by AXF Team | 4 Minutes With
4 Minutes With Samir Saraiya
Welcome to the latest of our new ‘Four Minutes With…’ features, where we sit down and speak with leading CEOs and business professionals and ask them for their top tips and insights into starting a business. This month we talk with Samir Saraiya, CEO of India's first online adult store ThatsPersonal.com
Being a world's first is extra tough, breaking through into a new market, challenging culture beliefs, changing minds and all because you know there is a market for your business and that the people do want it. These are all the barriers that Samir has overcome to successfully launch ThatsPersonal. Now we get to find out more about this journey, plans for the future from the man who is a World's First.
1. Launching the first website in India to sell sex toys & products, what was your biggest challenge(s)?
Being the first company to launch this business in India, we had to research many aspects starting from the whole legality of this category in India. I was fortunate to have a lawyer, who became my first investor, to help me navigate the Indian laws and regulations to learn what could be legally done in the country.
My second big challenge, based on the Indian social landscape, was to mentally accept the decision and be comfortable to actually start the business. This was a tough one and it gave me quite a few sleepless nights, thinking about how my family would be socially accepted post launch? The initial success provided me, the much-needed confidence to deal with the world around me.
From a consumer standpoint, we realise there is a huge gap in product education as most Indians are unaware of this category and its benefits. With over a billion mobile subscribers compared to just 100 million broadband subscribers, it’s always a challenge to build the entire product education and shopping experience on a mobile screen.
2. What new opportunities do you feel the adult market could offer for new people looking to enter this industry in India?
The business opportunity is absolutely huge with the Indian population (1.2 billion) larger than the combined population of U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. India has one of the youngest populations in the world with 65 percent of the population under 35 years old. Today, between 5 to 10 percent of the global searches for erotic products originate from India and the Economic Times, India’s largest business newspaper, predicts that the Indian pleasure products market will grow into a US$ 1.6 billion market over the next 5 years.
Over a period of time, there would be a lot of opportunities that India would be ready for, especially local manufacturing, new customised products based on Indian tastes and sensibilities as well as the usual distribution networks of wholesalers and distributors.
3. How do you feel the adult industry can benefit from the introduction of the adultXfunding crowdfunding platform?
The adult industry, has comparatively, very powerful metrics including high margins, repeat usage and growth which are attractive to financial investors. However, the industry has been deprived of external funding primarily due to the legacy factor of ‘taboo’ which is still prevalent across the financial community. The lack of such funding has a negative impact on the industry especially new product development and innovation as well as marketing and brand-building to help companies achieve scale.
I believe adultXfunding will bridge the funding gap as they are able to identify the right set of businesses and promote the same to interested financial investors thereby creating value to both sides.
Additionally, they are well positioned to add a lot of value via their domain knowledge to support the business post the initial investment cycle to influence additional rounds of funding in future.
4. When using crowdfunding to launch a project, what advice would you offer?
I am not really an expert on crowdfunding, but the one advice I would give entrepreneurs is to structure the investment terms favourably to initial investors. The long-term success of the business far outweighs the initial risks facing crowdfunding investors and therefore entrepreneurs should look at crowdfunding as an important stepping stone to success rather than success in itself.
5. What top business tip or tips would you give somebody starting a new business in the adult sector or looking to expand?
The industry is going through its challenges, with lesser innovation while more competition sets in especially across a multitude of brands, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. This scenario leads to intense competition resulting in lower margins and fragmentation. I would advise new business to clearly identify the opportunity or gap in the market before entering the industry. Once they enter the industry they must aggressively build their business creating as many entry barriers as possible before established players come in to spoil their party.
6. Over the next 12 months, what plans do you have for your business and are then any special projects you are looking to launch?
We have three sales channels which are direct to consumer (thatspersonal.com), online distribution (marketplaces) and offline distribution (retail). While we have had good success with the first two channels, and our focus in the next 12 months would be to re-launch and scale up our offline distribution.
Additionally, we are looking at a capital raise in the second half of this calendar year and will be focused on it from July onwards.
7. What is your favourite fruit?
I am not much of a fruit person, but the one fruit I love is the Indian Alphonso mango. The mango season is April and May and during these two months, I enjoy mango in many different formats like diced, milkshakes, ice creams and juice.