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Its inventory sold out in the first month itself. "We didn't have any products left to sell. That's when we realised the huge demand," said Saraiya, who seeks to distinguish ThatsPersonal brand as a sexual wellness site in contrast with ImBesharam that's more in the adult entertainment category. Saraiya found support from his wife and in-laws for the venture, even as his mother remained reluctant.
"It's a huge problem Indian men face. To even buy a condom, we try and visit a chemist who is distant from our house," said Saraiya, 43. Bindra said he backed the venture because he believed Saraiya could pull it off. "I have known Samir for the past several years and I knew he had the chutzpah to pull this off successfully," said Bindra, also ex-CEO of Getitbazaar.com. "His idea was solving a genuine customer purchase issue."
The site is planning to raise another $5 million from venture capital firms and says it's in talks with two venture capital firms. Bachelorette and bachelor party kits have become a hit, with even customers from small towns ordering the products. "It is an extremely huge market considering the age population that India offers for this segment (65% of population under 35 years of age). People have become health conscious and are now becoming sexually health conscious," Bindra said.
"It is an extremely differentiated category from the standard ecommerce ventures. It offers us a first-mover advantage. This category is well suited for internet commerce which offers privacy, consumer psyche, great margins, home delivery." All the ecommerce firms in this space are careful not to be in breach of laws, making sure that none of their goods carry any images that depict nudity. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code states that "a published image is deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest, or if its effect may tend to deprave and corrupt a person". This could make such sites vulnerable, said Vivek Sood, a senior Delhi High Court lawyer.
"As far as Section 292 goes, such e-commerce entrepreneurs or intermediaries are susceptible," he said. "The section becomes very broad by including any object which has the potential to corrupt minds... We live in a very dualistic society where the law doesn't recognise the right of adults to life and liberty. It expects everyone to always read holy scriptures," said Sood, a specialist in Indian cyber and criminal law.
However, lawyers associated with such ecommerce firms disagree. Lekhesh Dholakia, attorney for ThatsPersonal, said that there are no legal concerns over the sale since these items are not banned for import or sale in India. "As long as the products are not 'obscene' or displayed and exhibited in such a manner, which is not 'obscene', there is no legal concern," said Dholakia.
All the ecommerce companies have senior lawyers on their roster to help in case they get into trouble and goods are always shipped in discreet packages, with no brand labels showing. Kolkata-based rivatelyUrs, like the other sites, also offers the option of customer pickups.
"As more people in urban areas have started to live in nuclear families, there is less inhibition to order a package home. However, still we offer pickup points whenever there is a chance of the package being opened by kids at home," said Rajiv Ghosh, CEO of PrivatelyUrs. "Our business caters to individuals who want to order stuff in privacy," said Ghosh, 36, who also runs a tech company called Digital Aptech.