“Buying a sex toy is no longer scandalous in India."
The demand for sex toys in India has increased thanks to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
According to a study by Thatspersonal, the sale of sex toys increased by 65% during the lockdown.
Prawin Ganeshan experienced a rise in demand. In 2013, he opened what is believed to be India’s first physical sexual wellness and toys shop in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu.
The founder and CEO of Kamakart recalled:
“I was prepared for all kinds of backlash.”
However, he received a positive reaction and his business became such a success, he opened two more shops.
Prawin now runs 10 sexual wellness shops all over South India and one in Sri Lanka under the name Kamakart.com.
During the pandemic in 2020, Prawin saw sales increase between 100% and 300%.
Sexual attitudes in India are in a state of flux. A study previously revealed that more than 90% of Indians had their first sexual experience before the age of 30.
Raj Armani, co-founder of the online adult store IMbesharam, said:
“Public perception of sex and obscenity has transitioned from the days when (actor) Aamir Khan’s kiss in Raja Hindustani was a national conversation to acceptance of pleasure as a fundamental right.”
Rahber Nazir, co-founder of Kaamastra, agreed, saying:
“Buying a sex toy is no longer scandalous in India.
“Customers are now looking for simpler and customised products that can cater to their needs.”
According to IMbesharam, the percentage of female customers has risen from 20% to 39% in the last three years.
The order totals from women also increased from 18% to 44% during the same period.
Raj said: “More and more women are now shopping for themselves or asking their partners to shop for them.”
While films have contributed to the growing popularity of sex toys, doctors are also contributing.
Dr Ajit Saxena said: “Some of the sexual wellness products sold by sex toy companies like premature ejaculation sprays, lubricants and suction devices for erectile dysfunction are actually medical products.
“The good thing is that they are now easily available, encouraging many young doctors to prescribe them.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has also resulted in an interest in sexuality research among Indian researchers.
Various scientific journals now feature articles that explore the sexuality-related implications of Covid-19.
An article on ‘Sexual Behaviour during the Times of Covid-19 Lockdown in India’ revealed that more people have been adopting virtual methods.
This includes the use of remote-controlled sex toys.
Despite society being more accepting of sex toys, some people are against them.
For instance, section 292 of the Indian Penal Code bans the sale, advertisement, distribution and public exhibition of a book, pamphlet, painting or any other object that may deem obscene.
This has resulted in business owners being affected.
Prawin Ganeshan explained that he loses two out of every 10 shipments to authorities that confiscate and destroys them.
The logistical obstacles have encouraged some to explore the possibility of manufacturing sex toys in India, however, not everyone is for it.
Rahber Nazir said: “Manufacturing sex toys in India will allow us to customise our products to the requirements of Indian consumers.
“Some of the products which we sell currently – like adult board games and dildos – are designed to meet the sensibilities and requirements of Western customers.”
For Samir Saraiya, CEO of Thatspersonal, the challenges lie in the practicalities involved in making it work.
He explained: “Right now it’s easier to pay import duty than doing this in India due to the sheer volume international companies can provide.”
Raj Armani added: “We have many suppliers for raw materials (polyurethane, silicone) in India, but the art of constructing it and the tech that will be used in operating the products, that’s a hill we have to cross.
“We are scouting for experienced local manufacturers and are hopeful that our ambition will see the light of day soon.”