Just about a week ago, I was talking to a colleague of mine, about how personal care category for men could boom in a developing economy if standards of living and disposable income increases. We were talking about how, over time, we started using things which we never seemed important in the past, like perfumes, deodorants, after shave lotions etc. and now they almost feel indispensable. The conversation moved to beards and shaving and the finer nuances that men have become so particular about in the recent times.
Now, when I had the discussion with my colleague, I had no well formed notions in my mind. But ensuing the vague yet, interesting round of discussions, I pondered over it a bit more in detail and reflected back upon how advertising and consequently consumer behavior changed over time, how brands were strengthened and what brands are newly making inroads today. And voila! This blog post was born.
From a chore to turning men into chick-magnets
Shaving used to be a mundane chore, a time taking and coarse activity. But now due to improvements in products and thanks to the extensive media spends, shaving has become an integral part of making men feel better about themselves. It has been marketed as an indulgent activity that can be looked forward to. Check out one the early ads which captures this notion.
When I first started shaving, it was out of sheer curiosity and a desire to move into another phase of my life. There was a great deal of machismo attached to it as perceived by all the boys in high school. Once again, you can put that blame on the macho models from shaving ads.
I remember my first disposable razor which offered a no frills shave. It was a coarse experience and my skin burnt after the shave. I looked rather weird. In fact, I was a laughing stock. I did not even use a shaving cream then. As I look back at it, I have come a long way from then to a more sophisticated ritual.
Shaving cream was a revelation for me, which later evolved into the shaving foam. The key to smoother shave, and getting closer to women. Yes, closer to women. Adverts spared no effort in exploiting the emerging sexuality of the budding generation. Watch this ad to see how adverts built such perceptions in young Indian minds. The tagline says, “Old Spice, the mark of a man”.
And then you have shaving lotions. Old spice was the ancient favourite of many people. Most of my generation would remember their dads using old spice. The fragrance is instantly identifiable and a lot of people stay loyal to it. Of course, I also started using Old spice. It was like a heritage brand for most of us.
Anyway, so, the shaving industry blossomed from the cocoon of plain mundane chore to a fashionable, glorified activity, critical for winning over ladies and leaving a good impression on all otherwise. Over the years, there were intermittent appearance of new versions of Gillette razors or new variants of shaving foams. But of late, there has been some new entrants in the market, who I believe might give shaving some fresh look, literally.
New brands that are breaking new grounds
All of us know players like Gillette, Nivea, Old Spice, Palmolive etc. I believe these brands have been around long enough for most people to have come across them somewhere or the other. I won’t waste my words on them. In this post, I would like to talk about a few new brands, which I believe are offering some interesting products, different from the earlier breeds of products.
Shaving is no longer just about removing unwanted facial hair and looking better, it has extended to how you feel before and after the shave due to the shaving experience, how you think you make others feel after the shave with the look and the fragrance. And these new companies are offering some new things which I will talk about here.
Bombay Shaving Company:
As the name suggests, this start up is all about shaving. And they do have an interesting range of products, which I never thought could have existed. They have some products which I did not even think I needed. For starters, take a look at their pre-shave scrubs and post shave balms. But they have indeed kicked up some storm in the segment. No wonder Colgate Palmolive decided to pick 14% stake in the company by investing 2.6m USD in a series A investment round.
Lets look at some of their products.
There was a time when someone from office asked me to get sands or something from the Black sea, in Jordan. I was confused about it, either the person wants some strange memento from the tiny country, or it was a prank. But later I realized that sand can be used for skin exfoliation. This particular product from Bombay Shaving Company (BSC), does just that.
The product contains black sand that exfoliates, Vitamin E that enriches and Aloe Vera extracts that soothe skin, releasing trapped hair in the process. Imagine that. I have never used this particular product, but users vouch for the effectiveness. Certain reviews claim to make shaving smoother on the skin. Others say that it leaves the skin moisturized and hence helps avoid the dryness that usually men feel post shaving. You can check the product and the reviews out on amazon (Link attached here).
And also, now I know how the lady would have felt if I had gotten her the sand from Jordan.
Complete Shaving kits:
I find their kits classy. I mean its a low involvement item for me, but I took a look at the items they have and I think it would make me feel good to own one of these. Usually I like it when things seem to fit well, and complete.
To any women, if you are looking for a perfect birthday gift for your guy, you can try the complete shaving kit, which consists of everything you need (towels, razors, blades, pre-shave scrubs, balms and brush). It has pretty decent reviews on most places. Here’s a link to the product. They also offer a value kit, in case you just need the bare essentials (Cream, scrub, balm and brush). The link to it is here.
Beard maintenance products:
This is not quite something many people would find interesting, but for those who like hair on their face, the start up offers these: beard brush, beard combs, beard growth oil, beard shampoo and conditioners, and even beard butter. I don’t know what it does, but heck, these guys went all out on innovation. I was impressed thoroughly.
This brand is not dedicated to shaving. But it has some damn good Ayurvedic products. But since this post is about shaving, I will stick to this line. Also, I use Forest Essentials and I like this product. Not long ago, I wasn’t familiar, and was happy using whatever was available for shaving.
So, when my wife ordered a whole lot of Forest Essentials stuff from Amazon.in, including some of my shaving stuff, I was miffed. I told her I don’t use such stuff and it would be wasted. But she had done her homework and had the right arguments to suppress my short lived rebellion. She enlightened me with the benefits and what not-using-it was causing. Well, I had to give in. Let me share a part of that gyaan with you.
Who would have ever thought someone would rub oil to the face before shaving? At least I never thought so. Maybe they did before, but well, I am ignorant about things sometimes. And personal grooming wasn’t my strongest point when I was in college.
Anyway, so I started using this product, after a lot of persistence by my wife, for a “better shaving experience”. Indeed, it did feel good. Shaving was much smoother and my skin felt less bruised after the shave. First time I used it, it felt brilliant. The shave itself was very smooth, and the skin felt soft and didn’t leave a dry feeling post shave. So, I did some googling on this, and well, others say similar stuff. So, I was not the only one who felt good after using it. And apparently, it also has some antiseptic ingredients like Turmeric and Neem. If its true, then its cool by me, I said to myself. So, it got a big “Thumbs Up” from me.
I cannot claim to be an expert in this and honestly, I don’t know the difference between this product and the shaving foam/gel I used to use. But it claims some good ingredients and smells fresh and natural, unlike the Nivea or Gillette I used to use which used to smell synthetic (reflecting back upon it).
Well, I still like my Old Spice. But I don’t mind this product at all. I am currently using it and I think it feels really fresh and natural. It stings less though, but then most people now know that stinging does not really mean healing. Its just a stimulus.
Just like the Bombay shaving company version, this kit from Forest Essentials is a perfect gift item for men. Except for the razor and blade, it contains all the essential items for shaving, like brush, the pre-shave oil, the shaving cream and the post shave lotion.
I am a sucker for Ayurvedic products, and this seemed to fit the bill. And although I admire what Bombay Shaving guys are doing, I cannot recommend them as I have not used it. But for Forest Essentials, we use a lot of it in our house and most of them are really worth it. You can check their products on The Forest Essentials page on the Amazon website.
I don’t have a great deal of insight into the lifestyles of the uber elites, and the greatly wealthy gentlemen, but I would put this right up the alley of those good looking gentlemen, with tailored suits that fit smugly around the shoulders, glowing skin, neat hair and sparkly white teeth, perfectly groomed. And most men probably want to look like that, at least subliminally. These are little pleasures in life money can buy and the advertisers know it and sell it very well. They are tapping into this latent demand and turning it into a booming market in India.
And just as disposable incomes increase, men will start looking at these kind of things to spend more on. Brands would be smart to latch on fast to these changing consumer habits and come up with products suited to the needs. The old brands who wake up early and innovate will probably do well. But otherwise, one should watch out for rebel start ups like Bombay Shaving Company and Forest Essentials to chip away the market share slowly today, until it reaches a tipping point, and the shaving landscape gets owned entirely by them.