Indian e-commerce sites see rise in sale of sexual wellness products
Goutam Das September 13, 2014
It is difficult to miss the image of a lustful woman, her hair undone and flying up in the air along with the message in red - "Average speed of ejaculation 45 kilometres per hour. Get there faster ! See all products" - if one were to check ohmysecrets.com. The site sells sexual wellness products from pleasure enhancers such as lubricants and oils, to edible innerwear, blindfolds, whips and ankle cuffs. There are vibrators that can be even remotely controlled through a mobile phone app.Access to such products no longer requires one to traverse the seedy lanes of New Delhi's Palika Bazaar. Over the last one year, the number of e-commerce stores dealing with sexual wellness has been increasing. This includes new entrants like ohmysecrets.com and established ones like Flipkart and Snapdeal. The sellers say with glee that sexual wellness is one of the hottest categories in the e-commerce business.
Vinodh Reddy, who set up ohmysecrets.com in January 2013, says his site gets 8,000 visitors a day on average. Adult lifestyle web store IMbesharam, started in July 2013 by two NRIs Raj Armani and Salim Rajan, claims to receive 150,000 unique visitors and 4,000 orders on average a month.
According to online health store HealthKart.com, 10 per cent of the visitors to the site check out the sexual wellness category. Snapdeal says this category is growing by 15 per cent a month.
However, it is not yet clear what percentage of the sexual wellness market, including offline retail, these online stores command. The companies peg the overall market in a range of Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 1,500 crore. It is very likely that the share of e-commerce in this category is miniscule, but it is growing.
Prashant Tandon, who co-founded HealthKart.com in 2011, says the sexual wellness category made sense even then as people were shy to buy products such as condoms and lubricants from an offline retail store. "People used to say discreetly, 'Wo wala pack de do' (Give me that pack). The kirana (neighbourhood retail store) guy will look at you with suspicion. And what about the neighbourhood uncle staring at you?" asks Tandon, who is also the managing director. Compared to this, the online platform, Tandon says, offers the option to explore the entire range of products and buy discreetly.
E-commerce firms do discreet packaging. Neither the kind of product nor its name appear on the invoice when the packet arrives home. "We recognise the need consumers have in terms of packaging. We have ensured that the packaging of the sellers is discreet. From a navigation/display point of view, consumers' interest and sensitivities are kept in mind. We have created an experience that allows consumers to explore the products, order them from home and also receive it discreetly," Flipkart said in a note.
The company was reluctant to give an interview to Business Today. So its communication team acted like journalists and sent a document, in which the company itself posed questions and gave answers.
Question: Do you think you will be able to compete with established players in the segment like IMbesharam.com and ohmysecrets.com?
Answer: We do not want to comment on other players. Similar to our other launches, we intend to offer the best experience possible in this category to our customers in terms of service and selection.
Another aspect fuelling growth in this category for e-commerce sites is the underdeveloped supply chain for such products. "The category is under-tapped, even in retail. There is demand. Distribution and availability are a concern. Large companies we speak to are unable to distribute the products, display them well and educate the consumer," says Amit Maheshwari, who heads the category at Snapdeal. The company had started this category in April 2013.The business meanwhile is skewed towards high volume and low value. The highest demand in this category is for contraceptives, followed by vitality supplements and pleasure accessories. For HealthKart, lubricants and accessories generate more than half its sales in terms of value in this segment. "Vacurect, a device that tackles erectile dysfunction, has done well in the market. It costs Rs 12,000 on an average," says Tandon.
For the more aggressive IMbesharam, whose brand mascot is adult film star-turned-Bollywood actress Sunny Leone, the top selling products are vibrators and a water-based lubricant. "These are popular because they are either gifts that men get for their women or women buy for their own use," says Armani, Chief Operating Officer of IMBesharam.According to him, the number of women buyers is on the rise. "When we went live, the male to female ratio in traffic was 70:30 and the sales 87:13. Now we see 64:36 ratio in traffic and 72:38 in sales," he says.
Even as companies are building up their stocks, they are also planning to offer more variety for online shoppers. For ohmysecrets.com, it is going to be "sex furniture". "It is a furniture that helps you lean into a proper position. It helps with balance," says Reddy. Indeed, the sexual wellness retailers are positioning themselves very well.