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Sexual wellness category tripped up by unclear e-comm guidelines

A year ago every other e-commerce player wanted a piece of the pie. One of the hottest categories to strike the virtual retail market, sexual wellness products, appears to have lost its allure. While Flipkart and Snapdeal have discontinued it, some niche players like Ohmysecrets.com have shut shop.
Many others are tweaking their business of selling erotic paraphernalia, or pushing operations out of India so as to circumvent the legal issues that have cloaked the market.
The sexual wellness category, which covers everything from condoms and lubricants to sex toys and erotic inner wear, is at a nascent stage in India. Currently at Rs 2,000 crore, the market is slated to cross Rs 20,000 crore by 2020, since consumers find it convenient to discreetly buy such products online.
However, over the past two years, several niche online players like Thatspersonal.com, shycart, privatelyurs.com and privypleasures, among others, have been desperately trying to resolve issues that have plagued their business. Though Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal had also latched on to the sexual wellness category, and had several products on offer, a series of raids by the Food and Drug Administration and legal suits for selling obscene products have forced the e-commerce majors to change their strategy.
Industry players allege that since there are no clear laws and guidelines set by the Indian government to cater to this category, the business is high risk.
Raj Armani, Founder of US-based IMbesharam, which is present in the Indian market and has former porn star Sunny Leone as its brand ambassador, said, “One of the few challenges that we face when doing business in Indian market is perception. Since the laws are unclear, and the perception of each individual with regards to the applicability of these laws are quite vague and based on their own beliefs, we have to face interruptions at all junctures. We have to keep explaining why these products, brand and our business model does not violate any laws that are in place.”
Added Rajiv Ghosh of Kolkata-based Privatelyurs.com, “With unclear guidelines, we stick to condoms, lingerie, lubricants and some accessories. We have stayed away from some products that are illegal, and even some with obscene pictures. However, the definition of obscenity is quite ambiguous.”
Set up in December 2014, Privatelyurs.com recently hired a team of lawyers to navigate the legal labyrinth to cater to the category. Ghosh also added that the company is looking to tie up with UK-based Net1on1.com to sell its products in India.
Samir Saraiya, founder of Mumbai-based Thatspersonal, said the company does not sell anything that requires a prescription. Another online firm, Shycart, has extended its offering to include hygiene products such as intimate washes, sanitary wear, lingerie, and body shapers, amongst others.
Armani of IMbesharam maintained that it was time for the Indian government to chart out clear guidelines around the category. He said the site gets 10,000 visits per day. At Thatspersonal.com, the site gets similar hits, and gets over 50 per cent of its traffic from small towns.

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