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In this modern day, love alone is often not enough to make a relationship last – TheSugarBook, Malaysia’s first sugar dating platform, is Darren Chan’s solution to helping people find love based on their exact lifestyle needs.

What is love?

The romantic would identify with the emotions, the pragmatic would pick out the compatibility. The businessman in Darren Chan sees it as a little bit of both but always with the opportunity to be made better, stronger and longer lasting with a little financial security.

“Love is not enough,” is his steadfast opinion on romance. “Sometimes you need a lot more than love for relationships to work out. Love is a huge bonus. If you can find somebody whom you love and loves you back, and give you the financial support, then why not?”

Therein lies the basis to his app, TheSugarBook, Malaysia’s first sugar dating platform promising to help you find love based on your lifestyle choice and spending needs so it saves everyone the hassle – and heartbreak – of meeting the right one at the wrong time, or financial status.

Its name and concept come with a heavy pricetag laden with taboo and stigma, but Darren would like to set the record straight, beginning with the very basis of every relationship.

“Every relationship boils down to a transaction,” he points out. “Back then people married for political alliances, it’s not uncommon for people today to marry for business ventures. At the end of the day, again, we come back to financial security.”

“TheSugarBook is just another platform empowering individuals to find love on their own terms, backed by transparency and honesty.”

Love that’s run on honesty and transparency

It is an unconventional industry to get into but the conventional has never piqued the interest of the Penang-born, Melbourne-bred serial entrepreneur.

His first venture was a similar online marketplace that hooked businesses with musicians and artistes together called GigFairy. Now that that’s been sold to the Tune Group under the leadership of Adib Khalid, Darren’s got his eyes on the dating scene.

“Since I was young, I had a crazy interest for solving things,” he muses. “I came across the online dating industry and upon doing a little research, found data that suggested that 40% of people choose the criteria of financial security before getting into relationships.  Once I saw that, I knew it was clear – this was how we were going to be different from the big boys like Tinder and Match.com.”

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TheSugarBook today provides the opportunity for its current 60,000 members to find their idea of the perfect love, undeterred by the financial lackings.

“We have the expected students and young adults, as well as divorcees and single parent, basically people to whom financial support is as important as love,” Darren tells.

Offering love in exchange for monetary gains sounds like the basis of another business – that of the oldest in the world – but Darren is quick to point out the big difference in TheSugarBook’s case.

“Escorts, or prostitutes, if you will, and sugar babies are two very different things,” tells Darren. “Sugar babies know what they want in life and how to get it. Most importantly, sugar babies have the freedom of choice to choose who they want to be with in a relationship. Like you and I, they are not forced to do what they do not want to do.”

More than that, TheSugarBook is an open marketplace run on honesty and transparency so no one is fooled into a relationship based on anything else. From the start, members lay down the rules for what both respective parties want so no one is disappointed or disillusioned. Love is complicated enough on its own; if anything, TheSugarBook hopes to uncomplicate the complicated and help today’s busier generation find love.

“Try and fathom this notion: why can men choose women for their youth and beauty but why can’t women choose men for their success and financial securities?” he ultimately implores.

“Money is not everything, but a lot of things have to do with money”

Perhaps the previous sentence may have come across as a little sexist – TheSugarBook is far from that. It welcomes men and women alike to be sugar babies; all they need to do is sign up.

Quite the contrary to being sexist, Darren insists TheSugarBook is all for women empowerment.
“We always encourage our sugar babies to lay down the terms and conditions before anything else,” explains Darren. “What we’re trying to do here is for women to tell people what they want so they can experience the kind of like that you want to have when you get the right partner.”

The real oppression lies in the stigmatisation of a woman who chooses to be with a man solely for his money.

“The stigma is actually applied by society. There is nothing wrong with a woman knowing what she wants in her life and going after it,” Darren elaborates.

On the scales of morals and dignity, Darren leaves it up to the members themselves, as anyone who is part of a relationship – sugar status or otherwise – are subjected to.

“What we’re encouraging is simply self-love,” he clarifies. “We never dictate what they have to do. What we’re providing is a platform to help him or her better get what they want – there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Returning to the initial question of ‘what is love?’, different individuals will have equally as many varied ideas of it.

For Darren, it is simple: “What is love but a transaction?”

We see where he’s coming from – you get together with someone for perhaps his companionship, her intellect, his sense of humour, her exotic beauty.

What makes financial security so different from the above list of criteria?

As Darren puts it, “Money is not everything, but a lot of things have to do with money.”

Photography: Soon Lau of Awesome Image
Videography: Yap Khai Soon
Art direction: Gan Yew Chin

Grooming: Ling Chong

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