Will grooming startups be able to change the way Indian men shave?



Industry may project reasonable growth but despite attempts to woo customers for new shaving products, their future remains uncertain.


E-commerce startups changed the way Indians shop, and caused huge losses to traditional convenience stores. Now it seems like the time has come, for grooming startups to change the way Indian men shave. A recent Assocham report provides ample reason for the men’s grooming market to be optimistic. Currently worth 16,800 crore rupees in India, it is expected to reach Rs. 35,000 crore in the next three years. That is a projected annual growth rate of 45 percent.


It is 18-35 year-olds, who are expected to shepherd the industry to its peak. These are the people who understand the importance of grooming and are aware of the latest trends. They find their role-models in actors or personalities who market shaving as a lifestyle experience, a commodity and not a necessity.


Social media and disposable income – best friends of the new grooming landscape

Not too long ago, shaving was seen by Indian men as a necessary evil. It was taken care of by mass market razors or the local barber. With the advent of aggressive advertising campaigns by companies, and social media influencers the approach has changed.

Today’s men believe that their appearance is important. They make an effort to look good. An entire industry, which one can argue created this new need, has been revolutionized to cater to it. Bombay Shaving Company, a three-year old startup that sells shaving kits online, received over Rs. 14 crore in funding in 2017.


Raunak Munot, co-founder of Bombay Shaving Company says, “Urbanization, social media and the rise of disposable income are some of the key factors behind men’s increased focus on grooming. The socio-economic situation in India changed as more people from tier one and tier two cities have moved to metro cities. There take an active interest in grooming.”


Munot also believes that the shift from an agrarian based economy to a service based one prompted people to focus more closely on their appearances. “People working in multinationals and corporate offices know that appearance and grooming can play a vital part in getting ahead.”


Trends in these up-market establishments indicate that people are willing to spend on a product that they perceive is ‘worth the value.’ Bombay Shaving Company offers a comprehensive shaving kit worth Rs. 3,000. The company claims to have over 25000 customers across online and offline channels.


Aditya Advani, founder of Spruce Shave Club, a two-year old startup which sells mens’ shaving products online seems to concur with Munot. “We are keen on making our company a lifestyle partner for men. Men no longer want to use generic cosmetic products. We provide high quality products to men at affordable prices. Providing a good customer experience is our first priority,” he said.


Better for the Customer

One of the key advantages online startups seem to have over large consumer brands is the ability to incorporate customer feedback into their products. They can be more receptive to changing customer needs. Munot says his company altered its product after they received feedback from their customers. “Our customers felt that our earlier blade was too gentle and based on their feedback we were started making sharper razors. Larger companies follow a mass market model and sometimes miss these important points of customer feedback,” he said.


These companies also know that their ticket to success is a strong digital marketing game. They have incorporated content marketing tools like blogs and newsletters to spread awareness about their products and influence buying decisions. Talking about the benefits that will accrue to customers, Advani said, “Customers were not happy with the fact that a few large companies had near monopoly when it came to razors and blades. They had no options and had to pay a premium for razors. New companies like mine can offer up to 30-40 % incentives over older players. Our low price trials and discounts have received a good response.”

Increased competition in the market always works in favor of the customer.

Not much enthusiasm on subscription

The fact that men require grooming products on a recurring basis, lead to a possibility that people would subscribe to grooming products like they do with magazines and cable connections. Dollar Shave Club, one of the pioneers in this segment achieved quite a lot of success in U.S.A. because of recurring sales through subscriptions.


With regards to a subscription based model in India Munot said, “In case of shaving, predicting the frequency is quite a bit of a challenge. Sometimes people don’t shave for weeks and other times they end up sharing their products with other people. They don’t use the regimen as prescribed by the shaving company. This is why we have realized not to push the subscriptions aspect too much.


“We offer it to some people who would be happy with a subscription. But at the end of the day we are a product company and our main focus is to push relevant products. If a need for subscription arises we will consider it,” he said.


The subscription model is touted to be the next big trend in E-commerce. However, it may be a while before Indian customers will be ready to embrace it.


Too early for any major disruption

With new many new startups entering the grooming market with a flurry of funding, it is easy to believe that they might cause a disruption in the traditional grooming market.


Danish, an owner of multiple salons in North Delhi says, “The competition from these new companies that sell razors online, will dent our sales by at least 10%- 15%. Many of our clients leave for office before we open for business. Such clients will prefer the convenience of doorstep delivery of a razor and shaving kit.”


While companies are aggressively targeting affluent men in urban centers, it remains to be seen if people will switch up their grooming routine. Raghav Mittal an entrepreneur says, “For me shaving is only a necessity. Like most busy people, I try and get it over with as soon as I can. I wouldn’t be too concerned about which kind of razor to use.”


“These new grooming startups want us to become emotional about an activity like shaving instead of thinking of it as a necessary morning chore. This is why are so focused on marketing their products and changing men’s perception of grooming,” he added.


Srivardhan Kejriwal a financial analyst at a private equity firm says, “I go to a local barber for a shave, since I’m too lazy to do it myself. And in case I can’t visit a salon, I use a Gillette razor. I haven’t considered ordering razors online from these startups as of now.”


 In time, these grooming startups might corner the market, and successfully convince men to switch up their morning shaving routine.


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