INDIA — With his pulse on the Indian pleasure products market, Samir Saraiya launched the country’s pioneering online adult retailer ThatsPersonal.com in 2013 with the hopes of becoming a major purveyor in India’s marketplace that’s expected to grow to $1.60 billion market by 2020.
According to Saraiya, companies should begin their marketing and branding efforts for the Indian marketplace now.
“These products are new to India and almost all the brands except Durex were non-existent,” Saraiya told XBIZ. “While the market is still very small, it is growing at a rapid pace and we expect critical mass in 2017. We believe that brands that enter India today will have a considerable market share with very little marketing investment when critical mass arrives. Brands that come in later will have to substantially spend on marketing and brand building to catch up.”
In an exclusive Q&A with XBIZ, Saraiya shares information and stats on the growing Indian pleasure products marketplace, while offering background on his retail operation.
XBIZ: When did you launch ThatsPersonal.com? What inspired its creation?
SAMIR SARAIYA: ThatsPersonal.com was launched in January 2013. Right from the outset, when I was evaluating starting an e-commerce venture, I wanted to do something innovative and different. I soon realized that all the leading e-commerce ventures were playing on one of the three pillars namely, convenience, price and choice. I decided to launch a fourth pillar called “privacy” with the aim to be the undisputed leader in discreet purchase and delivery by innovating and partnering with the relevant eco-system players and solving a genuine customer issue of buying sexual wellness products at retail.
XBIZ: Could you share any stats on ThatsPersonal.com monthly visitors?
SARAIYA: ThatsPersonal.com is one of our distribution channels which we call our Business to Consumer channel. We also sell our products across almost 20 e-commerce channels including Amazon, Ebay, Snapdeal and Flipkart, which we call our Business to Business Online channel. Additionally, we sell our products to pharmacies and retail stores which we call our Business to Business offline channel.
On ThatsPersonal.com, we have around 225,000 monthly visitors
- Male visitors at 69 percent easily outdo the number of female visitors who form about 31 percent of the total visitors
- However, females constitute about 39 percent of the total purchases as opposed to 61 percent by men
- Most of our purchases are from major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune
- However, sales and traffic from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities is growing at an extremely rapid pace. Over the last quarter the traffic from these cities has grown at about 253 percent and the sales have increased at a rate of 340 percent
XBIZ: Has “Fifty Shades” had an impact on the pleasure products market in India?
SARAIYA: “Fifty Shades of Grey” has had a significant impact on the pleasure products market here. The book and the trailer have generated a whirlwind of expectations around the pleasure products market. It has sensitized the Indian market about BDSM products and raised awareness levels about them considerably. Interestingly, riding on the success of the book and trailer we launched the Fifty Shades of Grey Official Pleasure Collection in December and since then we’ve witnessed around 82 percent growth in the sale of BDSM products every week. In general, the acceptance levels of pleasure products has increased in India and the degree of the taboo associated with these products has also reduced. This underlying current of increased acceptance has pushed our sales to lifetime highs during the last two quarters.
XBIZ: How do you predict the Indian pleasure products marketplace will evolve in the coming years?
SARAIYA: The Indian population is larger than the combined population of U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. India has one of the youngest populations in the world with 65 percent of the population under 35 years old. The numbers are staggering and our research in 2012 showed us that 5 to 10 percent of the global searches for erotic products originate from India.
Surprisingly, prior to ThatsPersonal.com, there was not a single physical shop or e-commerce website that was legally selling these products. There were underground shops in a few cities that were selling cheap substitutes and highly unhygienic products without any form of packaging and this constituted the black market estimated at $90 million per year. However, the capita usage for India is very low and a small fraction of the global average. The Economic Times, India’s largest business newspaper, predicts that the Indian pleasure products market will grow to a $1.60 billion market in 2020.
XBIZ: What services areoffered by ThatsPersonal.com that aren’t typical for online adult retailers?
SARAIYA: After launching our website, a lot of customers informed us that they wanted to buy our products, however, they did not want the products to be delivered to their house. There were many different reasons but some of the common issues revolved around sexually active youth living with their parents or people living in joint families or working couples that were not at home during the day and didn’t want the products to reach the house without them being around.
We went back to the drawing board to innovate and work out a solution where the customer can select a pick-up location based on their PIN code. Once the product arrives at the pick-up location, the customer or their representative can pick up the parcel without anyone having a trace of what they’ve purchased. We are the only website offering this unique self-pick-up service and we are getting excellent traction from it.
XBIZ: What are the challenges you face (or have faced) as India’s pioneering online adult retailer?
SARAIYA: We are the first company to launch this business in India, and therefore we are doing everything for the first time. There are significant challenges especially those relating to the interpretation of law permitting the sale of adult products in India. This along with the Indian Customs Regulations requires a lot of patience, perseverance, explanation and documentation to legally import these products for sale in India.
To build this market, we are investing a lot of money in product education as most Indians are unaware of what these products are and why they should use them.
Since sex is a huge taboo subject, we need to make it conducive for Indians to buy. Hence we are constantly innovating the privacy and discreet delivery aspect of the e-commerce business.
In India, we have more than 900 million mobile subscribers compared to just 80 million broadband subscribers, hence it’s always a challenge to build our experience to operate on a mobile screen, which may not necessarily be a smart phone.
For more of pioneering online retailer ThatsPersonal.com’s stats and information about the Indian pleasure products marketplace, check out the exclusive Q&A with Saraiya in the March issue of XBIZ Premiere.