Boom of Sex Toys and Porn in India: What do Market Trends Suggest?

The Indian sexual wellness market was at $453 million in 2015. What more do you expect from the land of Kama Sutra?

Updated
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8 min read
The Indian sexual wellness market was at $453 million in 2015. What more can be expected from the land of Kama Sutra?
i
Snapshot

India may be the land of Kama Sutra, but that’s the reality of several centuries ago. Now we hide away our sexual desires coated and concealed in layers and layers of moral policing, judgment and guilt.

Consequently, when you’re met with the refreshing fact that the sex toy market in the country is a booming one, it comes as a pleasant surprise. At least someone somewhere is giving vent to their sexual desires. According to this report here, the Indian sexual wellness market was at $453 million in 2015. This is expected to grow to $1.63 billion by 2020. These numbers account for primarily online sales since there are no public offline stores in the country.

If we look at this thriving market closely, there are some interesting facts to be found.

Too caught up to read? Listen to the story here:

Boom of Sex Toys and Porn in India: What do Market Trends Suggest?

  1. 1. Sex Toys Confined to Metros? No, Sir!

    The demand for these products is not simply limited to metro cities.
    The demand for these products is not simply limited to metro cities.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    The demand for these products is not simply limited to metro cities. While they continue to be a major demand epicentre, demand is growing in tier-II and tier-III cities as well. To put things in perspective, according to a March 2017 report, while tier-I constituted 48 percent of the demand, it was followed by tier-II at 40 percent and 12 percent for tier-III.

    “The trends keep shifting based on the current flair”, says Raj Armani, Co-Founder and COO, IMBesharam, a leading website for sexual wellness products in India.

    For first three months Bangalore/Karnataka was the leader in the number of orders, while Delhi and Gujarat were leading in the total order size for each month. This month, however, Mumbai has taken the lead.
    Raj Armani

    One visit to the website would reveal to the consumer a plethora of products to choose from. For the uninitiated eye, it’s more bewildering than exciting, to see an endless supply of contraptions categorised by gender, body parts and the kind of stimulation you’re looking for. However, most customers that they get are quite clear about what they want, adds Armani. In fact, on the contrary, they are excited to the point that they need to be calmed down and their expectations recaliberated.

    Similarly, Balaji TV, CEO and Founder of Lovetreats.in, agrees that while majority of their sales come from metros, smaller towns constitute a big chunk.

    Majority of our sales come from Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkatta, Cochin. Tier 2-4 places accounted for 25-30 percent sales this year so far.
    Balaji TV
    Expand
  2. 2. Wanting Everything At Once

    Most customers are clear about what they’re looking for.
    Most customers are clear about what they’re looking for.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    When it comes to consumers, they cover the whole spectrum - from being sure of what they want to being hesitant about their first buy. Both Balaji and Armani have different experiences to share.

    They approach us for sexual health advice, counselling or just to help choose products. Most people seem to know what they want. First time buyers are a bit hesitant on how much to spend. We always advice on buying cheaper products  before upgrading so that they learn what they like and what they don’t like.
    Balaji TV

    Armani says that most of their customers don’t realise that they are talking to him since he uses the pseudonym Agent007. However, they are very clear about what they’re looking for.

    About 90 percent of them know what they want, the only problem is that they want everything NOW! So, we have to, at most times, calm them down and set their expectations straight. The porn ban brought a lot of such users to our store. In fact, the women shoppers are giving our team a training and tour of the wide, wide world of erotic commerce. We end up sourcing products from as far as Japan, Brazil and Europe for the custom items they demand.
    Raj Armani
    Expand
  3. 3. Sex Toys Not Only for the Young or a Single Gender

    The average order size for women was larger than men by 18 percent.
    The average order size for women was larger than men by 18 percent.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Balaji says that the age group of their customers is somewhere between 25 to 45 years and that 60 percent of their customers are women.

    Armani suggests that they have a bigger number of men in their clientele than women, but this ratio has been changing too every year.

    The ratio has been changing every year as women shoppers have been increasing from 18 percent when we went live to about 32 percent now. They come ready to shop and are no-nonsense when placing orders. We have some amazing conversations with them during pre-sales and post sales discussions.
    Raj Armani

    Contrary to popular belief, there is no dearth of customers in their middle age or beyond. Sex toys are not only the stuff of the young and hormonal. About 16 percent of the total demand in India was constituted by people over the age of 45, according to a 2017 report. There was also a significant number of women consumers in this group. Additionally, the same report points out, the average order size for women was larger than men by 18 percent.

    When it comes to IMBesharam, their customers are anywhere between 28-40 years old. For men the age bracket is 25-35 while for women it’s 30-40 years .

    Expand
  4. 4. Did You Know It’s Illegal to Buy or Sell Sex Toys in India?

    The vagueness of the law leaves room for a lot of grey territory which is what is utilised by sellers and buyers in the country.
    The vagueness of the law leaves room for a lot of grey territory which is what is utilised by sellers and buyers in the country.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Section 292 of the IPC makes the sale or buying of sex toys illegal in India, calling them “obscene products”. However the vagueness of the law leaves room for a lot of grey territory which is what is utilised by sellers and buyers in the country.

    Armani further comments on this grey area and adds:

    This is less an art and more of science. The first point to note is that the definition of the laws that can regulate sale of sex toys in India is vague and hence most times misunderstood. If you dig deep, you come to know that you can still ‘comply’ with the law, but yes, you will have to face the challenges of ratifying it at every stop.

    To begin with, the products are often termed as something meant for ‘sexual wellness and wellbeing’. Can’t go wrong with that one, can you? Some retailers also posit them as products meant to strengthen and save marriages. Several of them go ahead to garb their vibrators as lipsticks or pens. No one will jail anyone for owning a pair of fluffy handcuffs, can they now?

    Expand
  5. 5. How Far People Are Willing to Go for Sexual Pleasure?

    The sale of these products goes up around the holiday season and festivals. Will frequent sex make me impotent?
    The sale of these products goes up around the holiday season and festivals. Will frequent sex make me impotent?
    (Photo: iStock)

    One of the most unusual things revealed by Agents of Ishq after conducting a survey with 100 women was the usage of a particular mobile phone as a vibrator. When women were asked about the most unexpected things they have used for pleasing themselves, other than pillows and toothbrushes, many women responded with their stories of using a Nokia 3310 handset. For women who didn’t have access to sex toys, these are the alternatives they made-do with.

    Other than the pricing and availability of such products in India where there can’t be a physical store, there is of course the concern of secrecy when buying a product for sexual gratification. People often go to great lengths to conceal their purchases. For instance, shares Armani, their consumers have made all sorts of demands to help keep the product concealed in its packaging.

    We have had customers request to fold the products to make it look like a rubber mould and then pack, so when it arrives you can’t feel the shape in a package. We have frequent requests to drop it off at airports when customers are leaving so their family doesn’t know of the arrival of the package. This one time a man took a fleshlight from us for his honeymoon in Sri Lanka. When he came back, the customs questioned him what it was, he cleverly explained it to be a manual vacuum pump which the customs had to buy and didn’t bother him again. At one time, a woman shopper contacted us to know if it was okay for her to bring a dildo she got in Amsterdam. We guided her how to pack and plan, but she was so nervous she ended up giving it to an air hostess as a gift.
    Raj Armani

    Armani also speaks of high profile customers that include Bollywood celebrities, politicians and production houses who have sourced products from them.

    If you would name the top 10 male Bollywood actors, three of them have shopped at our store. Two of the top 10 Bollywood directors and producers have shopped at our store too. We have provided the props for many Yash Raj movies and web series. We have had politicians from Kerala, Eastern States and Delhi shop with us as well.
    Raj Armani

    Balaji adds that he has been approached by some users with interesting names like Jon Snow. Another interesting fact is that the sale of these products goes up around the holiday season and festivals. During the wedding season, sales increase by 40 percent, suggests this report.

    Expand
  6. 6. What Do Indian Trends Suggest?

    The lack of knowledge about their bodies and sexualities is being reduced by the internet and the porn industry.
    The lack of knowledge about their bodies and sexualities is being reduced by the internet and the porn industry.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Market trends suggest that the consumer is becoming more and more informed every day. Balaji says that their sale patterns show that couples are becoming aware of each other’s needs.

    Recently we have seen an increased number  of sale which indicates that couples are investing in sexual wellness items to increase intimacy and there’s healthy participation by both parties. We also see these orders increase whenever there are holidays around which indicates that couples are maybe using the holidays as an opportunity to spend quality time with each other and spice it up while they are at it.   
    Balaji TV

    He also adds that India is a fast growing market.

    While we cannot comment on the current numbers, we can say that every year we are increasing 3.5 times in terms of revenue.
    Balaji TV

    The lack of knowledge about their bodies and sexualities is being reduced further by the internet and the porn industry, affirms Armani. Media and entertainment also has a big role to play, he adds.

    The four very controversial releases in the last 18 months - Lipstick Under My Burqa, Veere di Wedding, Lust Stories, Four More Shots - all present women who are not afraid to speak their mind. This shift in thinking along with the internet literacy of over 400 million people in India is going to explode the sexual wellness category, so much that it will bring worldwide attention to India again, reminding everyone of what Kama Sutra did in 200 BC and how its aftermath is reshaping India in 2020.
    Raj Armani

    (Make sure you don't miss fresh news updates from us. Click here to stay updated)

    Expand

Sex Toys Confined to Metros? No, Sir!

The demand for these products is not simply limited to metro cities.
The demand for these products is not simply limited to metro cities.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The demand for these products is not simply limited to metro cities. While they continue to be a major demand epicentre, demand is growing in tier-II and tier-III cities as well. To put things in perspective, according to a March 2017 report, while tier-I constituted 48 percent of the demand, it was followed by tier-II at 40 percent and 12 percent for tier-III.

“The trends keep shifting based on the current flair”, says Raj Armani, Co-Founder and COO, IMBesharam, a leading website for sexual wellness products in India.

For first three months Bangalore/Karnataka was the leader in the number of orders, while Delhi and Gujarat were leading in the total order size for each month. This month, however, Mumbai has taken the lead.
Raj Armani

One visit to the website would reveal to the consumer a plethora of products to choose from. For the uninitiated eye, it’s more bewildering than exciting, to see an endless supply of contraptions categorised by gender, body parts and the kind of stimulation you’re looking for. However, most customers that they get are quite clear about what they want, adds Armani. In fact, on the contrary, they are excited to the point that they need to be calmed down and their expectations recaliberated.

Similarly, Balaji TV, CEO and Founder of Lovetreats.in, agrees that while majority of their sales come from metros, smaller towns constitute a big chunk.

Majority of our sales come from Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkatta, Cochin. Tier 2-4 places accounted for 25-30 percent sales this year so far.
Balaji TV

Wanting Everything At Once

Most customers are clear about what they’re looking for.
Most customers are clear about what they’re looking for.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

When it comes to consumers, they cover the whole spectrum - from being sure of what they want to being hesitant about their first buy. Both Balaji and Armani have different experiences to share.

They approach us for sexual health advice, counselling or just to help choose products. Most people seem to know what they want. First time buyers are a bit hesitant on how much to spend. We always advice on buying cheaper products  before upgrading so that they learn what they like and what they don’t like.
Balaji TV

Armani says that most of their customers don’t realise that they are talking to him since he uses the pseudonym Agent007. However, they are very clear about what they’re looking for.

About 90 percent of them know what they want, the only problem is that they want everything NOW! So, we have to, at most times, calm them down and set their expectations straight. The porn ban brought a lot of such users to our store. In fact, the women shoppers are giving our team a training and tour of the wide, wide world of erotic commerce. We end up sourcing products from as far as Japan, Brazil and Europe for the custom items they demand.
Raj Armani

Sex Toys Not Only for the Young or a Single Gender

The average order size for women was larger than men by 18 percent.
The average order size for women was larger than men by 18 percent.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Balaji says that the age group of their customers is somewhere between 25 to 45 years and that 60 percent of their customers are women.

Armani suggests that they have a bigger number of men in their clientele than women, but this ratio has been changing too every year.

The ratio has been changing every year as women shoppers have been increasing from 18 percent when we went live to about 32 percent now. They come ready to shop and are no-nonsense when placing orders. We have some amazing conversations with them during pre-sales and post sales discussions.
Raj Armani

Contrary to popular belief, there is no dearth of customers in their middle age or beyond. Sex toys are not only the stuff of the young and hormonal. About 16 percent of the total demand in India was constituted by people over the age of 45, according to a 2017 report. There was also a significant number of women consumers in this group. Additionally, the same report points out, the average order size for women was larger than men by 18 percent.

When it comes to IMBesharam, their customers are anywhere between 28-40 years old. For men the age bracket is 25-35 while for women it’s 30-40 years .

Did You Know It’s Illegal to Buy or Sell Sex Toys in India?

The vagueness of the law leaves room for a lot of grey territory which is what is utilised by sellers and buyers in the country.
The vagueness of the law leaves room for a lot of grey territory which is what is utilised by sellers and buyers in the country.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Section 292 of the IPC makes the sale or buying of sex toys illegal in India, calling them “obscene products”. However the vagueness of the law leaves room for a lot of grey territory which is what is utilised by sellers and buyers in the country.

Armani further comments on this grey area and adds:

This is less an art and more of science. The first point to note is that the definition of the laws that can regulate sale of sex toys in India is vague and hence most times misunderstood. If you dig deep, you come to know that you can still ‘comply’ with the law, but yes, you will have to face the challenges of ratifying it at every stop.

To begin with, the products are often termed as something meant for ‘sexual wellness and wellbeing’. Can’t go wrong with that one, can you? Some retailers also posit them as products meant to strengthen and save marriages. Several of them go ahead to garb their vibrators as lipsticks or pens. No one will jail anyone for owning a pair of fluffy handcuffs, can they now?

How Far People Are Willing to Go for Sexual Pleasure?

The sale of these products goes up around the holiday season and festivals. Will frequent sex make me impotent?
The sale of these products goes up around the holiday season and festivals. Will frequent sex make me impotent?
(Photo: iStock)

One of the most unusual things revealed by Agents of Ishq after conducting a survey with 100 women was the usage of a particular mobile phone as a vibrator. When women were asked about the most unexpected things they have used for pleasing themselves, other than pillows and toothbrushes, many women responded with their stories of using a Nokia 3310 handset. For women who didn’t have access to sex toys, these are the alternatives they made-do with.

Other than the pricing and availability of such products in India where there can’t be a physical store, there is of course the concern of secrecy when buying a product for sexual gratification. People often go to great lengths to conceal their purchases. For instance, shares Armani, their consumers have made all sorts of demands to help keep the product concealed in its packaging.

We have had customers request to fold the products to make it look like a rubber mould and then pack, so when it arrives you can’t feel the shape in a package. We have frequent requests to drop it off at airports when customers are leaving so their family doesn’t know of the arrival of the package. This one time a man took a fleshlight from us for his honeymoon in Sri Lanka. When he came back, the customs questioned him what it was, he cleverly explained it to be a manual vacuum pump which the customs had to buy and didn’t bother him again. At one time, a woman shopper contacted us to know if it was okay for her to bring a dildo she got in Amsterdam. We guided her how to pack and plan, but she was so nervous she ended up giving it to an air hostess as a gift.
Raj Armani

Armani also speaks of high profile customers that include Bollywood celebrities, politicians and production houses who have sourced products from them.

If you would name the top 10 male Bollywood actors, three of them have shopped at our store. Two of the top 10 Bollywood directors and producers have shopped at our store too. We have provided the props for many Yash Raj movies and web series. We have had politicians from Kerala, Eastern States and Delhi shop with us as well.
Raj Armani

Balaji adds that he has been approached by some users with interesting names like Jon Snow. Another interesting fact is that the sale of these products goes up around the holiday season and festivals. During the wedding season, sales increase by 40 percent, suggests this report.

What Do Indian Trends Suggest?

The lack of knowledge about their bodies and sexualities is being reduced by the internet and the porn industry.
The lack of knowledge about their bodies and sexualities is being reduced by the internet and the porn industry.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Market trends suggest that the consumer is becoming more and more informed every day. Balaji says that their sale patterns show that couples are becoming aware of each other’s needs.

Recently we have seen an increased number  of sale which indicates that couples are investing in sexual wellness items to increase intimacy and there’s healthy participation by both parties. We also see these orders increase whenever there are holidays around which indicates that couples are maybe using the holidays as an opportunity to spend quality time with each other and spice it up while they are at it.   
Balaji TV

He also adds that India is a fast growing market.

While we cannot comment on the current numbers, we can say that every year we are increasing 3.5 times in terms of revenue.
Balaji TV

The lack of knowledge about their bodies and sexualities is being reduced further by the internet and the porn industry, affirms Armani. Media and entertainment also has a big role to play, he adds.

The four very controversial releases in the last 18 months - Lipstick Under My Burqa, Veere di Wedding, Lust Stories, Four More Shots - all present women who are not afraid to speak their mind. This shift in thinking along with the internet literacy of over 400 million people in India is going to explode the sexual wellness category, so much that it will bring worldwide attention to India again, reminding everyone of what Kama Sutra did in 200 BC and how its aftermath is reshaping India in 2020.
Raj Armani

(Make sure you don't miss fresh news updates from us. Click here to stay updated)

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