While 2020 has been disastrous in many ways for businesses, the changes in the consumer behaviour are expected to remain in place for many more months. In fact, some sectors and brands have seen higher adoption than before simply because of their digital nature and that’s exactly what men’s grooming startups have also banked on. While the lockdown ensured that no individual is headed out for the night, a quick glance through Instagram can confirm the prominence of the #guybeauty trend, with influencers and even bigger fashion brands promoting men’s grooming and beauty regimes.
In the male grooming industry, the attention has shifted from simply aftershave lotions and hair gels to products focussing on beard care, hair care, bath products and more in the past few years. According to a 2018 ASSOCHAM report, the men’s grooming market in India has been growing at a CAGR of about 45%. At INR 16,800 Cr in 2018 in India, it is expected to touch INR 35K Cr by 2021.
As the wide-spectrum of products for men’s grooming get traction, the newer trends like DIY grooming products, natural products, environment-friendly packaging and products etc have started creating differentiation. This is further complemented by massive traction brands such as The Man Company, LetsShave, MensXP, Zlade, and Bold Care recorded after the lockdown restrictions were eased in May.
New Trends Driving Men’s Grooming Industry
Talking to Inc42, multiple brands noted the surge in DIY grooming products, thanks to the restrictions on movement. For instance, The Man Company founder and MD Hitesh Dhingra noted that the company has witnessed a strong tailwind towards DIY products. “So there is a serious uptick towards Razors and our newly launched DIY kits (face care and foot care) Another category that has seen unprecedented growth is the hygiene products,” he added.
Similarly, LetsShave founder and CEO Sidharth Oberoi noted that LetsShave saw a boom in shaving, grooming, self-care categories, including razors, blades, disposable razors, shower- body wash, shampoo, and face care- face wash, face scrub products. “The demand and searches of our LetsShave Evior Face Razor hit the never-seen-before record and we ran out of stock within 15 days after the operations resumed in May. Face Razor sales are up by 400 % and are growing month-on-month,” he noted.
The wave of Indian male grooming industry has been led by D2C brands, which have built their businesses around offering male-focused products. As recently noted by Inc42+, most D2C startups focused on FMCG have tapped into the market by using effective marketing and branding efforts. They have created a niche for themselves within a few years of starting up by identifying areas that don’t have too much competition and carved a niche.
Another newbie in the space, health and sexual wellness products maker Bold Care’s Rahul Krishnan told Inc42 that the company is seeing a lot of interest for its “Complete Sexual Wellness Kit”. This kit contains both prescription medicines and natural supplements for complete sexual health enhancement,” he added.
In terms of more new trends with the focus coming on natural products, the brands noted that toxin-free products and more have gained the centre of attention.
MensXP’s founder Angad Bhatia said that natural products with toxin-free and cruelty-free ingredients, devoid of harmful parabens and sulphates have now become the default choice for many men. While many brands are going this route, the differentiation now comes through in brand identity, content, customer experience and engagement. .
Zlade cofounder Suraj Chaudhari agreed that there is a definite focus on products with organic and natural formulations. “People want clean products free of harmful chemicals, and the brands are ready to offer them just that. We introduced completely natural shaving prep products which are free of harmful chemicals, artificial foaming agents etc. We will also see more emphasis on sustainable packaging going forward in this industry,” Chaudhari said.
The Man Company’s Dhingra said that usage of natural ingredients in the products never really lost its sheen. “Customers expect honest products made with real ingredients. Also, the brand has to get more conscious towards sustainable packaging so single-use plastic definitely needs to be kept in mind,” he added.
Covid-19 Lockdown Brings Growth
With the closure of salons as well as beauty/skincare-product retail shops and outlets because of COVID-19, almost 90% of the grooming-industry market was shut down in the month of March and April 2020. However, since reopening in May, the brands have seen a huge influx of demand.
LetsShave’s Oberoi told Inc42 that after resuming operations in May, the company saw an unprecedented rise in the number of orders and a 4X increase in the revenue post-COVID versus before the lockdown.
Bhatia of MensXP added that the five-month-old ecommerce platform had reached a monthly order volume of over 20K orders with almost 20% repeat during the pre-Covid era. “Primary categories/products that fueled a suite of ‘Direct to Consumer’ offerings in the grooming, footwear and unique accessories like bar boxes and more,” he added.
With lockdown restrictions eased in June and July, MensXP saw a slow start but has now reached almost 75% of its pre-Covid sales numbers with better repeat percentage and higher average selling price. He also noted that there has been a shift in the primary products or categories in the post-Covid world with categories like home, WFH accessories, products for hobbies such as urban farming being seen more prominently in orders, while grooming is showing strong growth.
The Man Company’s Dhingra said the company saw a 200% growth between February and July 2020. Similarly, Zlade cofounder Suraj Chaudhari told us that the company’s average order value post-Covid has grown to INR 650-INR 750, a 49% increase compared to pre-Covid period.
Currently, the company is seeing a 37% – 40% repeat rate, with a 33% increase in monthly orders post-May. Chaudhari also noted that the company’s return on Advertisement had increased by 82% in April and May.
Bold Care claimed to have seen a monthly growth rate of around 200% – 300%. Founder Rahul Krishnan says that during this period, it saw higher than average retention. “The retention has always been high in the men’s category, on average across brands it is somewhere close to 30-35% and we are doing much higher than that.”
The Challenges And Path Forward For Male Grooming
Men’s grooming market is estimated to be around INR 10,000 Cr in India and is expected to have a double-digit annual compounded growth rate in the next few years. More men are overcoming challenges around online shopping and digital payments as well as the hesitation in trying new products. The lockdown has afforded them the time to experiment.
But MensXP’s Bhatia noted that the main challenges in selling male grooming products are countering traditional biases through an expanded conversation around beauty. He also noted that Fast-moving consumer trends is both a challenge and a huge motivation to innovate both in terms of products and product experience. “A more democratic distribution system with digital commerce becoming a bigger factor; 1-to-1 targeting allows for identifying and answering grooming problems/ issues that haven’t been addressed so far due to scale,” he added.
The Man Company’s founder Dhingra noted that the penetration in Tier 2 markets is a hurdle. However, the projected growth of this category does give hope. Dhingra added that direct-to-consumer channels are creating a space for the mass premium categories like beard management which were non-existent a few years back. “Educating men about new products and their usage. All this content goes a long way in breaking mental barriers and making things normal and acceptable.”