When Anil Saigal opened his first New Delhi salon in 1981, it was rare for a man to get a facial, let alone a manicure or eyebrow wax. Now, Saigal says, 60% of his salon’s male customers come in for services other than a haircut, such as aroma facials, skin bleaches, manicures and pedicures.
In the past, he recalls: “Men were even shy about getting their hair done. They wanted all these things, but didn’t want to be seen doing it. It was unheard of.”
Saigal’s Villa Appearances now has two salons, one in Greater Kailash-I and one in South Extension, and he says he hopes to open additional salons at other stores of his, which sell clothing. He decided to explore the uncharted territory of the men’s grooming market after spending time in London, where he stayed with a family who owned a unisex salon. “It was a booming business,” he said.
Rohit Bhatia, 31, spends a minimum of Rs2,000 on grooming
The same, he has found, can finally be said for India. Today, luxurious salons like his are hardly an anomaly in urban India. Cosmetic and personal grooming products geared towards men are ubiquitous, and sales are growing. Products from fairness creams, moisturizers, face scrubs, under-eye serum, wrinkle-control creams, shampoos and hand lotions targeted only at men have been launched in the past few years.
According to Mohan Goenka, director of Emami Ltd, a producer of cosmetic goods and toiletries, sales from the skin-lightening cream, Fair and Handsome, hit Rs50 crore in the last year, and sales are expected to grow 20-25% in the coming year.
Enthused by the success of Fair and Handsome, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the largest fast-moving consumer goods company in the country, last year launched Fair & Lovely Menz Active. Fair & Lovely was the original fairness cream targeted at women. The company, in fact, was also inspired by research data which showed that more than 30% of Fair & Lovely’s consumers were men. Fair & Lovely Menz Active was launched with a lot of fanfare; it is being endorsed by popular Hindi film star Shah Rukh Khan and the company claims the product has been quite successful.
Other cosmetics and personal care products companies such as L’Oreal, Nivea, Procter and Gamble Co. also have an array of products for men. L’Oreal, for instance, has products such as under-eye cream, anti-fatigue moisturizing lotion and an anti-tightness foaming cleansing gel.
Nivea recently launched a whitening moisturizer and facial foam for men, and Amway, the direct selling company, just released a line which, it says, is “power grooming for men”.
Indeed, men are loving the new power game. “I look younger,” says Arjun Bhatia, a 43-year-old travel agent who says he goes to a salon to dye his hair black every few months. “It also makes me feel younger.”
Suddenly, middle-class Indian men seem to be less inhibited when it comes to looking good and buying image-enhancing products and treatments. ACNielsen, the marketing information division of The Nielsen Co., found in a recent survey—conducted among 1,000 high-income group men in the age group of 25 and above—that every second man from the metros today has a monthly date with a beauty salon. The men surveyed were from New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
One in three men surveyed claimed they visited a hair salon two or three times a month. Besides a haircut, the most popular activities were head massages and hair colouring, the survey found. Someone who enters the salon with an open mind will soon be tempted to try newer services. “In the status-conscious society, beautifying might rank ahead of basic grooming. Looking ahead, one can only speculate about the good times ahead for marketers targeting the male,” said Vatsala Pant, associate director, client solutions, The Nielsen Co..
The Nielsen Co. pegs the size of the male grooming market at Rs695 crore, which might seem small, but the agency says it is growing fast at around 11%.
“As men are becoming more and more conscious of their appearance, the Indian men’s grooming market is set to boom in the coming years,” said Sudarshan Singh, brand manager for Nivea India Pvt. Ltd. In an e-mail interview, he noted recent surveys that said men spend about 20 minutes in front of the mirror, while women spend 18 minutes. “The ‘Neanderthal’ look is out and men are willing to spend generously on personal grooming. Looking good is no longer just a female’s prerogative.”
While more money for men’s-only products is spent in the shaving category, faster-growing categories include skin creams and hair gels, said Singh.
Yatan Ahluwalia, 31, spends around Rs20,000 a month on grooming
The pressure to look good is global, according to The Nielsen Co., which polled 26,486 Internet users in 46 countries from Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Americas and West Asia. Among the respondents, 30% said they spend more than they used to on beauty products and treatments.
As many as 72% of Asian-Pacific respondents said the pressure to look good is much greater than it was in their parents’ generation, compared to 69% in Canada and 66% in the US, according to Nielsen.
The research also indicates that there is global approval of the “metrosexual” male (a term used to describe a heterosexual male who enjoys shopping, fashion, etc.), with the majority of consumers worldwide agreeing that it is acceptable for men to spend time and money enhancing their appearance. About 78% of respondents worldwide agreed, including 84% from America, 81% from Latin America and 74% from the Asia-Pacific region.
From Goenka’s point of view, men’s desire for such products has always been there, but because products weren’t previously available specifically for men, many simply used women’s products. “There were no men’s grooming products, but there has always been an inherent need for it,” he said, adding that Emami is planning to launch more men’s products in the near future.
Besides the notion that looking professional means looking good, men also seem to be taking better care of themselves for themselves. According to the Nielsen study, 62% of Asian-Pacific respondents said they invest in personal grooming because it makes them feel better about themselves. Latin American consumers top the list with 84%, with North America at 62%. Advertisers have consequently caught on to this trend, said experts.
The industry also has less social stigmas attached to it owing to a combination of marketing, greater exposure to the West and increased wealth, said Charly Sellari, a manager of the upscale unisex salon, Dessange, in New Friends Colony, New Delhi.
When he arrived from France seven years ago, clients would call to ask if there were separate sections for men and women. Now, he said, his male clientele has increased 50% since the salon first opened. Women are pushing their boyfriends to come in, and they’re not only agreeing—they like it, said Sellari. It’s not uncommon, he said, for the men to give women tips on how they should style their hair.
According to Naveen Anand, Amway’s vice-president of marketing, the women’s grooming market remains at least four times larger than the men’s. The company has seen a 10% growth in its Dynamite line for men during its first year, said Anand. The products, which include shaving foam, after-shave splash and after-shave moisturizer, have been in the market for two years, and to capitalize further on the budding industry, Amway will introduce several more men’s products in the next nine months, said Anand.
In September, Amway started its first television campaign—in the past, the company relied primarily on print. The company wouldn’t say how much it spent on advertising, but said it has spent a record amount this year on marketing itself. The focus of the campaign has been on Amway the brand, not specifically men’s products, but according to Anand, specific brand advertising may take place in the future.
“Media plays a very important role in taking the message to men,” said Anand. “Men were hesitant before, but they have started to use (cosmetics) and spend more money.”
Being a nascent and less evolved market, experts said the men’s grooming industry will witness a lot of action in the coming years.
Being good-looking opens doors for you, said Yatan Ahluwalia, director of Y & E Style Media Pvt. Ltd, a company that imports cosmetic and fashion brands, luxury items and lifestyle products into India.
Despite the improvement, there still remain a few social stigmas attached to the men’s grooming industry, said Ahluwalia, who is also an image consultant. His company brought a men’s line of US-based skin care and bath products company Susan’s Soaps and More to more than 20 outlets in India six months ago. The line includes soaps, face masks and body exfoliants in “masculine smells” such as citrus and lemon grass. The soaps run Rs650 and upwards while face masks go for Rs750. He said sales have grown in the men’s line at least 22% in the last six months.
He said his company would open separate men’s and women’s counters in the stores so men would feel comfortable asking about, and trying, the products. “If a man even wants to come to a counter and two women are around, he’ll shy away from asking,” said Ahluwalia. “But it’s definitely changing with a newer generation.”
Younger generations care more about their skin. Ahluwalia said he initially expected buyers of Susan’s Soaps and More to be aged 30 or more. He said most consumers are in their early 20s. Goenka said Fair and Handsome’s core target group is ages 16-22.
Not everyone is convinced. “All these advertisers are just trying to brainwash you,” said C.K. Kumar, 22, a student at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. “All I use is regular soap and toothpaste.”
In addition, the men’s skincare market not only faces competition from within the industry, but also competes with other sectors where upper and upper-middle class consumers spend their discretionary money, said Vatsala Pant.
More than half the men surveyed said they would rather spend excess cash on eating out, trendy clothes and accessories, she said. Still, Pant said she could see personal grooming edging ahead of accessories in coming years.
According to Nielsen’s research, upper and upper-middle class Indian men have started experimenting with more specific products relating to skincare and wrinkle care. But only 11% of these men indulge in facial treatments, while less than 5% are engaging in threading, pedicures and manicures, indicating a potential in the marketplace, said Nielsen.
Pant said more studies are needed to successfully tap into this market. Research indicates that people of all age groups are interested in grooming, but there needs to be more segmentation of the studies by age, professions and class to best target each market group, Pant said.
Saigal said that if the trend continues, he wouldn’t be surprised if there were products such as extended nails and cosmetics for Indian men in the next 20 years.
“Big companies are seeing that there’s a market here,” he said. “They wouldn’t be coming to India if men weren’t part of the scene.”