Though we gave Kamasutra to the world, as a nation we are still shy and overtly secret about anything to do with sex. Though we may not see much advertising of sensual products, that doesn’t mean there is no demand. If market estimates are to be believed then the market for erotica in India – which includes condoms, lubricants, erotic lingerie, herbal products and allied products stand between Rs 1,200 -1,500 crore, expected to reach Rs 2,450 crore in 2016 and Rs 8,700 crore in 2020.
And where there is opportunity, there is a startup. Buyundercover.com is a new entrant in the online lingerie space in India, which already has names like Zivame and Pretty Secrets. Here’s what they have to offer and how they differ from the rest.
Started by Monica Anand, a marketer, and Suresh Gupta, a garment manufacturer, Under Cover lingerie aims to bring the erotic variety across different category of products. Monica reveals that the trigger for the startup idea was the search for a gift for a friend who was getting married. “We couldn't find any stores for this kind of stuff. We felt there was a gap in the area of sensuous lingerie that makes a woman feel good about herself and is fun at the same time,” says Monica. The ground work for starting up began in November 2011 and the website was launched in September 2012.
Under Cover pegs the lingerie business to reach $3 billion by 2015, growing at 18% CAGR, of this the mid to premium segment is growing at a CAGR of 22% per annum – and that is the space that the startup operates in.
Started with their own savings and borrowings from family, Monica claims they have already grown by 200% since launch.
How are they different
All products that Under Cover sells would fall into the risqué variety, targeting special occasions. Visit their website to check out the different offerings, which Monica says includes hundred products in multiple sizes with an average of 20 per category. This includes costumes, baby dolls, swimwear, corsets, sets, panties and accessories.
All clothes are imported from across Europe and Asia, and sourced from suppliers who meet their standards. Products were sourced keeping in mind four pillars or moods, as Monica calls it – sensuous, bold, fantasy and playful. “When sourcing our products, we were very clear about how they should make their wearer feel. The four moods we believe help describe the woman of today,” she says. They keep an inventory of items that are part of their catalogue, rather than sourcing on demand.
Under Cover offers products in a variety of sizes, which customers can decide by referring to the size chart on the site. In case of any problems, customers have to call Under Cover within five days of receiving the product to start the process of an exchange. Most orders they have shipped are to metros and Tier 2 cities, and Monica says they can reach wherever Indian post reaches.
The market that Under Cover operates in makes online the best place to be, as it offers customers the privacy they need to make the purchases – their name is a good indication of how things are in the space. Therefore predictably most communication activities done by the startup is also online – through newsletters, Facebook and Twitter. Site SEO and display campaigns on web are also relied upon. Besides their own site, Under Cover products are also available on other online stores, including jabong.com, shop.inonit.com and prettysecrets.com.
Under Cover lingerie customers are a split of males and females, in the age group of 25-40 years. The best seller on their site is a revelation about customer fantasies that Under Cover caters to: “our bestseller hands down would be our handcuffs,” reveals Monica. At present they plan to continue selling lingerie, and even if they launch other products, they will adhere to the brand’s persona and the four moods they have identified. New product launches are done based on customer feedback, which a team of seven people work hard to get right.
Monica believes the way people buy lingerie is at the cusp of a revolution due to emerging penetration of internet and the media. People in India with increased exposure to the global society are becoming more adventurous and willing to experiment, which is an opportunity for them. “People are aware and there is increasing willingness and acceptance of sensual lingerie as a daily part of their lives. This is demonstrated in the large number of customers we acquire every month as well as the high repeat purchases we see from our existing customers,” she claims.
There is no denying the opportunity, and given the best seller on Under Cover’s site, it looks like they are well on the way to be: “the first name which comes to mind when you think of sensuous lingerie.”