A volunteer (R) from a non-governmental organisation (NGO) distributes free condoms to villagers during an AIDS awareness campaign on the outskirts of Agartala, India, November 6, 2015. India provides free condoms under its community-based AIDS prevention programme that targets high-risk groups like sex workers. That strategy, the World Bank estimates, helped avert 3 million HIV infections between 1995 and 2015. But government data released last week showed about two-thirds of India's 31 state AIDS units had less than a month's supply of condoms. Some states only have enough for a few days. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey
India’s leading condom manufacturers and marketers have decided to work together to revive the country’s condom market, which has been laid low by stagnation and the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic.
Domestic condom manufacturers such as HLL Lifecare, PSI India Private Limited, Raymond Group, TTK Healthcare and MNCs, including Reckitt Benckiser, had come together to form a platform called Condom Alliance in 2019. However, the pandemic disrupted their plans in 2020, and it’s only now that the members of the Condom Alliance have decided to regroup and work with different stakeholders, including governments, to promote the use of condoms, which are considered the safest and most affordable contraceptive option. The initiative is supported by public health groups such as DKT India, Janani, and Population Health Services India (PHSI).
“We are supporting this platform to create a unified voice among disparate players, including private commercial condom marketers, social marketers, donors, and organisations working with youth to grow the stagnant condom market in India,” said Ravi Bhatnagar, Director of External Affairs and Partnerships in Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa at British consumer health giant Reckitt Benckiser, which markets the Durex condom brand in India.
“The Condom Alliance will help align the actions of all condom market players towards the core objective of ensuring greater adoption of condom usage in the country,” Bhatnagar said.
Condom sales in India have stagnated at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1 percent over the past few years, despite India having the world’s largest population of reproductive age males, at 600 million.
India’s condom market is estimated to be worth about Rs 1500 crore, with rural India contributing about 30 percent. Mankind Pharma is the leading condom maker with its Manforce condom brand.
Industry experts say the tepid growth is primarily due to extremely low usage. The National Family Health Survey found that around 78 percent of Indian men between ages 20 and 29 do not use any method of contraception due to factors such as lack of awareness, education, the belief that women should be responsible for contraception, and negative perceptions around condom use.
One of the consequences of low contraceptive use is an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Industry executives say Covid-19 hit the condom market hard, with sales falling approximately 40 percent during the countrywide lockdown in 2020. The industry attributes the decline to a variety of factors such as limited public movement, condoms not listed as essentials, and disruptions in supply chains involving condom manufacturers, raw material suppliers and channel partners.
This downward trend in contraceptive sales has stoked fears among experts that lockdowns might have resulted in increased numbers of unintended pregnancies. While the market has recovered to pre-Covid levels, the generally low use of condoms has been concerning the industry as well as public health groups working in areas of family planning.
The Condom Alliance will soon be launching a youth-focused digital campaign to address the myths, misconceptions and ideas people have about using condoms; promote safe sex practices and increase awareness about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The Alliance is also conducting studies to explore the behaviour patterns of young people in order to make condom usage a more attractive proposition.
“The Condom Alliance was created to collaboratively address the issues that hinder the use of condoms as a contraceptive and address the underlying need to improve reproductive health in the country,” said Vivek Malhotra, CEO, PHSI.
“The Condom Alliance’s focus on increasing contraceptive use and reviving contraceptive markets aligns with the Government of India’s commitment to Family Planning 2020, United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 3 — ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all — and Goal 17 — revitalising global partnerships for sustainable development,” said Bhatnagar of Reckitt Benckiser.