When 26-year-old Purdue University alumnus Gurumukh Uttamchandani decided to join his father’s electrical goods business (the Syska group) in 2017, he drove the company’s expansion into personal grooming products because he wanted to connect with the millennial consumer. Today, he’s happy to note that the men’s product range (such as trimmers) is growing much faster than products for women. On Tuesday, the company announced a tie-up with fast-moving consumer goods startup The Man Co. to sell combos of trimmers from Syska and beard oil, cream and wax from the latter online.

“The male grooming trend in India is heavily influenced by celebrities. We’ve seen the transition in the last two years. Earlier, men wanted only trimmers. Today they are looking for head-to-toe solutions. Besides, grooming was an occasion-led need, but now it’s part of everyday life," says Syska’s young executive director.

Earlier this month, the local arm of British consumer goods major Reckitt Benckiser (RB) launched a hair removal cream for men under its popular brand Veet, signalling the fact that India’s 5,000-crore urban male grooming market is venturing beyond shaving creams and deodorants. For its new product, RB launched a campaign with Bollywood heartthrob Kartik Aryan.

Cashing in on men’s desire to look good, home and beauty services marketplace Urban Clap also introduced grooming services for men last week offering hair cuts, hair colour, shave, beard grooming, facial massage, and pedicure, among others. Urban Clap already offers beauty services for women and claims this was the natural next step.

The personal grooming trend among men is benefiting a whole range of homegrown and international companies, as well as startups catering to male-specific products in skincare, hair care, and beard conditioning. The four-year-old Bombay Shaving Co., which started off with high-end shaving products, has now expanded its range to body washes, peel off masks, and de-tan charcoals kits. The company’s founder and chief executive officer, Shantanu Deshpande, attributes the expansion to young men investing time and money into personal grooming. “For the longest time the pressure to look good was on women, especially since they were not financially independent. Now, the men are under pressure. They want to look good and impress women who are independent and a force to reckon with," he says. In a recent report on male grooming—The Man in the Mirror—by market researcher Nielsen, Kamaldeep Singh, president of food business at Future Retail Ltd, observes that as women get empowered, the role of men and what is expected of them changes. He pointed out that the key drivers for growth in the male grooming segment will be the changing gender dynamics, revolution in retail formats, and youth.

Clearly, India’s young demographic is driving the grooming boom. In the report, Singh says that almost half of India’s consumers are under-25, social media savvy, and always want to be selfie-ready. Bombay Shaving Co.’s Deshpande agrees: the younger generation is on Tik Tok and Instagram. “They are putting their face out there, so they need to look good. It’s for social gratification," he says. Besides, the dating scene in India is also active and consumers want to be “right-swiped". His theory is, men hit the gym more to look good than to stay healthy. Older men have to look presentable on LinkedIn for jobs. “It is not so much a vanity thing for them, it is a life defining thing," Deshpande adds. The Nielsen report finds that a combination of aspiration and ambition drives the young urban male to spend generously on personal grooming.

Another trigger for the grooming trend is exposure to global fashion via television, streaming platforms, and social media. According to Deshpande, small town India is watching American show Friends more than Mirzapur on streaming platforms, and its fashion icons are Robert Downey Jr. and Virat Kohli.

Both e-commerce and Modern Trade are also fuelling male vanity due to the number of products and new categories that they offer. Both formats support new launches at a faster pace. According to the Nielsen report, with right strategies involving right locations, targeting key audiences, and leveraging upcoming trends, male grooming promises to deliver growth for years to come. “In South Korea, men actually use make-up. In India, there are some signs of young men using foundation and eyeliner. But it’ll take years for it to become a trend," concludes Deshpande.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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