Man in the mirror


January 16, 2015

Rashmi Pratap, The Hindu Businessline (BLInk)

New Delhi, 16 January 2015

Manish Gupta travels a lot as an executive in a multinational firm. Alongside a universal adapter and shaving kit, his travel bag is never without his favourite fairness cream and face wash. He has been hooked to Emami’s fairness cream for men since 2005, when he was still in college. His made-for-men face wash brand keeps changing as he loves to try the many new ones flooding the market.

Gaurav Batra’s addiction to fairness cream is fairly recent. He began buying a men’s fairness cream after fights with his wife over emptying her tube of cream. His colleagues were candid about using men’s toiletries and that made it easy for Batra to jump on to the bandwagon. “It is no longer ‘unmanly’ to use creams and lotions. We also want to look good, much like women,” he says.

Consumers like Batra and Gupta are reinforcing what Emami discovered nearly a decade ago. In a 2004 study on the use of fairness creams in India, Emami found that more than one-fourth of the users were men, and they were using products marketed to women. Sensing an opportunity, in 2005 Emami was ready with the world’s first fairness cream for men — Fair and Handsome. The product is a market leader in the category today and gave an impetus to what was hitherto a latent market for manufacturers — male grooming products.

Research firm Euromonitor pegs the men’s grooming market at Rs. 4,300 crore by March 2015. This includes men’s toiletries at Rs. 2,500 crore (including deodorants at Rs. 1,800 crore), while hair, face and skin care command a relatively modest Rs. 700 crore. Together they constitute about one-sixth of the market for the unisex category. Marketers have been quick to spot the potential here.

“There is much more opportunity to have newer products in these categories. The market is definitely under-penetrated,” says Vineet Jain, General Manager-Marketing (Consumer Product Division) of Himalaya Drug Company.

Male market needs

Himalaya entered the men’s face wash segment in June last year after it undertook a study to find out why the face wash market was stagnating. “We wanted to understand why there were no new users in the face-wash category, where growth had slid from 33-35 per cent to 18 per cent,” he says.

The company realised that men hesitated to use the existing face-wash products as their needs were different — oil, dirt and pollution were bigger worries for them, whereas the women’s products were geared towards acne control.

With its men-specific focus, not surprisingly, Himalaya has already captured 7 per cent of the Rs. 157-crore men’s face-wash category within six months of launch. The face wash segment itself grew 57 per cent from Rs. 100 crore in FY 2014. “In the past few months, many brands have entered this segment,” Jain adds.

Emami director Mohan Goenka says the men’s grooming segment is one of the fastest growing in the personal-care space, consistently outperforming women’s categories. The categories are expanding too — deodorants, face wash and hair care (shampoos and hair-styling gels).

The Emami men’s range now includes the HE deodorant brand and the Fair and Handsome fairness face wash, which was launched last year. Himalaya is readying more variants for its face wash besides entering newer segments, the details of which it is not ready to share yet.

Goenka believes the factors powering this emerging market are both personal and economical in nature.

Ready to groom

Indian men today are increasingly conscious about their appearance. Additionally, young men in college are typically more willing to experiment with their looks. “Among college-going students, the desire to be seen as being on the cutting edge of trends and fashion, besides the classical need to be attractive to the opposite sex, is now finding expression through new product adoption,” says Goenka.

Agrees Himalaya’s Jain: “Our consumer research for men’s toiletries found that 68-70 per cent of students are buying from us, and the 15-24 age group is buying 80 per cent of our products. It supports our hypotheses that today’s youngster is not afraid of saying ‘I use a grooming product’.”

Goenka calls this the ‘legitimisation of men’s grooming’, long seen as an embarrassing activity kept under wraps. “This has been boosted by celebrity associations and endorsements of brands, and a high level of media exposure, besides the rise of aspirational brands in the men’s grooming space,” he says.

Seen from a consumer angle, Jain senses a growing desire to look metrosexual as more and more men are working with MNCs, travelling abroad and seeing this trend in other countries. “It has been supported by Bollywood. The acceptance of being metrosexual is very high now,” he adds.

Fair and Handsome gained a handsome market share when Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan was its brand ambassador. Today it is the market leader in the category, commanding more than 50 per cent of it. Nivea too got noticed with actor Arjun Rampal as the face of its men’s range. “Our association with Arjun has given us a lot of eyeballs and is working well for us,” says Sunil Gadgil, marketing director at Nivea India.

In the absence of the first-mover advantage, Nivea believes its well-rounded portfolio will persuade the consumer to choose Nivea Men over others. Its products range from dark spot reduction moisturiser and oil-control face wash to deodorants and shower gels.

“We see ourselves as a challenger in a fast-growing market,” says Gadgil.

Mass of buyers

The market today is no longer confined to urban India, as rural consumers are slowly, but surely, opening their purse strings for personal care products. “The rural market is still in the early stages of penetration compared to a relatively higher urban penetration. However, early signs of adoption are all around: in men’s fairness creams, rural India has been growing significantly faster than urban India,” says Emami’s Goenka.

Himalaya’s Jain says only about 15 per cent of the market for unisex face washes is in rural India. In the case of men’s face wash too, the split is skewed 90:10 towards urban areas. But the growth is equal — at around 55 per cent.

“I don’t see any efforts by manufacturers to drive rural growth. Rural consumers have historically been looking for sachets and small tubes, and prefer basic benefit products. We still see men’s grooming products being targeted at higher value packs because urban India offers lower cost of distribution and higher sales,” Jain says.

And this is possibly where the challenge lies for this category of products. Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at Third Eyesight, says that the biggest barrier to adoption of male grooming products by the masses is the price point. “These are discretionary products; you can cut back usage easily.”

India is largely still a price-conscious market. “So the ability of a company to provide affordable options can drive usage in this category,” he adds.

As of now, the usage of male grooming products is dominated by higher income groups. “But the absolute number of these consumers is small. The bigger opportunity is lower down the pyramid. You need to have products that are mass and you need to have multiple products and brands in the same category,” says Dutta.

Gadgil adds that the challenge is really about offering the Indian male what he needs. His grooming needs are different from those of females, for whom skincare is already a part of daily routine and they have a higher level of engagement with the products. Men look for products that have utility. “There is still a lot of scope to address these needs,” he adds.

Jain sees a challenge in convincing men who are soap users to switch to face wash. But going by the history of personal care, that may not prove all that tough. The growth of deodorants, for instance, is telling — the male deodorant market is around Rs. 1,800 crore today, while it’s Rs. 1,000 crore for the female product.

Marketers see no reason why this trend cannot continue in the case of hair and skin care products. “A lot of consumer research has been done in the deo category and that is why companies are able to target barriers and fill the need gap. As more and more manufactures focus on other categories, find need gaps and fill them, other male grooming products will also proliferate rapidly,” says Jain.

It’s, obviously, all down to knowing what men want, really.

(Published in The Hindu Businessline – BLInk)