Condom-shy India draws huge interest from global contraceptive firms
Manufacturers are using the latest marketing tools to reach the country’s mostly young and tech-savvy population
Global contraceptive makers are betting on condom-shy India becoming their biggest growth market after the blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) of a domestic prophylactic maker just weeks after the UN said the country would become the most populous by midyear.
With population decline and ageing societies in major markets such as Europe, Japan and China, condom manufacturers are taking advantage of modern marketing tools to reach India’s huge, young and tech-savvy demographic in urban and rural settings.
According to data from Grand View Research, the market is set to more than double to $1.7bn by 2030.
“The Indian market is very attractive. The condom usage rate there is still low,” said Kazuhiro Kamio, chief of overseas sales and marketing at Japanese condom maker Okamoto Industries. “If non-users can be educated on how to use them, given the population size, the volume would be tremendous.”
Strong economic growth, willingness to pay for premium goods, social media use and evolving attitudes to sex are changing how condom makers view a country where talking about sex is largely taboo, condom ads are banned from prime-time TV and rural consumers are sceptical about contraceptives.
As few as 5% of sexually active men use condoms as a regular form of contraception, and as many as 2% were not familiar with condoms at all, according to a government survey conducted in 2020. By contrast, 19% of US men use condoms every time they have sex, according to data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The Indian market has the potential to be the world’s biggest, said Arvind Singhal, chairperson at consultancy Technopak Advisors. “India does not just have the largest population base but also the largest demographic relevant for such products.”
Condom makers would follow other global firms in chasing India’s growth in disposable income. World Bank data from 2021 shows that per capita GDP crossed $2,000 — a threshold China reached in 2006 and which led to a jump in consumption.
Moreover, India is set to overtake China this year as the most populous country, the UN said in April. Almost 1-billion Indians are between 15 and 64 years old.
“We believe that with such a population and a very young population, India has a lot of opportunity,” said Miah Kiat Goh, CEO of Malaysia's Karex, the world’s largest maker of condoms.
Karex aims to partner with local brands to fuel expansion whereas Okamoto, whose condoms are available in India online, wants to build brand awareness and put its products on store shelves.
Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser Group has launched new products under its Durex brand and expanded its “Birds and the Bees” rural marketing campaign.
Church and Dwight, owner of top US brand Trojan, plans to officially enter India, which it regards as one of the most lucrative markets, said a person familiar with the plans, declining to be identified as the matter isn’t public yet.
Church and Dwight didn’t respond to a request for comment.
India’s market leader is domestic manufacturer Mankind Pharma with a 33% share, ahead of Reckitt Benckiser at 14%, according to TechSci data. Mankind conducted a $520m initial public offering (IPO) in May and saw its stock soar 32% on its market debut, valuing the company at $7bn.
The maker of Manforce condoms has been boosting its online presence to better cater to urbanites and investing in local-language advertising to reach more rural consumers. Like its rivals, it has made more use of social media influencers and events.
Mankind didn’t reply to queries on how it planned to respond to increased competition from foreign rivals.
Social media “has helped target the audience more sharply which was not possible on mass media, especially with rules regarding time of the day when condom adverts were shown,” said marketing professor Ashita Aggarwal at SP Jain Institute of Management & Research.
Reflecting the changing approach to marketing, sales of premium condoms have grown 21% annually over the past five years, according to data from HDFC Securities Institutional Equities.
Sales have also benefited from a broader cultural shift among the younger end of the target market.
A rising number of Indians “are losing faith in the institution of marriage and do not aspire to get married at all, or at least nit until their mid-30s,” said Pranita Bhor of Grand View Research. “This big cultural shift has led individuals in their late 20s to practise premarital sex.”
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