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Here's looking at you, handsome!
The Hindu Business Line - 10 May 2012

Marketers are latching on to the metrosexual Indian male's need to preen and are launching a plethora of male grooming products.

Twenty-eight-year-old Aditya Goenka, who works at HDFC Bank in Kolkata, visits a salon every month. No, it is not for a mere hair cut or for trimming his beard. Goenka gets a pedicure and a manicure done once a month. Without fail.

“The city is highly polluted and there is too much dust. I get them done to keep myself hygienic and clean,” says Goenka.

Then there's 30-year-old Nilesh Singha, a professional Bharatanatyam exponent. His monthly shopping list includes hair conditioners, body wash, after-shave lotion, creams, deodorant and perfumes.

Aditya and Nilesh are not oddballs. The Indian male is increasingly trying out new cosmetic products and services and experimenting with new hairstyles and looks. The metrosexual male, who is fast becoming a darling of the FMCG firms, doesn't think twice about trying fairness products and applying dollops of sunscreen lotion — all till now considered very girlie items.

This surge in the urge to look good has seen the men's grooming section in India increase to Rs 1,700 crore with an annual growth of over 25 per cent.

Nilanjan Mukherjee, Head of Marketing, Personal Care Products Business, ITC, says, “The segment shows immense promise and is growing faster than the overall personal care market, which is pegged at about Rs 40,000 crore.”

Not surprising then that ITC is working its R&D labs to bring out more products aimed at men. It's not the only one — Emami, Godrej, Philips and beauty services companies such as Jawed Habib's are all changing their product portfolio mix to factor in the Indian male's need to look good.

Focus on Men

FMCG companies are not only expanding their product basket by moving into new segments but are also roping in celebrities and interacting with consumers on digital platforms to woo the metrosexual man.

Take Philips, which is expanding its male grooming portfolio. It currently has trimmers, beard stylers and grooming kits for men. “We have experimented with the face, we now plan to look at some innovation in the body segment for men,” says Aarushi Agarwal, Director Marketing, Consumer Lifestyle, Philips Electronics.

ITC is preparing for a protracted battle for dominance in the men's personal segment. Fiama Di Wills Men was launched in 2010 with the Aqua Pulse range of shower gel and bathing bar.

The brand has now entered the men's face wash category with Fiama Di Wills Men Aqua Pulse De-Stressing and Brightening Face Wash. The company would seek to meet the needs of the evolving male consumer, says Mukherjee.

Emami, which claims to have got the male grooming revolution going, is also digging into its cosmetics war chest.

“We are the pioneers and trendsetters in the men's fairness cream segment and started the male grooming revolution in 2005 with the launch of Emami Fair and Handsome, which happens to be the market leader with about 67 per cent market share,” says N. Krishna Mohan, Chief Executive Officer - Sales, Supply Chain and Human Capital, Emami Ltd.

Now the company is talking of introducing a range of hair and skincare products targeted exclusively at men. “While some might be extensions of existing brands, others can be some new brand launches,” says Mohan.

Smart marketers have created a whole new category by pointing out that the skincare needs of men are different from women.

And men are toeing the line. While most of the new product launches are flying off the shelves, deodorants are showing the highest growth rate of about 50 per cent and the fairness cream market is growing at a rate of 35-40 per cent.

The Well Groomed Look

“The rise in disposable income and the influence of celebrities are the key reasons for the sudden explosion in the men's grooming segment,” says AarushiAgarwal of Philips.

“Today's metrosexual man no longer wants to look dull and boring. He understands that it is not cool anymore to look unkempt and hence he wants to look young, fresh, groomed and confident,” says Emami's Krishna Mohan

He says it's not the young who are big consumers. “Awareness of presenting a pleasant and professional image is even driving men over the age of 45 years to indulge in grooming products designed especially for them, while an increased level of image and trend-consciousness is driving the younger group (20-44 years) to turn to grooming products to get noticed in a crowd,” says Krishna Mohan.

Kohinoor Mandal, master franchisee for West Bengal and Jharkhand, Jawed Habib Hair and Beauty Ltd (JHHBL), points out how more than half of the customers walking into Habib's salon are men.

Men are going in for hair colouring, hair spas, straightening, pedicure, manicure, facial de-tanning and waxing, he says.

Enthused by this, Jawed Habib now plans to launch its own product line through a private label. “In the first phase we will look at launching shampoos, conditioners and moisturisers for everyone. In the second phase we can look at differentiated offerings for male customers,” says Jawed Habib, Chairman and Managing Director, JHHBL.

Digital Pursuit

Companies are going after Indian men through the digital medium to point out how they can help out with their grooming needs.

Fiama Di Wills Men, for instance, has launched a Web site on Google+ Hangout with key opinion leaders on an online media conference. It has also launched a host of innovative online initiatives such as the Australian Adventure and the Cool Dude Hunt to engage with its male consumers.

Philips India has created an exclusive YouTube channel to generate awareness for its products as well as a Facebook page. “We also have a virtual app wherein a customer can take a photo and upload it and we suggest what style would best suit his face. We believe that marketing is not just about selling your product but also about experiencing it,” says Agarwal.

And for good measure, Philips has signed on John Abraham as its brand ambassador. “Creating consumer awareness is essential in driving growth in this category. We have, therefore, created a ‘Style Sutra' booklet which is a style guide for men. The guide gives information on what style best suits what kind of face cut,” says Agarwal.

Emami had roped in Shah Rukh Khan as the brand ambassador for its Fair and Handsome cream.

As of now, ITC does not seem to have a celeb male model in mind. Sandeep Kaul, Chief Executive, Personal Care Division, ITC, says, “In the near short term we are not looking at signing up with anyone.” Either way, it has its eyes firmly trained on the market.

As the peacocks preen, there's much colour in store for the business.

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