The couple behind a new start-up using adult toys and cheeky adverts to challenge long-held taboos say they want to take the “shame, guilt and fear” out of sex in India.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Despite its heritage as the land of the Kama Sutra, open discussions around sexuality and intimacy are often regarded as obscene in the largely conservative country.
MyMuse, founded by Anushka and Sahil Gupta, are tackling this with tongue-in-cheek marketing and creative euphemisms, which they say make the products seem less intimidating and encourage first-time buyers.
“Diwali is coming and so should you! And as always, we’re urging you to save the fireworks for the bedroom,” exclaimed one such advertisement on Facebook before one of India’s biggest religious holidays, and its customary pyrotechnics, last year.
“There’s this shame, guilt and fear associated with buying something that should be used in your intimate areas, and that’s the first thing we wanted to turn around,” Anushka says.
MyMuse is one of a growing number of businesses riding a wave of sexual liberation amongst urban young professionals, already navigating global trends on Instagram and comfortable with dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge.
Investors too are betting on this untapped market in the vast country of 1.4 billion: India’s nascent sex toys sector was valued at $91 million by TechSci Research in 2020, and predicted to grow 16 percent annually.
The Guptas began shipping out discreetly packaged vibrators — “massagers” in MyMuse’s genteel parlance -– candles, and lubricants from a spare bedroom in their home during last year’s Covid-19 lockdowns.
Benefitting from capital pouring into Indian tech start-ups during the pandemic, the firm received seed funding from venture capitalist firms. They have made more than a dozen hires and now ship to nearly 200 cities nationwide.
“(We want to) just remove all of that misogyny, sexism from this idea and just make it something that’s beautiful, that’s natural, universal,” Anushka, who left her job at WeWork to become an entrepreneur, explains.
There are a growing number of services for India’s sexually curious: fellow start-up Gizmoswala offers same-day delivery on bondage kits for Mumbai residents, while LoveTreats exhorts online shoppers to discover their “naughty side” with lingerie sets and remote-controlled vibrators.
But they still need to contend with wider society — particularly older, more conservative generations that idolise female virtue and honour, and a culture where arranged marriages are still the norm.