Benita Chacko

"With its quirky content, Bombay Shaving Company will be ‘Coke Studio’ equivalent in hair removal space": AVP Siddha Jain

The grooming brand launched its women’s range last year and within a year it made 25 per cent of the overall business.

Even before girls hit the age where they can finally start removing their body hair, they are met with unsolicited advice from all quarters. An aunty says one should only wax at home. A cousin insists that shaving gives the best results. The parlour didi has her own two pence worth- threading is the only way out on the face as a razor will give you a masculine stubble. Then there are the peers who suggest everything from hair removal creams to trimmers. By the time she is ready for her first hair removal experience she is quite confused on who to listen to.

Until the pandemic began last year, many women would leave the painful and tedious process in the hands of salon professionals. Salon visits for waxing and threading was a routine. But with salons shut for months due to the lockdown, how long would women wait to get rid of the unwanted hair? Soon they went back to the good old home solutions or better still looked for products that could do the trick at home. The products in this category include depilatories- including wax strips and other wax products, razors and hair removal creams. This gave a strong momentum to the Indian women’s hair removal market, which is pegged at Rs 15,000 crore, as per in-house research and assessments conducted by Bombay Shaving Company. This is projected to grow at 21% year-on-year in the next five years.

Making the most of this shift, Bombay Shaving Company launched its women’s range in 2020 with shaving products and at the end of the first year it made 25 per cent of the overall business.

In this segment, India has traditionally been services heavy, that is salons. But as those services became inaccessible during the first wave last year, hair removal products started picking up. Also for women, hair removal is not a functional thing, but an enabler of confidence. So the need for hair removal remained and only the mode changed.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Siddha Jain</p></div>

Siddha Jain

Siddha Jain, AVP, Bombay Shaving Company (BSC), says that the demand generated during the pandemic will sustain and intends to expand beyond shaving to own the hair removal space end-to-end. To this end it will be creating products for waxing and hair removal creams as well. She says it was not difficult to expand to the women’s offering as even in the men's segment 30 per cent of the base was formed by women, who were buying the products for the men in their lives.

“BSC enjoys a strong equity as a thoughtful, sober, subtle and gentle brand. It was never macho. It's a very contemporary brand in its communication. And the equity remains. So it was natural for us to first cultivate this equity. That's the reason we went with the name Bombay Shaving Company Women and not any other name. But we understand and acknowledge that BSC Women will have to have its own separate entity so we have created a separate website destination,” she says.

"We understand and acknowledge that BSC Women will have to have its own separate entity so we have created a separate website destination."

It started with only four products last year and among them face razors saw high demand. “Women were attending Zoom calls all the time and they needed to take care of their facial hair. So we saw a lot of demand for facial razors,” she adds.

Having established itself in the men’s segment it proposes to cater to the entire gender spectrum soon.

The brand needs to communicate differently to women. “Women don't speak the same language or adhere to the same norms. The woman consumer is a nuanced audience, who understands the nitty gritties of the products that she purchases. She wants to associate with brands that have deeper meaning beyond just selling a particular product. She's highly connected online. So it has to be a very personal communication. We have to find ways to make every touchpoint a little more personal, conversant and conversational. Unlike men, shaving is not functional for women. Men don’t speak to each other about their shaving experience. But women do. So a community-like approach is important,” she adds.

"Unlike men, shaving is not functional for women. Men don’t speak to each other about their shaving experience. But women do. So a community-like approach is important."

A BSC Women consumer belongs to the 18 to 35 age group. She spends a lot of time doing things she loves to do, and hence has less time to spend on appearances. Yet she’s cognizant of that. When it comes to hair removal, women want products that are kinder to the skin, are less painful, more time-efficient and portable.

“It might seem like a very big group but it is homogenous in a lot of ways. Everyone wants the best thing for their skin. They don't want to compromise on time. They're successful and out there. They're working and ambitious. But they are very cognizant of looking and feeling confident,” she says.

This age range consists of two groups- Gen Z (18-25 years) and the millennials (25-35). Jain says the two groups behave very differently. The millennials are ‘mom-first trained’. They are not the early adopters and wait for feedback from their friends on products they are trying out. Whereas the Gen Z don't believe in the status quo. They question the myths and take them head on. But even they do not compromise with their skin.

At least 40% of women in the 18 to 25 range prefer razor as the first mode of hair removal. Amongst millennials it was at 10-15% until COVID, when everything changed. “Now people don't want to spend time doing things that aren't as enriching. They want to spend time on experiences and suddenly the value of time has increased,” she says.

Launched in 2016, Bombay Shaving Co has a portfolio of over 100 products across shaving, bath, body, skin, and beard care. With this it has established itself in the men’s category. However it is quite new in the women’s category and needs to cultivate an audience. To begin with it will be focussing on digital. Apart from pure digital, it will also work on digital across channels. For example, using the influencer community on Nykaa. Lastly it is working on creating and distributing content.

“Women consumers are a lot more online savvy than men. We will also do focused and sharp offline activations. For example, we did Delhi Times Fashion Week as a grooming partner and had some interesting activations offline,” she adds.

The women’s hair removal segment is surrounded with all kinds of myths, including the ones we discussed in the beginning. The Company has made it its goal to bust them. For this they are educating consumers through the product experience and also through quirky content. The brand recently conducted #SmoothAF Comedy, an event hosting female comedians talking about their hair removal journey.

“We want to own this space of quirky content around hair removal. We want to be the ‘Coke Studio’ equivalent in the hair removal space,” Jain said.

They will also have expert lead content with skincare experts, makeup artists, and others leading the conversation. They will also have community lead content where the people will also help it build better products by providing valuable inputs. “They will not only serve as champions but also be our tribe of #SmoothAF experts who will come back to us,” she adds.

The Company intends to go big on the educational content from January and are planning to tie up with platforms like POPxo and iDiva that have its preferred target audience and also the sensibilities to understand the brand and co-create content for it. It will soon launch the BSC Women's academy series. It recently released a large-scale campaign with Alaya F.

BSC Women’s products are available both online and offline. Offline they are available in large store format like Shopper’s Stop, in modern trade and medical store chains like Apollo and MedPlus. But primarily it has an online heavy audience and is available on its own website and on other platforms like Nykaa, Purpple, Amazon and Flipkart.

Currently the brand offers an entire shaving regimen- shaving foam, razor and after shave. It also has other products like hair removal creams, face razors and trimmers. This puts it in the same space as brands like Gillette Venus and Veet. Even The Woman’s Company has razors. But no brand owns the space end-to-end. That is, they all specialise in one of the sub-categories and not all. BSC Women wants to become that brand. Jain aspires BSC Women to have a 20-30 per cent share in all the sub-categories in a year from now.

“We want to be the brand that women think of when it comes to hair removal, irrespective of how she does it. Hair removal is an occasion based thing. Women are not a wax person or a shaving person. We might be 60% wax person or 30% salon person. Over time people will go more from services to the product side, but we will not completely replace the salons. The salon visits may reduce and be limited to big occasions,” she adds.

“We want to be the brand that women think of when it comes to hair removal, irrespective of how she does it."

Earlier this year, consumer goods major Reckitt Benckiser, who owns Veet, led a ₹45 crore funding round in the company.

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