Over the past decade, the rise of the Indian male grooming industry has surprised many. However, it would be a folly to claim that it was completely unexpected.
Male grooming was already a booming sector in many parts of the world, and it was only a matter of time before men in India were going to catch on. When Dil Chahta Hai hit theatres in 2001, Aamir Khan’s spikey-haired Akash inspired an entire generation of kids to start experimenting with their hairstyle. Once this generation started earning and got their hands on disposable income, the beauty and grooming industry in India was set to be revolutionised. It started off with haircuts and styling, but soon evolved into every aspect of male grooming one could think of.
Influences from the West
The rise of the Internet allowed Indians to have greater access to movies and TV shows from Western countries, most notably the USA. Indians were more than happy to devour pop culture in massive quantities, and this was bound to have an effect on their choices and personalities as well. “The influence of movies and fashion magazines was always there, but what changed was the rise of social media,” says Mr. Krishna Gupta, Managing Director of Lloyd’s Luxuries Ltd, which brought Truefitt & Hill to Indian shores. He adds, “Purchasing power has increased over the years, but men still preferred spending on watches and shoes. It was the growth of digital media that boosted their aspirations to look good, especially due to celebrities endorsing the importance of being well groomed.”
All of a sudden, terms like ‘metrosexual’ and ‘manscaping’ were not uncommon across India’s metros. Making an effort to look good was no longer considered to be a women-only domain; men were also expected to make efforts to put their best foot forward. The rising popularity of football and foreign football leagues soon had Indian men clamouring to imitate their on-pitch heroes—a trend that even cricketers of the national team were not immune to.
Ask and you shall receive
The country’s FMCG giants spotted a growing need for male-specific grooming products and were quick to deliver the goods. Brands such as Pond’s, Garnier, L’Oréal, Nivea, Dove and Himalaya introduced a variety of care and grooming products specifically targeted towards the male segment of the market, going as far as having ‘men’ become a sub-brand. Companies like Gillette and Old Spice, which have traditionally catered to the male grooming sector, vastly expanded their range of products on offer. The ability of these brands to respond quickly to growing demand has been instrumental in establishing the male grooming sector as a lucrative one.
The start of something beautiful
While FMCG brands have played their part, it is perhaps the start-up phenomenon that has truly taken the Indian male grooming industry to the next level. Start-ups such as Beardo, Ustraa (by Happily Unmarried), The Man Company and Bombay Shaving Company have managed to introduce a premium feel and distinct sense of luxury to the sector. From face washes and safety razors to beard oils and moustache waxes, the new crop of male grooming brands is a sign of just how far the industry has come. According to global market research firm Euromonitor, the Indian men’s grooming market is growing rapidly enough to register sales of R14,200 crores by 2020, and a large part of this is due to the success of these start-ups.