Adult toys: Bold business in coy India

How many times have you gone to the drug store and hesitated to ask for a pack of condoms because a nosy neighbor happened to be standing next to you or an elderly aunty was looking curiously up at you? For a country that pioneered the art of sexual education and seduction, we Indians are a little too conservative when it comes to sex.

This secrecy revolving around intimacy is exactly what entrepreneur Samir Saraiya took advantage of. He quit his regular 9-5 job at an MNC to start his online retail venture firm, Digital E-Life. In an exclusive interview with Yahoo; Saraiya talks about his adult lifestyle product website

Did you know: India contributes between 5% to 10% of the global searches for adult products. is India’s first legal online retailer for adult products. This online retail store offers not just condoms but a host of products that would cater to your fantasies and fetishes; products one would otherwise find difficult to purchase physically. The website also assures complete privacy and discreet packaging that is tamper proof and unmarked.

You can also go and pick up the package yourself from various pick up points that have tied up with the website incase you don’t want the products delivered to your home (Imagine your kids or parents opening up the package; Yikes!)

Click here to view some of their products

 Are sex toys legal in India?

India is silent on sale of sex toys and apparels. The concern arises more from the manner in which these sex toys/apparels and related products are displayed and exhibited for sale, publicly rather than perhaps their actual sale. “Of course, this does not mean that a pornographic magazine or a movie can be freely sold or distributed in India simply by camouflaging its physical appearance,” says Saraiya.

The fact that sex toys/ articles and such related products ‘carry the impression’ of being ‘obscene’, any commercial dealing in such articles always carries with it a certain element of risk of attracting Section292. 

The laws in India relating to sex and sexology (human sexual interests, behaviour and functions, etc.) are not as evolved as in the Western and European countries. We still follow over a 150 year old law that was drafted by a man who lived over 1000 miles from India (Thomas Macaulay). So definitely there is a lot of change to be desired, given that Indian society(like any other society in the world) is dynamic and has since evolved over a period of time.

How did he set up shop? 

Saraiya did some basic research on the availability of adult products in India, he then got in touch with global brands that sell sex products like Pjur, Wet, Shunga, Elegant Moments, Male Basics, and so on to negotiate an exclusive agreement to sell their products in India through his website,

What were the challenges faced while setting up? 

My biggest issue starting up was the social stigma issue that I had. I could not tell my family and friends what business I was getting in to. Today I am super comfortable to tell people. The challenge is to understand what the Indian market wants in terms of product range, price points, complexity regarding the flavours involved, level of apparel risqué, etc. We are constantly learning and doing deep analytics to learn the Indian consumers tastes and preferences.

"Convincing capitalists to invest was easy; it was telling my family and friends my plan that was difficult and awkward"

Will there be a boom in online adult stores soon?

Saraiya's research shows that about 100 million Indian would be interested in such products. The industry is worth Rs 1,200-1,500 crore and he expects it to grow to Rs 2,450 crore in 2016 and Rs 8,700 crore in 2020, spurred by a rise in the number of people who want to spice up their sex lives. 

With strict laws in place is marketing the product one of your biggest challenges?

Marketing is not a challenge today because we are doing perfectly legal products and we are doing only online marketing cause there are almost 140 million internet subscribers which is a big enough audience for us.

While the website will not be able to offer sex toys like vibrators as their sale is prohibited in India; it does offer a wide range of erotic games and costumes which are not easily available in retail stores. This may be the start to a new online business in India soon.  Popular online retailers such as Flipkart, Jabong and Zivame now started to offer exotic lingerie and one or two website offering adult products, are on the verge of being launched.

Is India finally ready to embrace its sexuality? Post your views here

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