Shreyas Kulkarni

"The retail market has returned; people are indulging in 'revenge consumerism'": Samriddh Dasgupta, Bombay Shaving Company

The chief marketer speaks about the male grooming category, the brand's 'gifting equity', new ad with cricketer Ashwin, and why Gillette is not a rival.

If grooming was a noble art, then most Indian men wouldn’t be connoisseurs. We men are quite dismal at grooming.

How many times have you seen a guy grow his beard and hair, and end up looking more like Rubeus Hagrid from Harry Potter than Jason Momoa from Aquaman or Game of Thrones? A 5 o’clock shadow makes most men look like a sleep-deprived IT guy, after he has pulled a night shift, than Daniel Craig, aka James Bond.

The problem is that most men consider the shaving/grooming experience more of a chore and less of an indulgence, or something worth looking forward to.

But that may no longer be the case. “Today, men have become more conscious of their skin, its texture… they’re asking questions, such as, “Am I looking clean enough?” The COVID pandemic has put a lot more focus on the need to look better,” points out Samriddh Dasgupta, Bombay Shaving Company’s chief marketer.

Dasgupta joined the Delhi-based grooming company in July 2020 as director of marketing and new initiatives. He became vice president of marketing and new brands in February this year. In the past, he’s worked with the likes of Akiva, Aakash Digital, Times Internet (TIL), and The Princeton Review.

Bombay Shaving Company recently made cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin its brand ambassador. It released an ad in which the leg spinner is seen doling out witticisms, while shaving.

Ashwin is an interesting choice for a brand ambassador. He is a part of an Indian cricket team that is known as much for its grooming and beard game as it is for its game on the field.

It was a combination of “both”, says Dasgupta. He says the company realised that Ashwin was one of those cricketers who was going to play the long game and his contributions were being noticed by everyone. Plus, his ability to articulate himself so well worked in his favour.

“Our razor is the Waterman of razors, whereas Gillette is like Reynolds - available everywhere and at low cost."

“It came to a point where we spoke to him about the product and he started giving us ideas about it. So, we started co-creating things,” mentions Dasgupta.

Bombay Shaving Company is going to launch a special Ashwin kit next month. One of the items inside it is a cricket ball with his autograph on it.

The brand wanted someone who’s got a “strong and relatable” face, and when it spoke to Ashwin, he fit the bill.

A new brand ambassador, campaign, kit… who is the company targeting? Turns out that Bombay Shaving Company has two sets of customers, and both fall in the 28-45 age group.

“The 28-34 year olds are the ones who enter our ecosystem, and the older group has been with us for a while because of the quality of our shaving cream or foam or post-shave balm,” explains Dasgupta.

The male grooming space in India is undergoing quite a transformation. And, influencers are among those spearheading this transformation. Most men follow someone who posts grooming rituals on apps such as Instagram and even Facebook.

Dasgupta thinks that they (the influencers) are fantastic storytellers, and one needs to appreciate the effort they put behind their work. He talks about the company using influencers for Father’s Day. The influencers gifted their respective fathers the brand’s kit and illustrated that it’s a worthy choice for people who’re unsure about it (the kit).

“It (influencer content) needs to be done intelligently, and they should be left on their own to create content,” states Dasgupta.

The male grooming category remains a low engagement one. Most men, even today, tend to pick the first bottle of shaving foam, or razor in front of them, without batting an eyelid.

“It is still a big challenge,” says Dasgupta, adding that “it is evolving… Interaction, engagement, involvement, and the time spent will go up in the next few years.”

Where are the men buying the company’s products from? Offline retail is facing issues. So, it is a competition between Bombay Shaving Company’s website and e-commerce players.

“Our website holds a sizeable chunk because we do customisations (engraving names on razors) on our website. But you’d be surprised that the retail market has opened now, and people are indulging in revenge consumption,” reveals Dasgupta.

Speaking about offline retail, he says that Bombay Shaving Company is present in 19,000-20,000 touch points. It is looking at almost 30-35 per cent quarter on quarter (QoQ) growth, when it comes to the number of outlets.

“The ambition is that by the end of the current financial year, we should be at 1,00,000 outlets.”

While that’s quite an ambition, how does one reach the target without tackling Gillette, which holds the lion’s share of the male grooming segment? And then, there are other rivals like Mi and boAt, along with brands such as Philips and Ustraa.

“The market is big and people will go to their preferences. We, as a player, have pride in our product line and quality. They can’t dislodge our loyal customer base, and I am confident of it,” quips Dasgupta.

Speaking of Gillette, he says, “Our razor is the Waterman of razors, whereas Gillette is like Reynolds - available everywhere and at low cost. It will always outsell us, but one buys our razors when they want to indulge themselves, or gift it to someone.” Bombay Shaving Company is backed by Reckitt and Colgate.

On the brand’s B2B business, Dasgupta informs us that the company creates customised solutions for large-scale corporates. It is not focusing on salons because most barbers are used to straight razors. Changing their practice and scaling are the two big challenges for the brand. (Please note that Bombay Shaving Company has its salon in Delhi’s Chattarpur area.)

Dasgupta also mentions that it is a conscious decision by the brand to be considered as a gifting option. “Look at our competition - they are extremely male-centric, or one product-centric. We have an opportunity to be gender-neutral.” Bombay Shaving Company offers products for both men and women.

“Our packaging is eco-friendly, we use lower-ply cardboard and sell only high quality products… We want to become the go-to choice for gifting,” he signs off.