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Sexual wellness and entertainment in India – limp or growing fast?

The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie might not have been released in India, but ‘IMbesharam.com’ of Besharam Adult Store definitely has a collection of fifty shades of grey.
Sexuality and sexual awareness isn’t new to India. It is the land of Kamasutra and erotic art and architecture. Yet, there is an unease and taboo associated with anything related to sexuality. Globally, sexual wellness is a highly lucrative market; the revenues in the US are estimated to grow to USD 52 billion by 2020.

Risque or risky legality in business?

Thanks to the Internet economy, customers can now take refuge in the cloak of anonymity. However, considering the ambiguous legalities associated, many big e-commerce sites like Flipkart have removed their sexual wellness category. This was done after police received an email complaint about Flipkart, along with four other sites.
Does this mean that this business is getting riskier? The legalities associated with the buying and selling of these products is still questionable due to legal ambiguity.  According to Dhruv of Team Sexpiration, India still has a long way to go. “Currently there is no clarity,” he says, as the definition of obscenity in Indian law is rather vague.Section 294 of the IPC states:
Obscene acts – 1. Whoever, to the annoyance of others –
  1. Does any obscene act in any public place or,
  2. Sings, recites or utters any obscene song balled or words, in or near any public place, Shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.
There are no parameters that define what is and what is not erotic.
Sexual wellness does not limit itself to selling of toys and sexual entertainment products; these even include condoms, lubes and gels that are sold over the counter in pharmaceutical stores. Nevertheless, the sexual wellness market in India is estimated to be INR 1,000 crores, and continuous to grow.

E-commerce riding the wave

Over the years, there has been a growing number of e-commerce retailers in this space of sexual wellness and awareness like IMbesharam.com of Besharam Adult Store, That’s Personal, Shycart, PrivyPleasures, It’s Muah Life and Team Sexpiration.
“I found it really surprising that you could buy anything online, but not a pack of condoms. One of the guys in our research told us that his neighbourhood had known him since he was kid. And he simply couldn’t get himself to buy condoms next to his home,” says Samir, Founder of That’s Personal.

Changing behaviour patterns

However, with everything online today, trends and behaviours are changing. Raj Armani from Imbesharam shares his findings and says, “When we went live, we saw 70/30 male: female ratio in traffic, but sales were 87/13 from the same visitors. Now, we see 64/36 ratio of traffic, and the sales have risen from women shoppers to 72/38, which we consider a major achievement.”
Another important trend, according to Vivek of Shycart, is the impact of weather on sales. "Sales are on the top during winter for sexual entertainment products. However, for sexual hygiene, the market is open throughout the year.”

The effect of the Fifty Shades of Grey

Most of these sexual wellness and entertainment trends show there has been increasing interest in BDSM and role play among Indian customers. Imbesharam, for its Fifty Shades of Grey collection, has seen increased number of buyers. “It is ironic, as Indian culture expects to lead a 'natural' lifestyle. Now, the number of people into domination and bondage is high in several pockets,” adds Raj.
According to Bhupendra of PrivyPleasures, they have been noticing an increase in fetish behaviour. Citing an example, he says that there are customers who buy 30-40 designs of g-strings. Adding further, he says, “Other customers ask us to ship anything that is available in leather. We are also witnessing more and more repeat orders.
Initially we saw sales of only lubes, creams and lingerie, but, recently, the education is building up and customers are buying more and more sexual hygiene products like an intimate wash, gel/cream and shape wears, whereas body massagers are a hit, as well. We see a lot couple stuff selling now, which shows that society is changing, and couples are embracing the concept of a healthier sexual lifestyle. We have seen more couples buying from us, and newlyweds are definitely experimenting and demand interesting role play products,
says Karandeep, Founder of Itsmuahlife.

Gender and age ratio

While the primary age range is from 23 to 48 years, the male to women ratio is an average of 60 per cent male versus 30 to 40 per cent of women. However, there is a growing increase of women making purchases. While the men shop for party games, undergarments, toys for men, male enhancement and sexual wellness products, the women primarily shop for toys for couples, pleasure products, sexual wellness and lingerie.
In many cases, like Shycart that focus on sexual hygiene and wellness products, sale of women products are higher. Many of the e-commerce stores also believe that women buy in the name of their partners, thus the ratio might be slightly lower.  Male customers tend to buy quickly, and their order size is greater as compare to female customers.

Increasing awareness

While the Indian market is still in its nascent stages, there is a growing awareness and knowledge amongst Indian customers. Many customers do their research. With the comfort of online shopping, they have begun making demands to these online sexual wellness and entertainment stores.
There is an increasing demand for handcuffs, edible lingerie, fun products and role play costumes. There are customers even looking for fun adult games.
“Age and genders play an important role, but we do see an increasing awareness,” says Samir. As far as geographical dynamics go, the top five regions still maintain highest volume of shoppers in numbers and order value, as well. These are Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. There is a recent increase in the number of people ordering sexual wellness and entertainment from cities like Amritsar, Chandigarh, Surat, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Kolkata as well.

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