Condom sales drop in FY21 as lockdown restricts socializing

The nationwide lockdown of 2020 depressed condom sales by 48% during the first quarter of FY21, an industry body said, adding that it estimates the full-year decline at 35%

Suneera Tandon
Updated27 May 2021
India’s condom market remains relatively small with sluggish sales reported by the category over the last few years. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
India’s condom market remains relatively small with sluggish sales reported by the category over the last few years. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: Condom sales in the country dipped 48% over the three-month lockdown period in 2020 with a projected full-year decline of 35% in sales for the last fiscal, according to a report by the Condom Alliance, an industry body with representatives from Reckitt, HLL Lifecare Limited, Raymond Consumer Care, TTK HealthCare Ltd.

The year of the lockdown that was largely marked with strict social distancing norms, reduced socializing among people, and restrictions on mobility among consumers led to a drop in condom usage with consumers finding it hard to visit stores to buy the contraceptive.

India’s condom market remains relatively small with sluggish sales reported by the category over the last few years. It was estimated at 1,521 crore in 2019-2020 with an estimated 2 billion pieces sold. Condom usage in India remains extremely low at 5.6% of the population.

The reasons for this abysmally low usage are not hard to find. Despite a significantly high young population, conservative attitudes towards sex and lack of public discourse around usage of sexual wellbeing products has hindered the adoption of condoms in India. Moreover, buying and usage of condoms is often seen as an awkward and shameful act in the country. Besides, companies face some form of restrictions being imposed in marketing and advertising of the product.

Companies such as Reckitt, Raymond Consumer Care, TTK HealthCare Ltd sell branded condoms in the country, apart from the government of India offering free and subsidised condoms.

Despite campaigns led by government bodies and other institutions to encourage the use of contraceptives, the condom market has only witnessed a 2% CAGR in volume, over the past six years, according to the 2021 Condomology Report released Thursday by the Condom Alliance.

Despite the social media boom and apps that have brought casual dating and sex into mainstream society, young people are still hesitant to use contraceptives, the report said.

While the condom market value has shown steady growth from 2014 onwards, sales volumes dipped last year. In volume terms, the market grew 11% (year-on-year) in 2018-2019 but decreased 1% in 2019-2020. The growth in condom market over the last year has come largely from the non-metro urban markets, the report said.

Condom usage in India is almost 1/6th the size of various other major economies in the world, said Brijj Balaji Singh, senior vice president, operations, TTK Protective Devices Limited. Given the sheer size of India's population there is a need remove barriers, especially psychological barriers, impacting condom usage, he said.

In India, the onus to procure the condom typically rests with men, rendering half the population indulging in the act virtually with little or no power to control condom usage. Urban areas account for 65% of the volume of condoms sold in India and 72% of the value. Manforce brand of condoms by Mankind Pharma is the leader in both volume and value terms in India followed by Raymond’s Kama Sutra.

In western countries one can easily pick up a pack of condoms from a supermarket and walk out without feeling judged. In India chemists contribute 78% of the volume and 81% of the value of market for condoms and Grocers/General Stores is a distant number two with 14% volume and 11% value share, the report said.

Greater offtake of condom will require stakeholders to bring about the necessary behaviour change, said Ravi Bhatnagar, member, Condom Alliance and director of external affairs and partnerships in Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa, Reckitt. Reckitt sells Durex condoms in India. “From the implementation of the recently launched adolescence education programme in its true spirit, to sensitising chemists for smoother purchase transactions to removing broadcast restrictions on condom advertisements – there is still much ground to cover,” he added.

New models of delivery could be explored when it comes to selling and marketing of condoms, said members of the alliance.

The report also pointed to a clear lack of awareness among younger Indians about what condom to buy. Moreover, young couples in India continue to live with their parents. Hence, buying and storing condoms before-hand, creates the risk of being caught by parents and facing an awkward situation, the report found out.

The report pointed to creating a free market model for commercial manufacturers to allow the marketers to add more users to the market through capital intensive innovations, research and development, as well as educational marketing campaigns to encourage behaviour change.

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