"Some of our new products are disguised as general FMCG goods"
Due to more and more Indians embracing their sexuality, experimenting with pleasure and seeing Indian films featuring self-pleasure, the country’s sex toy market is seeing considerable growth.
The industry surrounding sex toys is still developing in India but its growth is becoming noticeable due to the increase in demand.
The understanding and acceptance of self-pleasure are seeing a parallel rise with the use of sex toys.
Hence, consumers are gradually beginning to experiment more with sexual wellness products and accessories.
Therefore, significantly more people are contributing to the overall market growth in the country.
Another factor of this online growth is how Indian law prohibits the display or sale of ‘obscene objects. Making it difficult to simply buy sex toys from shops and stores.
This had led to Indian people buying online or from the grey market.
The rise of online retailers selling sex toys eliminates the risk of Indians becoming victims of societal judgement, which is a major area of concern for individuals.
The market size in India stood at $227.8 million in 2018 as compared to the global $22 billion.
According to a recent study by Research and Markets conducted in January 2021, the Indian Sex Toys Market was valued at $91.34 million in the financial year of 2020.
It is also expected to grow at a double-digit Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15.87% until the financial year of 2026.
Demonstrating that the Indian sex toy market is on an upward spiral.
Sex Toys and Indian Law
Despite the growth, the sale of sex toys in India is a contentious matter.
This is due to Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code which does not allow the display or sale of obscene objects.
The act says it “deems the sale, advertisement, distribution and the public exhibition of obscene books, sketch, drawing and any other “obscene” object, illegal.”
This has moved the Indian demand online and also buying from specific street vendors or at places such as Delhi’s Palika Bazaar or Mumbai’s Crawford market where sex toys are sold as wellness products.
Therefore, selling or displaying sex toys that are classed as an “obscene” object means it is against Indian law.
Snapdeal one of India’s largest e-commerce companies was taken to court in 2015 for selling different types of “sex toys and accessories.”
A complaint saying such companies were selling products that were “aiding or promoting gay sex.” was filed by a Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer, Suhaas Joshi.
In 2019, it was reported that £910,000 worth of sex toys were confiscated over a period of two years in Mumbai due to the law.
An example of sex toys being classed obscene is a patent for a vibrator submitted by a Canadian company called Standard Innovation Corporation.
The submission was rejected by the Indian patent office because the vibrator would “lead to obscenity…and are considered to be morally degrading by the law.”
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises gay sex and unnatural intercourse was also used against the patent office for this case.
This kind of case prompted some creativity among online vendors.
To get around the ‘obscene’ law, sex toys are being categorised under sexual wellness or massage devices thus making them comply under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
Startups in the sex toy industry targeting the Indian market are looking for a juridical alternative to sell different sex toys in India.
Samir Saraiya, CEO of Thatspersonal says:
“As long a does not look obscene, does not resemble any part of human anatomy, does not show nudity, we can sell it.”
IMbesharam.com is one Indian online retailer gaining from the growth which was founded by Salim Rajan and Raj Armani and endorsed by Sunny Leone.
Armani says: “Some of our new products are disguised as general FMCG goods so that they don’t invite curiosity or suspicion.”
However, to comply, Armani also said:
“They’re ready to switch the operations, if the laws of the nation demand them to do so.”
Online Growth of Sex Toys in India
The growth of online sex toys sales in India has led to some interesting discussions.
The figures from studies and online vendors are showing that demand is certainly on the increase.
The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic led to Prime Minister Modi announce that he wants to see the country become an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, meaning a self-reliant country.
The pandemic also saw a huge gust of online orders for sex toys and interest in them among would-be Indian consumers.
This was a cue for Armani to look at the prospect of producing sex toys in India for Indians instead of Chinese imports.
A ‘Made in India’ product line called ‘Samaaj’ and ‘Sanskaar’ was to be realised which would be based specifically on Indian needs. Products would reflect Indian anatomy.
Explaining this new line, Armani says:
“They will have India preferences on girth, thickness, colour and texture.”
“Its branding will be synonymous with our Kamasutra scriptures to bring Indian mythology alive in a new avatar.”
This shows that the demand for Indian sexy toys is going to go upwards as highlighted in the new study by Research and Markets.
CAGR and Investments
The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), is the mean annual growth rate of an investment over a specific period of time longer than one year.
It is a mathematical formula that tells you what an investment returns on an annual basis.
Therefore, it indicates to investors what they really have at the end of an investment period.
CAGR is one of the most accurate ways to calculate the return of individual assets, and anything else that can rise and fall in value over a period of time.
The objective of the Research and Markets study into the Indian sex toy market was to determine the size of the market from the financial years between 2016 and 2019.
This was achieved by conducting research from various major players of the industry, such as Happy Birds, ThatsPersonal.com and Lovetreats.
The study also aims to estimate the growth rate of the industry from the financial years between 2020 to 2026, while identifying the drivers and challenges of the market.
According to the study, the sex toy market in India is based on product, user and region.
Based on the product, the market can be categorised into adult vibrator, massager, dildo and others.
The study found that the adult vibrator held a 21.21% share in the financial year of 2020.
This is due to the increased use of them by both men and women.
Due to the societal judgement around sex toys in India, the market is also at risk of a decline in sales.
To tackle this issue, the emergence of e-commerce sites is growing at an alarming rate.
According to the study conducted, various manufacturers are partnering with online retailers to increase their market share.
Therefore, online retailers selling sex toys and accessories is one of the key factors behind the market’s growth.
Why India’s Sex Toy Market is Growing
Indians embracing their sexuality is a growing trend that contributes greatly to the overall growth of the sex toy market.
Therefore, the increasing number of Indians experimenting with sexual pleasure is a major factor in the demand for them.
The presence of social taboos surrounding sex toys remains prominent. But the shackles are breaking based on the demand being witnessed in the market.
As a result, retailers are able to offer a range of different types of toys and accessories albeit named differently.
The demand among Indian men versus women is also seeing change.
Co-founder of ItspleaZure Divya Chauhan initially saw 75% of their e-commerce website traffic coming from Indian men. About 85-90% of purchases were by men.
However, but they are seeing a growth in Indian women visiting and buying from their site. The female conversion rate is nearly double, showing Indian women are more open to using sex toys.
Punjab women are seen to be a subset of the highest purchasers according to an insight report by Pornhub.
Anticipated growth in the sexy toy market can also be attributed to health benefits.
Sex toys, for men and women, can relieve stress and therefore improve a person’s overall mental health.
They are also proven to improve sleep quality, and increase libido for a better sex life.
Specific types of sex toys such as vibrators are created to enhance sexual pleasure. They can provide different variations of sexual stimulation to suit a person’s needs.
This can be beneficial when it comes to situations of decreased libido or an inability to reach orgasm, especially for Indian women.
Also, the increased availability of sex toys for everyone, including those of the LGBTQ community, further fuels the growth of this market in India.
The sale of sex toys in India saw a 65% rise during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Despite the countless legal and logistical obstacles the industry may face, the response and demand of Indians speak volumes.
Overall, a change in attitude in India has led to a significant rise in the demand and sale of sex toys, especially online.
As societal norms in the country continue to evolve, the growth of the sex toy market is sure to rise with e-commerce platforms leading the way.