India’s first queer-owned sex-tech startup is making pleasure accessible to all

The Sangya Project, started in 2021 is India's first queer owned ‘sex tech’ company manufacturing the country’s first locally manufactured intimate massager.

India’s first queer-owned sex-tech startup is making pleasure accessible to all

Saturday November 25, 2023,

7 min Read

In 2020, Tanisha RK started her journey as a sex educator. She decided to start working in classrooms and engage in conversations around sex and sexuality. Soon after she realised that as an educator working with minors, a lot of people were involved and much of the educational material was heavily censored.

Realisation dawned upon her that first, she needs to impart sex education to the adult audience and make them comfortable with these conversations.

RK decided to start an Instagram page with her partners–Shweta Sangtani and Aashish Mehrotra, which has now garnered over 30k followers.

“Soon we started getting requests for guest posts and people started openly talking about sex and sexuality. We felt that people are ready to have the conversations around sex, pleasure and sexuality,” RK, Co-founder of the Sangya Project tells SocialStory.

The trio who identify as a queer and a poly family, decided to take a step ahead and provide the pleasure tools to the Indian audience so they can explore their sexuality. The idea was to monetise the brand while providing sex education for free.

This led to the Sangya Project in 2021. It is India's first queer-owned ‘sex tech’ company manufacturing the country’s first locally manufactured intimate massager.

“We started off on this journey without any initial intent of starting up a business however we are here to make pleasure autonomy more accessible and informed for everyone,” Sangtani says.

The Sangya Project

Shweta Sangtani (left), Aashish Mehrotra (middle), Tanisha RK (right)

Navigating pleasure

RK, a queer and nonbinary individual, brings expertise in comprehensive sex education, having survived violence. Mehrotra, a writer, producer, director, and erotic artist, struggled with his sexuality as a bisexual man and dreams of a more sexually liberated India where literature and tools for self-discovery are easily accessible.

Sangtani, on the other hand, a litigating lawyer with experience in HIV/AIDS prevention, has recognised the ongoing taboo around sexual awareness in the country.

Leading from their personal journey of exploring sexuality and navigating pleasure, the trio is helping people embrace their sexuality.

Obstacles

Sangtani recalls buying adult toys worth Rs 12,000 whose sizes were too big for an Indian body, despite ordering the smallest size.

“This can be very intimidating for people who have just started off on the path of sexual exploration,” she says.

This instance struck a chord with the trio that there is a huge gap in the Indian market when it comes to sex toys.

“Most of these products are bought from outside India and they are often not suitable for Indian audience. Therefore, Sangya decided to manufacture products here in India in 2021. We started making the non-vibrating massagers and ultimately led up to the first intimate massager to have been manufactured and sold in India,” she adds.

Also Read
Self-pleasure has become the new self-care for Indian women

Times are changing

Adult toys had been a rarity in the Indian households but times have changed, Sangtani believes.

She adds that earlier long-distance relationships or feelings of loneliness might have driven people to buy pleasure tools. Today the trend has shifted, and individuals are increasingly interested in exploring and embracing their own sexuality. Moreover, these tools are not just for solo use; people now also use them into their intimate moments with their partners.

“Customers have been very specific about what they want. The mindset of the people has changed and they wish to have more autonomy over their body to explore their sexuailty,” she says.

Seeds sowing pleasure

Talking about factors contributing to this growth, RK says that the COVID-19-led lockdown had a major role to play in stirring up a conversation around sexuality and pleasure. She observes that many people were separated from their loved ones, while at the same time, numerous couples were spending time together and using this period to explore and enhance their intimacy.

Moreover, Indian doctors and sex educators also started creating content on sexual health during this time—a topic that was earlier usually seen in foreign-owned channels. This made the content more relatable to the Indian audience.

The Sangya Project

The startup offers a range of products which include–locally manufactured vibrators, supplements, plugs, strap-ons, kink wear and more

Sangya Project also started by providing sex education through its Instagram page which led to the formation of a community. “By the time we launched our products, apprehension around safety of the products had reduced as people had developed faith in us,” RK says.

Since the trio has different areas of expertise, it makes them complement each other. While RK takes cares of social media, Mehrotra handles operations. The duo collectively deals with the branding and marketing of the startup. Sangtani, on the other hand, takes care of accounting, the legal department, and finance.

Homegrown products

The startup offers a range of products which include–locally manufactured vibrators, supplements, plugs, strap-ons, kink wear and more. These products come for beginner, moderate and advanced levels.

The brand has 42 SKUs including combo offers. The price of the kink wear starts from Rs 650 and the lowest cost of the vibrator is Rs 2,999.

The brand focuses on meeting the needs of the Indian body type, ensuring that the products are easily accessible. Sangtani highlights that the products at Sangya are discreetly packaged, recognising that Indians prefer subtle packaging over something loud.

The Sangya Project

The price of the kink wear starts from Rs 650 and the lowest cost of the vibrator is Rs 2,999.

“Manufacturing the products in India adds an assurance of quality, particularly concerning the silicon and other materials used. Additionally, the brand provides a generous warranty period of about a year,” Sangtani says.

She further reveals that once the designing is completed, a 3D model is used to check the accuracy of the products to be finally manufactured. The brand's contract manufacturing is carried out in Mumbai.

Also Read
Sirona acquires sexual wellness brand Bleü for undisclosed amount

A growing audience

The brand has been catering to age groups from 20 to 50 years largely. RK explains that the age group from 20 to 35 years wants to explore new ways of pleasure and hence are actively engaging with such brands. However, she says that the people from 36 to 50 years of age are the ones who have been devoid of conversations around sex and pleasure.

“Since most of these conversations happen online, the older audience does not have access to such brands. Additionally, the shame and taboo associated with sexual pleasure is another barrier for the older generation to explore intimacy in new ways,” she adds.

Although the brand gets its highest sale from Bengaluru and Mumbai, it is getting demand from many Tier II and III regions including–Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu, Imphal, and Thiruvananthapuram.

According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the Indian sexual wellness market demonstrated robust performance in 2020, generating $1.15 billion in revenue. Projections indicate sustained growth, with the market anticipated to reach $2.09 billion by 2030. This trajectory reflects a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2021 to 2030..

Challenges and future

The brand has seen 5x year-on-year growth both in terms of sales and revenue in just one year. Additionally, in terms of profit margin the company is at 60% gross margin and with manufacturing in India, it expects to see about 70% gross margin next year.

However, the trio’s journey so far has not been without any roadblocks. Sangtani recalls that when Sangya Project started, manufacturing–banks, payment processors, packaging companies and factory owners did not respond well to the startup.

The Sangya Project

Under its Repleasure Project it collects electronic adult toys from people in exchange for vouchers

“It was very discouraging. Had it been a generic business, the situation would have been different,” she says.

However RK adds that since the brand had already built a community and were not running after virality, they did not face much challenges on that front.

“We had created a space to explore without playing the role of an educator,” she says.

The brand has recently launched a programme--The Repleasure Project wherein it collects electronic adult toys from people in exchange for vouchers. These collected toys are sent to facilities where some elements are disposed off while the others are recycled to be sold in the market.

The brand received seed funding last year from IMBesharam, an adult toy store. It further plans to soon raise another round. The co-founders are also planning to launch remote or app controlled vibrators.