Forget online hook-ups, new services offer meaningful offline meet-ups

Two new services are helping committed couples and working professionals to strengthen their connections offline

If one is a singleton looking for love, there are plenty of fish in the digital sea. From Tinder to Paktor, there is a variety of apps and websites to help a person land a dream mate.

Friendship and communitybuilding apps have also gotten a boost in recent years, with apps such as Sup, Lunch Kaki, Wander and Motivatormob helping to connect bored or lonely young adults not looking for romantic entanglements.

In recent months, two new local businesses have set their sights on two groups of overlooked people: committed couples and working professionals.

Website DateFyx.com and app HeyMeet are looking to take online connections into the offline world, especially if it is a special date or a meaningful networking session that a person is after.

No longer does one have to trawl through outdated date-night guides or sites such as LinkedIn to find what one is looking for - let these home-grown companies do the work instead.


HeyMeet

These days, a working professional could have hundreds of connections via the business-oriented social-networking service LinkedIn. But it is equally likely that he or she has met only a handful of these contacts in real life.

The goal of new business-focused networking app HeyMeet is to take these business connections from the online to the offline world.

The first point of contact with other users on HeyMeet is when a person creates or joins an event - a way to encourage the app's 2,000 users to meet and converse in real life.

User-generated events can have a maximum of four participants and can be created just 24 hours beforehand, encouraging more spontaneous lunch or coffee networking sessions.

Up to 10 people can attend events created by HeyMeet, which are geared towards executives seeking more networking opportunities.

HeyMeet founder, German entrepreneur Erik Lorenz, feels this element of face-to-face interaction sets his app apart in the market.

"You can build connections and proper business networks really only when you meet someone face to face," the 38-year-old says.

"People who want to network also have higher expectations of what they want to get out of the meeting, so having an app with business networking as its focus helps to weed out people who might have other agendas."

To keep the app professional, users upload only one picture of themselves - unlike most social- networking apps, which allow a gallery of photographs to be displayed. The focus is instead on information such as education, occupation, skills and interests.

Users can use filters, such as industry and gender, when creating a networking event to target a more specific audience.

To cater to more passive users, who might be hesitant to create their own event or meet a stranger for lunch, HeyMeet offers its own weekly networking events. It has an industry-expert programme, in which business professionals from large multinational companies and successful start-ups share insights with the app's users.

Mr Lorenz's long-term goal is for HeyMeet to become a one-stop portal for business networking - whether it is a meet-up at a business conference or a spontaneous lunch.

"Many times, people use different apps for networking, some specific to certain events or conferences," he says. "But the benefit of having your meetings set up on one app is you are more likely to maintain these new connections and stay in touch, long after your lunch or business conference is over.


DateFyx.com

For years, as an architect with the luxury-hotel group Banyan Tree, Ms Meenakshi Sharma spent her time thinking about how to perfect the honeymoon experience for couples. Ironically, in her personal life - caught between the demands of work and home, raising two children and maintaining a social life - time with her husband ended up taking a hit.

Ms Sharma, 37, and her husband Prasoon Kumar, 39, eventually mandated Thursday breakfasts and Saturday dinners as their weekly date sessions, but it was only upon talking to family and close friends that she realised she was not alone in facing this conundrum.

"One friend told me she hadn't been out alone with her husband for nearly 15 years - the children always tagged along and family time was prioritised over couple time," she says.

"Others said even their date nights had a routine and they often didn't know what to talk about to each other, other than work or kids. It's this problem that I wanted to address with DateFyx."

She left her job last September to focus on the project full time. The website, which was launched in December, operates like a one- stop-shop for a perfect date night: Think unique, out-of-the-box experiences, such as a private yacht charter or perfume-making class for two.

Also available are bespoke date-night options - where a meal and activity are specifically planned for customers - and a free weekly date-night guide, offering a curated list of fun activities for couples to do together. Prices start at $130 for a ceramic-making workshop and upwards of $299 for a bespoke date-night experience for two.

So far, the service has been taken up by about 12 clients, and Ms Sharma says the numbers are picking up slowly but steadily.

Ms Nalanda Dasgupta, 36, used the site in February to book a private yacht charter for her husband's birthday.

"Meenakshi also arranged for a full Mediterranean meal for us on board and went the extra mile to ensure there were vegan options for my husband and meat options for me. I was very impressed, given she had just one day to pull it all together," she says.

For Ms Sharma, it is the bonds of love and marriage that she hopes to strengthen with her business.

"There are lots of options for singles, but when you are married or have been in a relationship for a while, you need to put in more effort to keep things fun," she says.

"What I wanted was to offer a place where the stress of planning a date night is taken off your plate. That way, all you need to do is show up and enjoy yourself."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 04, 2017, with the headline 'Forging bonds offline'. Print Edition | Subscribe