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New Delhi: After taking over the air (at least in urban India) and the airwave—with sexist advertising that claimed deodorants made men irresistible to women—India’s deodorant makers are now eyeing the perfume market.

Deodorants are nothing to be sniffed at. They account for a Rs3,000 crore market in India. Now, the companies behind brands such as Fogg (Vini Cosmetics), Axe (Hindustan Unilever Ltd), and Engage (ITC Ltd), are looking at the branded mass fragrance market. It’s a market theirs for the taking.

“Imported perfumes from luxury brands are usually priced between Rs3,000 and Rs5,000 which the masses cannot afford. Therefore, anybody looking to graduate from a deodorant has no affordable branded option. These brands are building a new category. It is a step towards premiumisation with offer better packaging and a higher price," said Rajat Wahi, partner and head (consumer markets), at consulting firm KPMG in India.

Most companies have simply chosen to extend their deodorant brands to the perfume segment. And, much like with their deodorants, their primary target is young men.

Ahmedabad based Vini Cosmetics Ltd, the big daddy of the deodorant business, launched perfume sprays and gift packs last year. While the perfume bottles are priced at Rs499, the gift packs range from Rs1,000 to Rs2,000.

“We are investing Rs30 to Rs40 crore in the perfume segment. Since perfume is also an occasional wear product in India we are positioning Fogg perfumes as value for money quality product which can also be gifted on special occasions," said Darshan Patel, founder, Vini Cosmetics.

Perfumes contribute less than 10% to the company’s overall revenue but Patel is confident that his products will gain a sizeable share in the Rs600 crore perfume market (both organized and unorganized).

Like Fogg, HUL’s popular deodorant brand Axe has also launched premium fine fragrances under Axe Signature Gold range in December. Available in four variants, the Axe perfumes are priced at Rs450. “Consumers are becoming more discerning and adding fine fragrances is increasingly becoming a part of their grooming regime. Our perfume range is targeted at young Indian men who are adding fine fragrances as a part of their grooming over and above the current deo usage," said an HUL spokesperson.

ITC declined to participate in the story.

With a slew of launches, the companies are also spending big money on advertising although they declined to share their budgets. According to media agencies deodorant brands spend around Rs1, 000 to Rs1,500 crore on television advertising making every year. It is likely some of that money is now going to perfumes.

“I believe these brands have invested ahead of the curve first for deodorants and now perfumes. This category is heavily skewed towards sports, and news and English entertainment channels as they target young aspirational consumers. We will see a lot more activity in this segment," said Navin Khemka, managing partner, Maxus, a GroupM owned media agency.

But the perfumes business may be tougher to crack than the deodorants one.

“Perfume launches in India haven’t worked so far.Deo brands have created brand equity by introducing cheaper and casual daily-wear products. The idea of a more expensive version of a familiar product seems to have fewer barriers than the idea of a formal expensive perfume," said Santosh Desai, brand expert and managing director at Future Brands.

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