Interview: Shantanu Deshpande, founder and CEO, Bombay Shaving Company

‘Tie-ups with salons erode our brand equity’

The pandemic has accelerated the women’s hair removal products market, especially of razors
The pandemic has accelerated the women’s hair removal products market, especially of razors

Five-year-old men’s grooming brand Bombay Shaving Company has now added products for women in its portfolio. Shantanu Deshpande talks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about competing with the biggies Gillette and Nivea in the personal care space, why it prefers corporate gifting as a revenue stream, and more.

Your foray into women’s products comes at a time when brands like Gillette, too, are working on strengthening their foothold in this category. Why the interest in this market now?

The pandemic has accelerated the women’s hair removal products market, especially of razors. Young women define the beauty and personal care market. Studies show that women in the sub-30 age group are far more comfortable with shaving. It is a mental block that is preventing women from moving to shaving. This can easily be fought off by real-world practical needs. In the next two to three years, the women’s razors market is going to be bigger than the hair removal creams and epilators markets. The razor for women will be followed by a shaving range made specially for women, in the next couple of months.

You were aiming to become a Rs 100 crore brand by the end of 2020. How much has the pandemic delayed this plan?

Because we are in the personal care category, we did not see a big slump in sales and consumption, as people continued to keep themselves well-groomed, even if it was just to attend a video call. Before the pandemic, we were doing about Rs 3-3.5 crore worth of business per month. This has now grown to Rs 8 crore per month, and we are on track to become a more-than-Rs 100 crore business on an annualised basis.

When the lockdown was at its peak, we had zero revenue; our warehouses were shut, and we had to take pay cuts. The moment e-commerce resumed (around June-July), we saw robust sales across platforms, be that Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket or even e-pharmacy apps. This works well for us, because we can compete with brands like Gillette or Nivea much better online than offline, and claim a larger market share.

What about your offline presence, especially in mom-and-pop stores that are dominated by legacy brands?

Our offline retail footprint is following our online demand. For instance, once we notice that a city is bringing in Rs 25-30 lakh worth of business from our e-commerce channels, we consider offline expansion in that city. The moment we identify a city to expand into, Colgate-Palmolive — our investor — helps us out with distribution. The strategic investment from Colgate-Palmolive also aids with aspects like sourcing, product development and marketing.

For now, we are present in about 10,000 stores in 20 cities; the plan is to take this number to one lakh over the next 12 months. This is a large and crucial part of our brand building effort. We plan to go deeper in fewer cities, rather than covering many cities with a limited number of stores where we can sell our products.

Bombay Shaving Company does not sell to salons, unlike other personal care brands. What is your institutional sales strategy?

Tie-ups with salons erode our brand equity. Instead, we are focussing on the Rs 35,000 crore gifting market. We get about 10% of our revenue from corporate gifting tie-ups. Our main agenda is to enter the bathrooms, because men, unlike women, do not discuss the personal care products they use. We achieve this through corporate gifting. Companies could gift their employees or business partners could gift our products to their associates.

Further, ours is a popular consumer gifting brand. For occasions like Valentine’s Day, Raksha Bandhan, Father’s Day and Diwali, our average order value is about Rs 2,000-2,200. When it is business as usual, the average ticket size on our direct-to-consumer channel is about Rs 900-1,000. On e-commerce platforms, where consumers tend to buy individual packs, the average ticket size is around Rs 600.

What is stopping you from offering holistic shaving solutions, including electric shavers?

We design and make our razors ourselves. The trimmers market is highly commoditised. We are not confident of the quality of the product if someone else is making it for us, and it is an expensive product to make ourselves. Therefore, we are stuck in a limbo about this exciting category.

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