India is one of those developing nations which tops in consumption of pornographic material. Despite an ongoing pornography ban, it is the third-largest country in terms of pornographic consumption which saw a 95% spike in porn traffic during the lockdown days. No wonder it is the land of the Kama Sutra.
With rising porn traffic and viewership, there’s certainly a lot of sex going around in the minds of Indians. However, India also tops in the lack of basic sex education as sex is something which you don’t talk about freely and openly here because of the way people look at sex in India. The act itself has so many taboos attached to it, forget talking about sex toys.
But there’s a shop that just initiated the change to break stigmas ever since its inception in February. In a first of its kind, this shop happens to be India’s first legal sex shop which just sprung up in Calangute, Goa.
The co-founder of KamaGizmos and owner of Gizmoswala, Nirav Mehta takes us into the insights of India's first legal sex shop which is the outcome of a meeting over a cup of coffee between him and his online competitor and now offline business partner, Prawin Ganeshan, the owner of KamaKart.
Hailing from a background of a mattress business, what struck Nirav to be into the sexual wellbeing business came early during his days when he shared ideas of what all you could do on his mattresses. After which the two years which he gave into the making of his online e-commerce sex shop portal which eventually paved the way for an actual physical store.
“Condoms and more!” as the board reads outside the store, at a first glance it might not fulfill your expectations of the European and American models of how a sex shop should look like.
The walls proudly flaunt the legal certificates, but it’s hard to find graphical imageries of women or people engaging in sexual activity or something which might be considered ‘obscene.’ The interiors have been intentionally been set up to give a feel of a medical store with racks stacked up with sex toys and sex goodies.
“Through the perspective of an Indian customer we’ve taken utmost care in creating an experience for people to not feel shy entering our store, and instead we show it off as a shop for condoms with a hint that other things more than just condoms are also available. To preserve the Indian ethics we also made sure that the location of our store does not happen to be in the prime location of the city, so we don’t want to be at such a location where kids and families are roaming around,” tells us Nirav.
While browsing through the internet to get us to know about the Indian law for sex toys in India, Nirav reads out section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which clearly states a ban on the sale, advertisement, distribution, and public exhibition of a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other obscene object.
“But no statement has been mentioned regarding the ban on sex toys in India, we took the use of this gray area that nobody benefitted from before. But I will never cross the line and sell products with obscenity graphically displayed on them” says Nirav about the products of his shop which he selects/sources/brands with absolutely no graphical obscenity.
The store has reached its first month anniversary now and people have been getting curious about the oddity of the store and just to check what exactly is it they have been entering it.
“Currently we’re receiving tourist gangs of girls/boys, couples, and even the elderly. Most people visiting us in a group or couples come and giggle while looking at the products and later one of them visits us again all alone, and this time with a motive to purchase something they might need,” tells Nirav after which he tells us about how doctors have been prescribing their patients to pleasure themselves, “self-pleasuring is a fundamental right and people have started to understand this. We have doctors, psychologists, or sexologists as customers who have been prescribing their patients to self-pleasure. These patients are acid survivor victims, cancer patients or HIV patients, everybody should be sexually happy.”
Growing numbers, inclining bar graphs and profits. The stats say it all, India could be the next big market for sex accessories looking at the potential of this market. However, the internet remains to be the favorite place to buy sex toys.
But the taboo outlook towards sex won’t stop Indians from being overly curious about it and as the living standards become affluent and comfortable, India is climbing the list of the most sexually active countries at a fast pace.
With investors targeting urban or tier 1 cities mostly because of the thought of higher sales, but Nirav believes that the untouched tier 2 and 3 cities are where the actual potential lies for upcoming sales and looks forward to tapping and opening new stores here. “Although it is difficult, we’ll be needing a lot of support from the authorities. We’re not selling drugs but just promoting safe sex!” he says while sharing with us his vision to sell condoms on a fast delivery system of thirty minutes anytime and anywhere across India.
Nirav has recently co-founded and registered an organization body in India for sex toys, the Federation of Adult Toys Industry (FATI) to bring all the competitors on the same boat to brainstorm and exchange ideas of functioning in the Indian market.
Cover photo from Instagram.