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Sanyam Sharma

Launched in 2012, Blued, the world’s largest gay dating social media app, is gradually gaining a strong foothold in India by normalising conversations and breaking stereotypes around the LGBTQ community through various content-led campaigns.

But the journey hasn’t been that easy. Even after the scrapping of Section 377, there’s no denying the fact that India still has a long way to go in terms of accepting and promoting the community, Sanyam Sharma, Marketing Director, Blued India, told BuzzInContent.

Sharma said it becomes quite challenging to associate with key opinion leaders and influencers for various campaigns as they shy away collaborating with brands that primarily focus on the LGBTQ space.

“The biggest challenge is that India is still a sensitive market when it comes to influencer-led campaigns. Many key opinion leaders shy away from associating with a brand that primarily focuses on the LGBTQ space. So, only a niche segment of influencers are open to spreading awareness about the brand. Through limited resources, we are trying to foster strong connections and break one stereotype at a time. We know we have a long way to go. But we also know we’re getting there, crossing one roadblock at a time,” he said.

The app believes radio has a huge potential to reach out to deeper pockets in India. Being a strong voice in fostering the LGBTQ community in India, and to create a real impact and address stereotypes, Blued recently collaborated with Red FM and launched India’s first-ever LGBTQ on-air show along with its standalone podcast.

Sharma said, “The idea was to connect with the community, reach out to our allies, normalise and create conversations around the community in India.”

As part of the show, Red FMM RJs Mandee and Kabir hosted a few of the strongest allies of the LGBTQ community such as Rishi Raj, Kamakshi aka India's LGBTQI matchmaker, Dutee Chand and influencer Siddhart Batra. These guests amplified the show on their social media channels, which led to a great reach in terms of numbers as well a diversified audience spectrum.

Sharma said, “From topics like ‘Being gay in Bollywood’ to ‘cross-dressing’, we invited strong voices who spoke passionately about their subjects and took a step towards normalising these conversations.”

The show was amplified across major podcast mediums such as JioSaavn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Red Fm app, Blued app and Spotify. The show was rated as the best LGBTQ-themed show by JioSaavn select.

Sharma said the idea behind each content-led association at Blued India is to give impetus to the idea of fostering a community. They want to make it easier for people to accept their sexuality and normalise their feelings. “We want to be a platform that not only focuses on vanilla matchmaking but goes one step forward to ensure we’re building a safe space for discussion. We have collaborated with influencers and YouTubers in the past to produce content that brings alive our vision for our community,” said Sharma.

The brand is highly focused on content marketing in comparison to traditional advertising. Sharma said since Blued’s main focus is to foster a community, they go one step ahead to reach out directly to its niche audience rather than focussing on traditional modes of advertising.

“We focus on putting out a lot of video content that ensures effective and powerful storytelling. To create offline conversations and a #FeelGood space for the youth, we actively go to colleges, participate in their fests and create fun on-ground content on behalf of the LGBTQ community and organise community-building movements through our associations. Content is a very crucial element for our marketing mix and we’re always looking at engaging with our members in fun ways,” Sharma said.

After the scrapping of section 377, the brand launched a campaign on Holi to portray the joy of the gay community in diverse colours. To date, the brand launches Holi anthems every year to celebrate the colours of the LGBTQ community. In the past, the gay dating app collaborated with some key faces in its community for an #AntiBullying campaign. This was a first-of-its-kind effort by a dating app. As part of the campaign, the brand created a video showcasing what the community goes through on a regular basis and how each one of us can support each other and speak up against bullying. On a regular basis, the app invites powerful voices such as Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi and Alpesh Soni to come and address the Blued community. The chat show is hosted by Palash Borah, CSR and Operations Manager at Blued India.

The app is also open to exploring web series integrations or short-form content collaborations with new-age publishers in India. Talking about the kind of content the brand wants to collaborate with, Sharma said, “The stories we choose to tell have to break stereotypes, be absolutely new, appeal to the woke audience and must have strong messages such as normalising same-sex marriages, giving impetus to the LGBTQ space in India and diversifying the queer culture.”

Marketing budget is no bar for the brand. “If it is reaching out to a newer audience, creating more brand awareness and generating goodwill, we at Blued are always happy to spend more,” concluded Sharma.