New India is burgeoning, brash and bold. We love the exciting things happening in our country and to kick off 2014, we bring to you a sexy startup that goes where very few commercial ventures in the country have ever gone before.
Founded by Samir Saraiya, That’s Personal is an ecommerce venture for intimate, personal and fun products for the Indian consumer. Think Sex, Laughs and Luxury.
We had the pleasure of meeting Samir at Gaysi’s open mic event – Dirty Talk in September, 2013 and we’re thrilled to be collaborating more with the That’s Personal team in the future. We got chatting with him about his brilliant venture and got some insight into how That’s Personal all came about – Read on.
Q: The story goes that you did a survey to identify the gap in the Indian e-commerce market. Tell us a bit about what was going through your mind when you discovered the niche of personal, intimate products for the Indian consumer. Did you think “heck, I must be crazy for wanting to do this but I will anyway?”? Were you concerned about a personal/professional backlash given the conservative Indian mind-set on the visible level?
Thinking of E-com, I realised that all the E-com companies in India were playing on one of three pillars namely, ‘convenience’, ‘price’ and ‘choice’. I decided to innovate and launch a fourth pillar called ‘privacy’ with the aim to be the leaders in discreet purchase and delivery. After researching a lot of products that would fit well under the ‘privacy pillar’, I decided to launch with ‘sexual wellness’, due to business model advantages of latent demand, high margins, repeat purchases, scalability and solving a genuine customer purchase issue.
Believe me, it was a very difficult decision as I was extremely worried about society and what they would think of me and my family. I did have many sleepless nights. However, the investor community loved the idea and so did my immediate friend circle. Both kept pushing me to take the plunge and I finally reached a point of no return. After we launched and got some initial success, I was happy, calm and confident and today I am happy with my decision.
Q: “That’s Personal” usually means something that we don’t want to talk about or share in everyday Indian speech. How did you decide upon this name for your company?
My business partner Vikram’s advertising agency, Digital Driftwood helped us with the thinking on the brand. We wanted to build a brand that reflected a clean image, connoted privacy, and was broad enough to encompass a wide range of products that we might sell in future. At the same time, the URL had to be easy to recall too. We put a lot of suggestions to the test. That’s Personal brilliantly appropriates the product line and the privacy aspect with the right attitude. We like it because it says private without saying illicit or forbidden.
The logo if you notice, uses the emoticon of the semi-colon with the P, forming a wink, which shows a bit of our naughtier side.
Q: In your opinion, what is the current mind-set of the Indian consciousness towards sex, intimacy, hygiene, sexual fun and games and lingerie? Have you been surprised at any time by the response to your products?
Our research shows that 5 to 10% of the global searches for erotic products originate from India. Additionally, almost every sex survey done by the likes of India Today, Outlook, Cosmopolitan tells us that Indians want to spice up their sex life. However, India per capita usage is very small and a fraction of the global average. We believe that the main reason is that there are no sexual wellness products available in India and Indians are uncomfortable to buy at retail outlets. Our strategy was to bring world class products in India and sell them in a manner which is conducive to Indian sensibilities.
Since this was the first time anybody was doing this, we were unsure as to which products will work. And we were ready to go through a long learning curve to get the product mix and pricing right. We are pleasantly surprised with the sales of our edible products, lubricants and most of all the men’s erotic underwear which are doing incredibly well.
Q: Can you share with us any interesting stories or feedback you’ve received after you launched ThatsPersonal? Anything that stands out and makes you glad or think twice that you are in this business?
We launched in January 2013 and received global media attention including a front page story on The Economic Times. Our site crashed as we had visitors from a 123 counties within 10 days of launch. I received a lot of fan mail from people congratulating me on this bold step. This felt really good and helped me regain confidence.
We were sold out in our first month of launch and had no stocks left for Valentine’s Day, which is the biggest event of the year for this business. Today I am really happy with the way business has grown and I call it a ‘dream run’.
Q: There has always been a notion of sleaziness attached to anything to do with sex or the body in India. How do you circumvent or deal with that in your positioning, sales, marketing, dinner table conversations etc.?
Our Value proposition revolves around helping Indians celebrate their intimacy and achieve a fulfilling sex life. We source the world’s best brands, offer convenience by way of purchasing from the comfort of their home. We also provide discreet delivery. Our tone of voice is clean, confident, fun and not slapstick or sleazy. We want to be like a trustworthy friend. We believe that we are the first store in India where people can shop in confidence for personal and intimate products.
On the social side, this is also a fun topic to talk about and is normally the number one topic of any party I attend. The only people that I don’t talk about my work with are my mother and my sister who are quite unhappy with the line of business I have selected.
Q: Now for the big Q – I notice ThatsPersonal is quite discrete in how it lists its products. Very simply, can someone go to ThatsPersonal and buy a sex toy like a vibrator, for instance?
As per Indian laws, we are unable to sell all global sexual wellness products. We sell products that are legal for sale in India and follow two important criteria which are:
1. Products manufactured in India for sale in India
2. Products that may be imported under the Open General License under the Export Import Policy prescribed by the Government of India and are duly cleared through Customs by paying the relevant import duties and surcharges
We sell women’s erotic lingerie, erotic costumes, men’s erotic innerwear, condoms, lotions, lubricants, adult games, adult literature, erotic candles, body powder, body paint, arousal gel’s, etc. We do plan to sell hand massagers very soon which we believe will do very well in India.
Q: Something the Queer and LGBTQ community has long faced is the tag of being all about sex. With events like Gaysi’s Dirty Talk, we try to take back the definition to something more healthy, jocular and fun. How do you view the queer community within the spectrum of your target consumers?
The LGBT community is extremely important to us and we want to cater to their requirements. In fact, we want the community to talk to us and tell us what products they want and we will try our best to source it. We have the largest collection of men and women’s erotic lingerie, the biggest selection of lubricants of all types and flavours and for all communities. We sell some very interesting products like intimate area shaving cream as well as bikini shaving stencils. We also have enhancement products that fit well with people above 35 who need some quick revitalisation. All these products are available for the first time in India. However, we are constantly learning about Indian tastes and preferences across all communities and welcome feedback and suggestions.
Q: Last but definitely not the least, what is your advice to budding entrepreneurs in the country and outside who wish to break taboo, norms, boundaries and do something incredibly different?
My advice would be to always think of doing things differently. Look for opportunities and gaps in the market. Look for trends that will make business sense in the future. Look for safety nets in case your original idea misfires. Discuss the idea with many people and restructure based on feedback. Take the plunge if you believe you have the conviction and work hard at it to get it right.