TTK Healthcare has launched LoveDepot, a D2C site for pleasure products, how does it plan to last in India?
Imagine your parents find a pair of handcuffs, a gel bottle, a mike-like object with a few buttons, and a ring too big for the average size in your room, they and most Indian parents will
assume pretend your side hustle is of a thief who somehow uses these tools to pick locks and break inside homes late into the night.
“That’s why your child keeps the door locked from the inside… doesn’t want to be caught sneaking out… look at the result of all your mollycoddling” chides one parent to the other.
We exaggerate but we are not too far from the truth. Indians are notoriously clueless, often by intention, on anything near and about the art of lovemaking, the ways of protection, and the varied roads to pleasure. The land of the Kamasutra suffers from hilarious bouts of amnesia caused by societal norms.
Unfortunately, bringing people into the ways of pleasure is not some two-pump job, it is hard, it takes time, and it needs a lot of patience.
Something about which TTK Healthcare, the marketers of SKORE Condoms, introduced to Indian homes in 2012, know a thing or two. Nearly a decade later after its launch, after most Indians might have understood the need for protected sex, the brand decided to focus on pleasure and so in 2021, it introduced flavoured lubes vibrating rings.
Pleasure is addictive, you always want more. Who is TTK Healthcare to refuse, it recently launched LoveDepot (click to watch the ad), an online direct-to-consumer (D2C) store for sex toys and pleasure products.
Our understanding is that “the market, for pleasure products, always existed, it only required a proper distribution channel,” tells Vishal Vyas, assistant vice president, marketing, TTK Healthcare on the origins of this depot of love.
What worked, as a blessing, for the company he tells us the “explosion of online” courtesy of e-commerce in the past couple of years which made it easy for any product to directly reach a consumer “be it the living room or the bedroom.”
For TTK Healthcare, this was the ideal way to “get into D2C through passion products which we have pioneered all along in the offline space. That is how it came together for LoveDepot,” Vyas reveals.
The first-mover advantage
TTK Healthcare company is part of the TTK Group which built its way up as a distribution agency for brands such as Lux and Cadbury. Vays says “it pioneered FMCG distribution in India and the other thing it pioneered is the sexual pleasure category.”
In the pre-independence 1940s, it used to import condoms in the name of Durapack. It started India’s first condom manufacturing facility in the ‘60s, a decade later launched India’s first commercial condom brand (until then it was all social a la government-owned condom brand).
The company knows its way around the sexual wellness landscape.
Starting from scratch
Vyas and his team are at a deja vu point of time. When SKORE condoms was launched, the brand had to first work on building awareness around why condoms are important. Sex toys and other pleasure products, TTK Healthcare has to take the same route.
Vyas is not worried. When the first condom manufacturing facility opened in the 70s, there were certain challenges and “we are expecting certain challenges now as well and we geared up for it,” he says and states that “awareness will be an important pillar in terms of overall business strategy for LoveDepot and we are committed to making people aware of it”.
LoveDepot is completely reliant on digital because it gives the D2C brand the opportunity to speak directly to consumers, at their time, in their place, and it removes all obstacles in mass media.
Right now, the brand’s monies are being spent on digital display advertisements but “soon it will be taken over by a spread of influencers and content marketing and will also include paid media and performance marketing,” reveals Vyas.
While the perception of India’s cluelessness to sex toys and pleasure products comes from its conservative societal nature, this very restrictive atmosphere has, in turn, fueled immense curiosity among the subjugated.
An Allied Markets report states India’s sexual wellness market size was valued at $1,153.5 million in 2020 and is estimated to reach $2,095.4 million by 2030, registering a CAGR of 5.8% from 2021 to 2030.
TTK Healthcare’s research revealed the awareness of lubes and toys and the use of sex toys is significantly higher among women.
Vyas says the products on LoveDepot range from Rs 600 to Rs 3,000 and some go up to Rs 30,000 and so there is something for every pocket.
In the first few days of the site going live, data revealed metro dwellers from Mumbai, Bangalore, and Pune led as buyers and that even residents of areas like Ludhiana and Indore responded positively to these offerings.
One of the, if not, the most important worry for buyers of sexual wellness products is being caught. No, not literally but when they receive the product be it at their homes or their offices.
Says Vyas, “We are making the packaging discrete and there is also an option of self-pickup for buyers… customers should not have any fear of being caught.”
Tussling with rivals
LoveDepot may have the experience of TTK Healthcare but it has some serious competition up its sleeve. The first is India’s vast unorganised market which sells unbranded products and also Made in China sex toys but Vyas is unfazed by them.
“The unregulated market is more of an underground phenomenon. We don’t have any competition there,” he says and explains: One is they don't have range, second is the quality of parts as you don't have assurance there, and third is the price which is often disadvantageous to customers.
LoveDepot stocks its racks with international brands such as plusOne, Love Honey, We-Vibe, Je Joue, Satisfyer, as well TTK Healthcare’s brands Skore and Mschief, among others.
Another competition up LoveDepot’s sleeve is Amazon where if you search hard enough, you will find the right spot for these products. “As far as Amazon is concerned, we have a better assortment than it in this category,” he states.
The battle for India’s sexual wellness market is now online but will LoveDepot, like most online D2C brands, venture offline? “It's quite natural and I think it will happen. When and why we will have to wait and watch,” he responds.
Five years ago, Jackie Shroff and Neena Gupta discovered handcuffs in their son’s bedroom and he blamed Gupta’s mollycoddling for his son’s behaviour.
That was a short film aptly titled Khujli (look out for Gupta’s response to Shroff’s acquisitions). Let’s hope India’s discovery of sex toys is more smooth this time around.