As Covid-19 lockdowns spurred the popularity of dating apps across the globe, in India, they opened the door for Muzz. A marriage-focused dating app for Muslim youth, Muzz has over 8 million members from more than 190 countries. But it has struggled to replicate its global success in India, home to the world’s third-largest Muslim population. 

In 2019 and 2020, Muzz saw higher year-on-year growth in app download rates in India compared to its global performance, according to app analytics platform In 2019, its Google Play and App Store downloads increased by 139% year-on-year in India, and in 2020, they rose by nearly 190%. But the app’s growth seems to be slowing over the last two years. Muzz’s chief marketing officer, Sim Ahmed, declined to comment on the numbers. “Muzz’s record-highest year for growth was 2021, with a modest decline in new members in 2022,” he told Rest of World. “Looking at the 2023 trends in India, Muzz should have another record year if we extrapolate that out.” Ahmed did not share any data to support his statement. 

“We don’t date. We get people married.”

Poor user experience and a lack of complete encryption are among the main reasons for the app’s sinking popularity in India, Muzz users and cybersecurity experts told Rest of World

“It’s no different than Tinder or the rest. Within a few days of making a profile, my DMs had their fair share of dick pics,” a content manager, who had used Muzz on and off between 2017 and 2019, told Rest of World. She requested anonymity to protect her identity.

Muzz has over 230,000 users in India, Ahmed claimed, without clarifying if these were monthly active users. He said the app has facilitated over 2,000 marriages in the country. “We want to make sure we do things in India in a way that respects Indian Muslims, respects their Indianness and Muslimness, and we come there with the right message and at the right time. All of that is happening [at the back end],” Ahmed said.

Nearly 50% of India’s population is under 25 years, making the country the second-largest market for dating apps, second only to the U.S. In 2020, dating apps generated around $323 million for global players, including Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and Hinge, who have also invested in the Indian market’s potential. Muzz, founded in 2015 by a London-based former investment banker, Shahzad Younas, wants a share of this pie.

In the Indian context, where dating is still largely taboo, Muzz’s unique selling proposition is potentially a great fit: “We don’t date. We get people married,” Younas told Rest of World. India is home to over 172 million Muslim people — ranking third after Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia and Pakistan — which gives the app a massive target market.

“If we look at comparisons within the market, Pakistan is the clearest comparison there,” Ahmed said. “That isn’t to say that there isn’t traction in India. It’s just that Pakistan has been an easier market for us.” Marketing Muzz dedicatedly to Indian users is “something we are looking at very soon,” he added.

According to Ahmed, around a third of Muzz users in India are women, in line with the app’s global user trend. For Indian Muslim women, the current sociopolitical environment is a concern when joining a dating app that specifically caters to a minority religion.

“Women are not safe [on Muzz]. Anyone can make and use a fake ID of me,” a Delhi-based professor, who said she had been duped by a fake account on Muzz, told Rest of World. The professor, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the details she shared, said she had agreed to marry a man she met on Muzz. He turned out to be an impersonator pretending to be a Muslim man based in London. This scam account swindled her of nearly $800, she said. 

In 2022, a group of conspirators scraped the internet for pictures of prominent Indian Muslim women and uploaded them to an app called Bulli Bai, listing them in an “auction” with the intent to humiliate them. Another app named Sulli Deals, hosted on GitHub, had held a similar “sale” in 2021, with social media handles of the women posted alongside photographs.

A screenshot from the MUZZ dating app.

The professor worries that her profile information “could be used in another Sulli Deals type of incident.”

When asked how the company plans to navigate these risks, Younas pointed towards Muzz’s selfie and ID verification features. These grant profiles verified badges, based on users’ photos and documents. These features, however, don’t mitigate the risk of image scraping, according to experts.

Muzz automatically censors inappropriate language while chatting, but the feature comes at a cost. The company has opted against complete message encryption to allow their moderators to read conversations that are flagged as offensive and take action, Younas told Rest of World. “Our ability to investigate a conversation, if someone’s inappropriate on the platform, serves way more to protect our members than if it was completely encrypted,” he said. Muzz has a global team of 25 women employees who handle moderation and safety. So far, this team has blocked over 400,000 accounts, Younas said.

This is a red flag, according to Kushal Das, director at American nonprofit Python Software Foundation and a Tor Project core team member. Tor is a network that anonymizes web traffic to provide private web browsing.

“When a company says they’re not going to encrypt anything so we can monitor it, that’s a super-large red flag,” Das told Rest of World. He expressed concerns over how Muzz might handle a server breach or a scenario where private information has leaked into the public domain. He emphasized that encryption needed to be the default setting, and that employees should never read users’ chats. “Can the company really say that any of their employees who have access to that data is not a stalker or will not misuse it?” 

A screenshot from the MUZZ dating app.

Callisto Adams, a relationship expert and author of Texting Beyond Basics: Electrified, believes that while Muzz’s intentions might be to make users feel safe, it can end up creating a very dangerous scenario by putting deeply personal information at risk. Instead of being a safe space for women, “it might have the opposite effect when knowing that your conversations are continuously being monitored,” Adams told Rest of World.

Since marriage is the premise, Muzz users are also often met with intrusive personal questions that reek of profiling. “Instead of icebreakers, people start with conversations like how much I make, what properties I own, and what caste I am before we even get to discuss hobbies and other personality aspects of a match,” Areeb Ahmed, a UX designer, told Rest of World.

Even as its user base has grown, Muzz has yet to show commitment to Indian Muslims’ well-being. In July 2022, Muzz had offered to cover the fines imposed on Muslim women for wearing burkinis in France. When asked if Muzz intended to support Indian Muslim women who have been fighting for their right to wear hijab at educational institutions, chief marketing officer Ahmed said, “Overall, we want to be able to support all Muslim women in expressing religious beliefs however they choose to.”

“In India, I think we could [support Muslim women]. But we haven’t explored that enough,” he said. “I don’t think we can talk too much about this because I don’t think we are qualified enough.”