Let us state from the very outset that we shall refrain from innuendo in this article, rife though the opportunity for it may be. And that’s the way Misters.in likes it. The self-labelled men’s confidence company offers Ayurvedic and botanical origin products and seeks to balance science and provenance; it also addresses a spectrum of themes such as erections, ejaculation, libido, masturbation, fertility, and porn addiction, through a combination of products and self-administered questionnaires (SAQs) on their website, sans the sass and implications. It also lets men consult licensed sexologists for free and get personalised treatment kits for various sexual issues.
The brainchild of serial entrepreneur Suhas Misra (who has helped co-found Hector Beverages, the company behind Paper Boat, and Channel- Play), Misters.in was inspired by that most ubiquitous, and literal, signs of small town India: white and black wall paintings advertising the services of a sexologist. “I was doing a lot of travelling across small towns for another project and realised that even though everything else in India has changed, those signs are exactly as I remember them when spotting them through train and bus windows as a kid in the ’80s,” recalls Misra, who on a whim decided to go and check out what advice these ‘experts’ were peddling.
Apart from the usual quackery, he found that almost every ailment was blamed on “bad childhood habits (basically masturbation)”. “Clearly, there was need for actual expert advice as well as a need to de-stigmatise the conversation around men’s sexual wellness,” he says, noting that this is why Misters was conceptualised as a direct-to-consumer online offering, dispensing with any perceived judgement and providing tailored solutions. “We spent a lot of months researching and developing formulations in consultation with doctors as well as Ayurveda specialists, and also developing ways to communicate to and wi t h consumers.” He also acknowledges the business potential of a brand like Misters, which could cater to the vast untapped market of a country in which conversations around sexual wellness is mostly taboo, and any attempt at addressing the issue is “both implicit and explicit innuendo geared towards shaming men into buying their products.”
“If we had launched even 5-6 months before the lockdown, all our logistics would have been in place and we would probably have enjoyed the surge in sales experienced by other more established online brands. But we launched in late-February 2020, and our only facility was in Delhi at the time, so when the lockdown was announced, we were completely hamstrung for the first few months, with all our stock stuck in various places,” mourns Misra. On a brighter note, sales have picked up substantially since last October, with new categories of sex toys and other sexual wellness aids performing well since their introduction earlier this last year.
“Because we pay a lot of focus on vernacular (the majority of the sexual health quiz on our homepage has been taken in Hindi), we are seeing traction across the country. Naturally, the North Indian belt is doing the best as Hindi was the first vernacular we introduced, but since then our Marathi, Telugu, and Kannada versions are getting us great response from the regions that speak them, and we intend to keep expanding our language base.” While it doubtless takes courage for men, be they be townsfolk or city dwellers, discretion is still the better part of valour.
“We used to deliver our products, like so many other D2C companies do, in packaging that told our brand story, but the feedback we got was that our customers want discreet packaging. It didn’t matter that there was nothing explicit or even overt in the design and text of the boxes, men didn’t want to be seen ordering anything to do with sex, even by someone as distant as a courier,” shares Misra, concluding, “That’s the same feedback when it comes to an app. Though we have a lot of cool ideas for one, guys don’t want to have a sexual wellness app that can be seen on their phones, so we are figuring out how to address those concerns.”