matched last week on Tinder – if they were from Delhi – with a 25-year-old piece of eye-candy named Spring Fever. (Insert rolling eyes.) Introducing "it"self with with this irresistible come-on: "If you love settling down with a good book, and are maaaayybe hoping to meet someone who loves the same books you do, Swipe Right for Spring Fever. <3"

In case anyone swiped right after that, they were invited by Mr or Ms Fever, as the case might be, to meet at the festival. Smooth! Not.

They would then have headed to India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, where a Tinder Nook (yup, you read that right) had been set up by PRH and Tinder with the aim of giving lovebirds a cosy corner to get to first base with their books and each other.

Reality check: the Tinder Nook turned out to be nothing more than a two-feet-long seating cushion, with a few pillows thrown around with the Tinder logo painted on them. The placement of the nook in one corner of the overcrowded amphitheatre didn't really scream “private”.

It is safe to assume that those – anyone? – showing up to meet their Tinder book dates would definitely not have been hanging out at the nook trying to find out about each other's hobbies.

On most days the corner was occupied by those who were attending the festival with no romantic interest. Occupying the cushion with the aggression normally reserved for the Delhi Metro during rush hour, they seemed unlikely to consider giving up their seats even in the event of an earthquake, never mind Tinder lovebirds.

According to Taru Kapoor, head, Tinder India, the whole thing was quite a success, with "many users connecting at the Tinder Nook and also making new friends". Personally, we saw no evidence of any nooking or hooking.

But then it wasn't a "dating event" anyway, clarified Tinder. (Now you tell us!) The idea apparently to just enable like-minded people to “meet up”, even make a new friend. Sure! Because those with profiles on Tinder have friendship on their minds. Which is why most men post pictures of their (if they have them) six-pack abs. To make friends.

In a bid to make it more attractive, two Tinder users also had the chance to hang out with two celebrity-turned book writers, Gulzar and Sonali Bendre at the Tinder Nook on the last day of the festival. And as it turned out, most on the app seemed keen on registering to win one-on-one time with the one and only Gulzar.

So, what could in theory have been a way to find a date with common interests – or, the next best thing, a new friend – turned into something else altogether. It was a little bewildering to discover that the most popular man on Tinder that week was… Gulzar.

Of course, those who might have actually managed to get a date probably (and very understandably) stayed far away from the Tinder Nook.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.