Times Internet-led MensXP’s ecommerce revenue dwarfs its media topline; to launch sexual wellness soon

Started as a content company in 2009, MensXP was acquired by the Times Group’s internet arm in 2012. In 2019, it made its foray into the male grooming ecommerce space. It has over 800 brands on its platform along with its own private labels.
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The pandemic has really changed the game for direct-to-consumer or D2C players, with most of them seeing explosive growth, as more and more people have shifted to shopping online. According to a Deloitte report, online shoppers are expected to constitute 50 percent of the online population by 2026.

One rather interesting company riding this massive digital wave is Times Internet's lifestyle brand, MensXP. Started as a content company in 2009, it was acquired by The Times Group’s internet arm in 2012. In 2019, it made its foray into ecommerce and last November, its revenue from the new business overshot its traditional media topline.

According to Angad Bhatia, Founder, MensXP and CEO, Indiatimes Lifestyle Network, the ecommerce business revenue is now 5x-6x of the media topline, and over the next 12 months it is expected to be 10x. He was speaking at YourStory’s Brands of India launch event. Its advertising revenue has soared as well in the last two years, says Angad.

Angad Bhatia, Founder, MensXP & CEO, Indiatimes Lifestyle Network was speaking at YourStory's Brands of India launch event

“Simultaneously, we have become as much of a performance platform. So, most of the ecommerce companies today, traditional ecommerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Nykaa have very well-established advertising stacks as well. They give a lot of performances, daily transactions to a plethora of brands which list on them, so I think we are no different in that way,” Despite the pandemic, the company’s advertising revenue has grown 3X in the last two years, he points out.

Angad likes to think of MensXP as “an entire ecosystem for men”, across publishing, videos, social media, its own influencer network, its private labels, and 800+ marketplace brands.

Commenting on competition, the MensXP founder says that while there are indeed indirect competitors, the only direct competition is perhaps in the form of Nykaa Man (the beauty and lifestyle omnichannel retailer’s men-focussed vertical), of which he admits he’s a “big fan”.

“Their (Nykaa) execution as a traditional ecommerce company has been remarkable. However, the differentiation is that we operate at the intersection of community, culture and commerce.”

Hopping on to the startup IPO (initial public offering) bandwagon last month, Nykaa filed its draft red herring prospectus. It plans to raise around Rs 4,000 crore from the public listing, with an estimated valuation of over $4 billion.

Coming back to the Indian male grooming market, the opportunity in the space is massive. According to Research and Markets, the male grooming market in the country stood at $643 million (around Rs 4,737 crore) in 2018 and is expected to cross $1.2 billion (About Rs 8,841 crore) by 2024, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 11 percent. Angad believes the online opportunity in the space in India this year is around Rs 1,200 crore-Rs 1,500 crore and expects it to reach around Rs 10,000 crore by 2025.

Carving out a niche

“MensXP operates almost at the cusp, where fashion, men’s wellness, men’s grooming intersect and that’s the opportunity. While our direct competition may be Nykaa Man, to a certain aspect we also compete with a Myntra, to a certain aspect we also compete with say a HealhKart. Essentially we are carving out a unique identity from all of these business units and daily realising the men’s opportunity.”

Angad believes that the market opportunity today stands at around Rs 35,000 crore and is slated to touch Rs 75,000 in the next two-three years. The company hopes to capture 10 percent to 12 percent of that market share in the next five years.

The MensXP platform currently touches around 80 million unique visitors (UVs) every month, with its on-site monthly organic traffic at over 25 million. On the revenue front, Angad says it's ‘sub-Rs 500 crore’ as of now, but he aims to take it past Rs 2,000 crore in the next five years.

The MensXP platform produces 75,000-80,000 articles in a year along with 3,000-4,000 videos annually. Angad points out that none of this is user-generated content, and it is a team of journalists and content creators that produce these.

Normalising men’s beauty and makeup

The brand currently has six private labels across grooming and fashion and plans to launch at least 15 new ones this year.

The genesis of its own labels lies in a South Korea trip Angad made two years back, to understand “the most evolved online market and beauty grooming market in the world.”

While there, he met with “some of the biggest manufacturers and came back with great insights.” He saw first-hand how the online community and the influencer community were influencing the lifestyle category at large.

“15 percent millennial South Korean men were wearing BB (beauty balm or blemish balm) cream and conversations around makeup were getting extremely normalised.”

Angad adds that he was also inspired by the success of certain global D2C skincare brands such as the New York-based Glossier and the Los Angeles-based Honest Company.

Before getting into the ecommerce business, MensXP conducted a survey and found out that a “small but growing percentage of affluent and influential men” was using the Pond’s BB cream "quite regularly." This led to the company launching MensXP MUD, as “India’s first men’s makeup brand.” According to Angad, the main idea behind launching a natural beauty products line for men was to normalise the conversation around men and beauty in the country. “Since then we have moved to more competitive categories, about 25-odd SKUs (stock-keeping units) now, growing almost 50 percent quarter-on-quarter for the D2C brands.”

The brand is also foraying into sexual wellness and men’s haircare soon.

“Today we have a dedicated brand for men’s basics, we have a fun brand called Mojama, which is a men’s innerwear brand and soon you’ll see a dedicated sexual wellness brand, (and) a brand dedicated to just men’s hair.” As of now, the men's BB cream is MensXP's best-selling item, "the hero product."

MensXP is also foraying into sexual wellness and the products will be available soon, says Angad

Building ecommerce ground up

As a company whose core expertise lay in the media business, one would imagine that building its own ecommerce platform ground up, from warehousing facilities, to figuring out logistics etc., would have come with its set of challenges.

Angad admits that the transition was indeed challenging but says that they were able to navigate through uncharted waters by putting together “the right team.”

“For almost eight months prior to the launch, we got some of the best people from the category functions, from logistics, from warehousing, from some of the top companies, not only Indian companies but global companies to really build this out for us.”

Brick-and-mortar stores

MensXP has plans to go offline as well, with offline retail outlets. However, that is still about two years away.

“We feel concentrated men’s-only stores are a much required need in the country today and especially if you have a multi-branded approach, we are pretty sure it’ll work.”

Angad is also encouraged by the success stories of D2C brands that have been able to carve out a firm position in the offline world. “Nykaa has 88-90 of their own retail stores multi-format, some are kiosks, some are luxury (Nykaa Luxe), some are Nykaa ‘On Trend’. So I think we have been able to understand a little bit from their last three-four years journey. Secondly, we have a good understanding of what is selling in which market, (there are) experts who are telling us the inherent demand in certain geographies.”

For the next one and a half year to two years, though, Angad and his team have their minds solely focussed on growing the online business, and tapping into the tremendous opportunities that it presents.

Brands of India is a YourStory initiative to catalyse the growth of India's D2C economy. It will bring together D2C ecosystem stakeholders, including brand builders, D2C startups, investors, corporates, and policymakers, to discover, build and help daring entrepreneurs create an additional 500 Brands of India in the next three years.

To know more about this initiative and the D2C ecosystem, visit

brandsofindia.yourstory.com.

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