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    A Chinese Bike-Share App Is Now Doubling as a Matchmaker

    China’s competitive matchmaking market has a new entrant with hundreds of millions of existing users.

    A Chinese bike-sharing company wants its riders to share more than just bicycle rides. It wants to match them with each other romantically.

    Hello Inc. is now tapping into the country’s matchmaking and marriage market, offering the service to its 530 million riders. The feature, available on its mobile app, shows that 3,800 Hellobike users have found dates through the feature since it was introduced in late August.

    The bike’s matchmaking service comes just as the country’s “sharing economy” — including companies such as Hello Inc. — have been raising their rental fees to keep up with inflation. The feature also suggests that the company may be wanting to help young people — roughly 70% of its 300 million riders in 2019 were born after the ’80s and ’90s — find romance at a time when China’s marriage and birth rates are at their lowest.

    Hello Inc. declined to comment when reached by Sixth Tone on Monday.

    Zhang Yi, consulting CEO and chief analyst at research market firm iiMedia, told Sixth Tone that adding matchmaking services could be one of Hello Inc.’s efforts to commercialize its massive user base. China’s online dating market was worth 7.2 billion yuan ($992 million) in 2021 and is expected to reach 8.1 billion yuan this year, according to research agency BigData-Research.

    “While WeChat has dominated China’s social networking demand among acquaintances, there’s a gap in the market for networking among strangers,” he said.

    China’s online matchmaking market, targeting those looking for serious relationships and potentially marriage, is dominated by the likes of Baihe Jiayuan, Zhenai, and Youyuan. But the sector faces stiff competition from a crowded pool of dating apps, such as Momo and Soul, which have become popular for the country’s youth in finding dates.

    Most of those platforms, however, have strict user identity verification mechanisms, as the country’s cyber authorities crack down on rising instances of scams and pornography on such sites. But while some bikers are still ready to ride along with Hello’s matchmaking feature, others are skeptical if a bike-sharing company is likely to help them find their soulmates.

    “Even though I’m not a heavy user of Hello Bike, I would be open to such a feature because it could be a good way to get to know more people,” Jill Shen, a 33-year-old from Shanghai, told Sixth Tone. “But what I value about matchmaking platforms is the quality of their users since I’m looking for a boyfriend who would hopefully be my future husband.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: People collect Hello Inc. bicycles in Shanghai, April 26, 2021. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images/VCG)