“Sex and matters related to sexual pleasure are still seen through Victorian filters in India, even by ad platforms and publishers”, believes Vishal Vyas, AVP marketing, TTK Healthcare. This year, the makers of Skore condoms launched LoveDepot, a D2C site for pleasure products. The ad created for the platform was bold and edgy. But, strangely, several social media users who shared the commercial claimed that they were "shadow banned". Shadow banning is when a user's content is stealthily blocked by platforms without notifying the user.
Marketing pleasure products is still a challenge, not just in India, but across the world. However, Vyas tells Storyboard18 there are interesting learnings and observations one has made along the way. Firstly, Indians are open to experimentation. Secondly, 25 percent of the platform’s buyers are female but they contribute to 40 percent of its revenue.
Vyas is optimistic about the sexual wellness and pleasure category's growth in a country where talking about sex openly is still a taboo. He also shares the company’s plans for Love Depot, challenges of the category, and breaking myths.
How’s Love Depot as a brand in TTK Healthcare portfolio shaping up? What has the brand unlocked since its launch in June?
Love Depot, e-superstore for pleasure products is the latest addition in TTK Healthcare portfolio in the sexual pleasure space. TTK Healthcare is one of the pioneers in this space and has been placing on the shop shelves products that the Indian consumers could never do without but could never bring themselves to ask for either – including those for contraception, for more than seven decades.
We have many firsts in India in this space from bringing condoms to India before Independence, in the form of international brand Durapac, to launching India’s first commercial condom brand to launching an innovative brand Skore. All along, since 1940, we have done our bit in the offline space and now with the advent of Love Depot, we aim to own the online space of the category as well.
We have received encouraging responses for Love Depot which to be honest has surprised us as well. We always knew that Indian consumers are willing to experiment and are seeking pleasure in their love lives. (Our pre-launch research throws an abysmal figure on sexual satisfaction level of respondents.) But the extent of it was not known and we were in for a pleasant surprise with the Love Depot launch. The acceptance and excitement it has generated indicate a sort of sexual awakening and its bode well for the brand.
Love Depot’s ad campaign #ThePleasureIsYours was edgy and bold. However, a few users who shared the campaign were shadow banned by some social media platforms. Marketing sex toys, sexual wellness products and other related items is still challenging in India. What’s your marketing strategy? What can brands in the category do to fix these issues?
Yes, marketing pleasure products is a challenge in India due to very subjective and wrong interpretation of prevailing laws. Sex and matters related to sexual pleasure are still seen through Victorian filters in India, even by ad platforms and publishers. We are countering this by working with some specific publishers who are a bit more enlightened, and with content creators in this space who help us spread the word.
We believe there is nothing wrong in an individual’s pursuit for pleasure and our approach here is to normalize pleasure and pleasure related conversations in India. The way we communicate, keeping obscenity and sleaze at bay, is one among many steps towards normalizing conversation around Pleasure and our communication approach reflects that.
In addition, education whether it’s for consumers or for other stakeholders is another such step. As we started working towards bringing Love Depot on ground we encountered many roadblocks starting from procuring products to marketing them (shadow banning users by social media platform is one such example). However, we kept ourselves painstakingly engaged with all the relevant stakeholders and explained to them our logic and reasoning and I am glad to say that there is awakening and awareness in this regard at various levels. Lovedepot is in existence today due to this reason.
What’s next in terms of marketing Love Depot?
Our marketing strategy revolves around Love Depot’s tagline that ‘Pleasure is all yours’. Our aim is to become India’s biggest and most trusted sexual pleasure online store - an ultimate destination of everything pleasure. We are realizing this purpose with our 4As approach i.e. availability, affordability, accessibility and creating awareness.
Lots of work has gone into making pleasure products available as well as making them affordable at Love Depot. Our current product assortment spans a wide price bracket that ranges from wallet-friendly items that come for INR 600 to some that carry a tag of INR 30,000, positioned to please those who are unhesitant to splurge on themselves. Being an e-store, Love Depot makes pleasure products accessible to every nook and corner of the country, and in a very discreet manner. Our next initiative which is currently work in progress is to create awareness and relevant content for pleasure and pleasure products for the uninitiated one in this space. To deliver our brand promise we believe we need to ensure enablement via commerce as well via content. As we are here to normalize pleasure, creating good educational content is key to this, in order to demystify products and to make people more comfortable with the idea of seeking pleasure without shame.
Vishal Vyas, AVP Marketing, TTK Healthcare
What are the key purchasing trends you are witnessing on Love Depot?
The most glaring trend which comes out is related to experimentation. We have a fairly large spread of pleasure products and categories on our platform and we have observed in the last couple of months that products are getting picked from a wide array of categories. We were expecting consumers to go for a few established categories like massagers, lubes etc., but to our surprise, consumers seem to know what they want and it also indicates consumer willingness to experiment. Another observation is that 25 percent of our buyers are female but they contribute to 40 percent of our revenue.
We are here to normalize pleasure, creating good educational content is key to this, in order to demystify products and to make people more comfortable with the idea of seeking pleasure without shame.
In terms of consumer trends, what is surprising and promising?
‘Pleasure products are just for women’ is a myth. We have seen good movement in our pleasure products for men. In terms of towns, the top three towns are Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi, however there also are pleasure seekers in Tier 1 and 2 towns as well which is again a pleasing trend from our perspective.
As a big player in the sexual wellness category, and now with the company entering the pleasure segment, what are the business challenges that you are solving? Where do you see the growth coming from?
There is a tremendous growth opportunity here and what we are seeing is just a tip of an iceberg. However, with opportunities, this segment also brings many challenges. Keeping our engagement with consumers to make them aware as well as educating them of our offerings, and on the other hand with other stakeholders to make them aware of the legality of this business is one of our approaches to capitalize on opportunities as well as handle challenges. Currently we are seeing decent purchase ticket size hence our single-minded approach at this stage is more awareness, more traffic which leads to more conversion.
Could you also take us through some of the emerging trends in the condom segment in India?
The condom category was one of the worst affected categories during the Covid-19 pandemic with sales declined by more than 30-40 percent during the period. However, currently it's getting back on its feet and has overtaken pre-pandemic numbers though with a nominal growth of 3-4 percent. In e-commerce we are seeing exponential growth. One of the big trends in the condom segment is the emergence of Quick Commerce. They have quickly garnered a big share of our ecommerce business and have in fact helped us grow the e-commerce pie for us. Also, from Skore’s perspective, we are seeing good traction for our recently launched thin condom range.
Also, what are some of the global trends that could inspire sexual wellness and pleasure brands in India?
Globally sexual pleasure market is almost 6-7 times of condom market. As per one projection, condom market size would be 8 billion USD by 2022 while sexual wellness market is estimated to be in the range of 60 billion USD. Though way smaller in size, we see the same pattern emerging in India as well.
Some other exciting trends are sex toys giving back data like wearables. Bio-hacking is picking up in India now, so maybe sex tech will also see quick evolution here. There are also strides being made to use AI, which builds on crowd sourced inputs to create patterns and rhythms for vibrations in toys. This is also something that we feel will bring about a big revolution, once it's at an affordable price point here.
We are at the cusp of a sexual revolution in India and it’s only a matter of time that publishers, platforms and various gatekeepers realise the potential and drop their prudish policies for good.
There are several new-age brands popping up in the sexual wellness and pleasure categories. What are they doing that impresses companies like yours? What’s your advice to them?
The new-age brands are doing a lot of good work and we are observing and learning from them. We have seen that new age brands bring a very fresh approach in overall marketing of this category and we are keenly observing them. This is a category that has a lot of potential and enough space for all of us to thrive simultaneously. We are at the cusp of a sexual revolution in India and it’s only a matter of time that publishers, platforms and various gatekeepers realise the potential and drop their prudish policies for good. Our only advice to new age brands would be to partner us in our efforts to normalise sexual pleasure in India and to bring sexual awakening in India.