The Man Company, The Bombay Shaving Company, Beardo and Ustraa were all started in the same year – 2015. The core products of these brands are aimed at one thing - nurturing male facial hair. But, men have always had facial hair. What's attracting the crowd in the space?
A host of brands, all servicing 'the male beard' has probably been the biggest change in the FMCG sector in India in the last few years. The male grooming segment has witnessed rapid entry of multiple players with a bulk of them being launched in 2015. Popular brands like The Man Company, The Bombay Shaving Company, Beardo and Ustraa were all started in the same year – 2015. Beard related products aren't new, however. FMCG giant P&G launched its beard related vertical Gillette in India in 1993. Brands like Old Spice, Vi John, Dettol, Godrej, Park Avenue, Axe and Nivea have had a say in the space of men's grooming for years. But much of the conversation that these brands carried forward was about cutting a man's facial hair and not nurturing it. They offered products like creams, gels, lotions, razors and electronic shavers (from Gillette, Havells, Nova, Phillips, etc.).
Gillette even ran an ad campaign 'What Women Prefer' around 2013. The campaign cited data suggesting '86 per cent of women think clean-shaven men smell good'. The newer pro-beard startups have witnessed a decent amount of interest from existing traditional FMCG players. After two rounds of funding, Emami has a 30 per cent stake in The Man Company. Industry reports suggest Marico is set to complete its acquisition of Beardo by 2020. Wipro picked up about 20 per cent stake in Happily Unmarried (Ustraa) in 2017. Colgate-Palmolive picked up a 14 per cent stake in Bombay Shaving Company in 2018.
A Nielsen report (from October 2019) suggests, 177 new male grooming brands/variants were launched between March 2018 and March 2019. Nielsen pegs the value of the male grooming market at around Rs 5000 crore, growing at around 12.3 per cent. The growth is being driven by the North zone (the largest market). It is followed by the West zone which is growing at the fastest rate. The South is the slowest growing, while East is the least in terms of sales.
Beardo started off with Beard oil and Beard wash in 2015 and has since spread into categories like skin care, hair care and beard care with more than 55 products. The Man Company now offers a head-to-toe range for men which includes shampoos, face washes, soap bars, body washes, shave gels to fragrances to beard oils, beard washes, beard wax and crème. Apart from shaving and face-care products, The Bombay Shaving Company too ventured into categories such as body care and hair care.
While most of the players are e-commerce first, they have maintained their offline presence. Prices for individual items is around a few hundred rupees and bundle kits and gift packs go for a few thousand rupees.
So, why are men paying to keep the fuzz now, after all these years?
"Gone are the days when working in a corporate environment meant short cropped hair and a clean-shaven look. A beard is no more looked at as the lazy unemployed adornment." Hitesh Dhingra
According to Hitesh Dhingra, founder and managing director, The Man Company, there are multiple factors behind this trend. "First, the acceptance of a beard as a fashion accessory in a formal corporate space. Gone are the days when working in a corporate environment meant short cropped hair and a clean-shaven look. A beard is no more looked at as the lazy unemployed adornment. It is now a fashion accessory, a style statement and not just limited to cultural burden," Dhingra says.
"Earlier, most products catering to men lacked desired segmentation. When it comes to beard, the need can vary - accelerating growth, providing nourishment, keeping beard frizz free, coloring the beard or promoting even growth and filling up the patches," he adds.
"And most importantly, for a long time, men believed that spending time and money on self grooming and pampering was a sign of vanity. Having a rough and tough skin was a sign of masculinity. More men are realising the flaw in this concept and treating their cosmetic needs as serious grooming. It can also be attributed to the growing number of Bollywood actors, cricketers and other celebs who are sporting a well-groomed beard and are setting new trends," Dhingra explains.
Chirag Taneja, chief revenue officer, Bombay Shaving Company, says, "There's a lot of pressure on men to look nice. This can be attributed to global trends and changing mindsets. The Indian male initially felt grooming was a female need and it wasn't considered manly enough. The sudden flood of beauty bloggers and social media influencers has also increased in the past three years making it all the more obvious that there’s scope for conscious consumerism."
Ashutosh Valani, co-founder, Beardo, says, "Indian men have been sporting beards for ages, right from Rajputs to Mughals. It is considered to be a symbol of manhood and royalty. But like fashion changes, beards have also been making appearances in different forms. Men are now more experimental about their looks and therefore are sporty enough to carry various beard styles. Moreover, there is more awareness among men. Beard oils and washes are essentials like face wash or shampoo."
"Also, there’s a constant flow of content explaining the products, need, and much more. The beard trend is growing and has now become an inevitable part of male personality. It is versatile for men to change their look whenever they want. There is more awareness among men, making them more open to using new products," Valani adds.
The Man Company's Dhingra reveals, "Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi NCR and Punjab are driving the growth for beard grooming products. We see a spike during the festive season since gifting comes into play. 20 per cent of our customer base is women and so occasions like Valentine's Day, Rakhi, Diwali and Christmas become important to us. From the product perspective, beard crème witnesses better uptake during winter season."
Beardo's Valani reveals that seasons and climate affect the quality of certain products like serums, some creams and waxes. "We try our best to combat such issues by monitoring and bringing them forth with our product development team. We do try to convey this to the consumers by mentioning on the labels, adding a footnote to the description and mentioning in the FAQs. We try our best to resolve them as soon as possible. It helps us know more about customer’s needs and psyche for our research. We spend more time on packaging, material and other details to improve our brand."
Women buy it too!
While the major TG for most brands is males aged between 18-35 years, women play a significant part in the journey of the product.
Taneja says, "Women are the perfect gifters. We have also understood that married women in the traditional Indian households, take charge of grocery shopping, etc., and it generally falls upon the woman to buy for the man."
"The female cosmetic category has evolved to a level wherein the consumer understands the need very clearly. On the other hand, in male grooming, educating men and creating awareness is as important." Hitesh Dhingra
From The Man Company's perspective, Hitesh Dhingra adds, "The female cosmetic category has evolved to a level wherein the consumer understands the need very clearly. On the other hand, in male grooming, educating men and creating awareness is as important. Women in this case understand the basics quite clearly, becoming an important tool to educate their partners. They also actively take part in creating an inclination to make the grooming products a part of the daily routine."
On a similar note, Beardo's Valani maintains that men take advice from women as to which products can they use, while women recommend and help men get the right products.
Advertising in the space:
Most of the brands are digital-centric when it comes to communication. While hirsute men are a staple across ads in the space, brands do attempt to stand out with various approaches. While Ayushmann Khurrana is a brand ambassador for The Man Company, Beardo roped in Shahid Kapoor (2018-19). KGF fame Yash is the face of Beardo for 2019-20. The Bombay Shaving Company recently collaborated with Nawazuddin Siddiqui for its Sacred Games themed kits. The Man Company in its latest spot took to busting male stereotypes. The Bombay Shaving Company runs topical campaigns (Rakhi, Valentine's Day) alongside its 'how to' videos. Beardo's digital ads frequently feature salon-like situations.
Communications and campaigns for most brands are crafted by in-house creative teams leaving minimal external involvements (for influencers, etc). The in-house capabilities complement their digital-first nature.
Hitesh Dhingra (The Man Company), says, "We allocate 25 per cent of our revenue on advertising with major focus on social media and content creation."
"Social media helps us converse and connect with like-minded individuals in real time. Advertising is a medium to spread beliefs and values instead of pushing products. We also invest heavily in brand activations in malls and corporates like co-working spaces. This provides opportunities to the customers to experience the brand," Dhingra adds.
"Budgets are mainly spread across Google and social media platforms, YouTube and all the alliance partners on the digital front. In the ATL/BTL space, we do indulge in theater ads, magazines and trade marketing." Ashutosh Valani
Commenting on Beardo's advertising, Ashutosh Valani says, "Our branding and communication caters to the digital audience as that’s the need of the hour. Not only does it give us real-time results, it also helps us connect and keep our communication fresh and versatile. Once you know what’s trending, you can be aligned with your audience. Budgets are mainly spread across Google and social media platforms, YouTube and all the alliance partners on the digital front. In the ATL/BTL space, we do indulge in theater ads, magazines and trade marketing."
Online vs Offline and B2B partnerships
The Man Company's online vs offline split is 60-40. In offline, its focus is majorly on large lifestyle retail chains like Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle and Central, and premium salons chains (450+ salon chains across 50+ cities).
Says Dhingra, "Unlike typical e-commerce, we are an omnichannel business. A customer may interact with the brand first at our store and later buy from other channel partners. We try our best to offer the consistent brand and product experience. However, the transition is not that easy and I would consider that to be the biggest challenge."
Beardo maintains its presence across e-commerce platforms alongside its website traffic of about half a million every week. With a salon presence in 50 cities nationwide, the brand is reaching people in the offline sector too. It also has a subscription option online, where registered customers get points, offers and updates in advance.
Apart from e-commerce, Bombay Shaving Company's offline presence has also increased with a presence in most premium retail stores.