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Inside Southeast Asia's First Dating Platform for Sugar Daddies

TheSugarBook, a Malaysia-based dating platform aimed at matching wealthy individuals with others who are interested in being lavished with expensive gifts, has attracted more than 55,000 users since its founding in late 2016.

The app connects “well established wealthy individuals,” aka Sugar Daddies or Mommies, who “wish to pamper Sugar Babies with financial support in return for love and companionship” and those who “appreciate the glamorous life indulging in the luxuries that life has to offer”, according to its website.

Functionally TheSugarBook, whose slogan is "where romance meets finance", is set up similarly to conventional dating apps like Tinder. Users create free profiles with pictures; biographical and physical information; and relationship expectations. Premium accounts allow users to see who viewed their profiles or “favorited” them as well as send unlimited messages and attend exclusive events.

According to a recent feature by Singaporean news outlet TODAY, the paid accounts cost US$49.95 a month for daddies/mommies and US$9.95 for babies, though those who signs up with a school email address gets a free premium account thanks to a student program promoted as a "modern way to avoid student loan debt".

Users primarily come from Singapore and Malaysia as well as America, India and the Philippines, according to Says.com. About 70% of the members are females age 19 to 35 and often students, single mothers or divorcees. Men are typically 30 to 48 year old business executives with annual incomes of approximately US$360,000 and according to one surprised researcher, “pretty decent looking”.

The men and women who join seem to come with a variety of goals and agendas. Some see the app as purely transactional, such as one member who wrote in her profile "looking for monthly financial support of $4 to $6k with meet-ups once or twice a week," and a man who admitted: "I don't want to kid anyone here that I'm only seeking meaningful deep conversations with somebody beautiful and smart … Please don't contact me if you don't even enjoy sex."

Others seem less interested in merely trading physical intimacy for money or gifts. One 50-year-old widow revealed: "Other dating sites or apps make me feel like a dirty old man for trying but on TheSugarBook, the Sugar Babies I have met are very courteous and accommodating. I am financially well-off and have no issues with providing support for a 'friend' if she needs it.”

Some women say they are simply looking to pay for school or make ends meet while spending time with respectful men who can introduce them to experiences otherwise unavailable to them.

TheSugarBook was founded by 30-year-old Darren Chan. He says he created it as a lucrative means to merge his interests in technology and marketing. It is funded primarily by family and friends; and Chan hopes to soon reach 200,000 users. He is focused on expanding throughout Southeast Asia because of the region’s pragmatic views on relationships.

He told Esquire Malaysia“My satisfaction comes from knowing I connected people together for mutual, satisfactory, benefits. I really think that the platform, if you have to summarise it, just helps people to cut to the chase and focus on what’s important: money. I’m merely providing a platform for what is already happening out there.”

Government officials and representatives have been publicly speaking out against the app. Singapore Parliament member Tin Pei Ling, who is the deputy chairperson for the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for social and family development, said: "We should not let those profit-seekers capitalise on the vulnerability of our youths and exploit them."

Chan pushed back against claims that his app is facilitating prostitution or exploitation while noting that it doesn’t condone illegal activities. Members must be 18 years old to join, and they are not allowed to exchange nude photos, adult content or any forms of solicitation.


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