Paktor – Southeast Asia’s Premier Dating App

The success of an internet-based start-up depends on several factors. It needs to provide a service for which there is a strong demand, it should implement its business plan in an effective manner and most importantly, it should have the capability to scale up its operations so that the business can grow to the next level.

Paktor, a company that is barely three years old, has managed to tick all the right boxes. Started in 2013 by Joseph Phua, a Singaporean with a strong entrepreneurial streak, Paktor (the word means dating in Cantonese) has grown rapidly in popularity.

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The company’s dating app has been extremely well-received in Singapore, where it started operations, and in each of the other countries into which it has expanded.

Today, Paktor is wildly popular in Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. Currently, it has a user base that exceeds 7 million, a figure that is growing constantly.

Birth of an idea

How did Paktor start? Joseph Phua was a student of Singaporean origin studying in the United States when his girlfriend of eight years dumped him.

Exploring ways to meet new people, he came across dating app technology and realized that there could be a need for a service of this type in Southeast Asia.

When Joseph Phua returned to Singapore he had an impressive list of credentials under his belt. A BSc in Finance from the New York University Stern School of Business, an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and work experience at Citigroup and McKinsey & Company.

Initial problems

When Paktor first launched in Singapore, the app’s architecture was not robust enough to support the traffic that it attracted. The success of the concept led to a system crash.

Joseph Phua had anticipated that a few hundred or at most a couple of thousand people would log on. Instead, Paktor attracted 15 thousand hits soon after it was launched.

A good problem to have

Realizing that they had a winner on their hands, the Paktor team started building an app that could handle much larger volumes. Joseph Phua roped in an old primary school friend who had worked with Amazon to develop the app.

The friend insisted that the company’s initial app could not be fixed, and would need to be rebuilt from the ground up. But this required an infusion of a substantial amount of funds.

An initial amount of S$300,000 was raised from the founders’ families and soon S$3 million followed from Vertex Venture Holdings, a subsidiary of Singapore’s giant Temasek Holdings.

Currently, the app does 12 million monthly matches with the average user spending about 13 hours every month on Paktor. It also allows subscribers to send messages and gifts and see who has viewed and liked their profiles.

What led to Paktor’s spectacular growth?

How did Paktor practically become an overnight success? Was it a first-mover advantage? The implementation of a concept that had worked successfully in America? Or was it because meeting people through dating sites was slowly becoming acceptable in Southeast Asia?

The answer is a combination of all these and several other reasons. Paktor’s main selling point is its simplicity and the ease with which the app can be used.

Most of those who use the site prefer anonymity. Paktor utilizes a double-blind concept. This ensures user details are revealed to the other member only when both parties confirm that they like each other.

In addition to this, the app specifies the location of users, a feature that allows selecting people who are in the vicinity.

An added attraction is that the registration formalities on Paktor can be completed in a matter of seconds. There is no need to spend a great deal of time entering details about yourself.

Using Paktor is an uncomplicated and effortless process. The profile of the person that appears on the smartphone can be swiped either to the left or to the right. The former indicates that the user is not interested and the latter represents a ‘like’.

If the other person also swipes right for the same user, the app creates a pair, and in this way, brings like-minded people together. The two users can now message each other.

Paktor has filters for gender and age and allows members to browse invisibly. Usage has grown exponentially, with the app reaching a level of 12 million monthly matches and 500 million monthly swipes.

Launch of GaiGai

An offline version of Paktor has been launched to cater to those who want a dating platform that offers a more personalized service.

A relationship manager screens applicants and suggests matches based on a personal interview and the completion of an online profile.

After this stage of the process is completed, those who are interested in GaiGai’s services can purchase a dates package, which can be used to meet up with potential partners.

Scope for growth

Soon after Paktor started the business, venture capital funds realized that it was a company with great potential. The recurring subscription model for the app has met with immense demand and is a crucial revenue generator.

In the latest funding round, Paktor has received S$10 million from Majuven, Convergence Ventures, and Vertex.

The company is already exploring expansion into the Japanese and Korean markets.

Joseph Phua says, “We can now leverage the funds we have raised to turn our attention outside of the region, to the rest of Asia … we have a great opportunity to become the top dating brand globally.”