Grooming is Booming

In 2005, Emami launched ‘Fair and Handsome’ cream for men – remember the ‘chhup chhup ke’ ads that were based on the insight that many Indian men who wanted to become fairer surreptitiously used their sister or mother’s fairness cream (watch a more recent version of the ad here). At the time, I recall meeting an elderly gentleman who confessed to feeling bewildered with what he saw on TV; “When I was young, men were meant to be MEN; tall, hatte-katte, strong; a hairy chest, biceps and a stubble were something to be proud of; nowadays a hero is not ashamed to wax his chest and lie in a tub full of rose-petals (SRK in a Lux ad), or appear in a fairness ad. Why aren’t men proud to be MANLY and MACHO anymore ?”  

I wonder how the elderly gentleman would react on seeing the plethora of grooming products for men on store shelves today. With the men’s skincare market growing at a little more than twice the rate of that for women’s skin-care products (47% vs. 22% respectively in top cities in 2010), there’s a host of erstwhile women-centric brands vying for their share of the pie; watch John Abraham pitch Garnier products, Shahid with Vaseline, Dhoni batting for NIVEA, or Hrithik with Cinthol. Then there’s Fiama di Wills, Everyuth, Fair and Lovely, Dettol, Parachute, Axe, Wildstone etc., you name the brand and you find it vying for a share of the expanding pie. Put together these brands offer hair  gels and creams, hair colorants, face-washes and scrubs, fairness creams, talcum powders, deodorants, soaps and body washes, and even bleach and waxing strips for men! No wonder some supermarkets now have a separate aisle for men’s grooming products.

Not just in products, the market for men’s grooming services is also growing rapidly. Not only are men visiting beauty salons in greater numbers, but the number of cosmetic surgeries for men is also growing rapidly. The female to male patient ratio for cosmetic treatments such as botox and fillers,  face lifts, chemical peels, chin tucks, tummy tucks, hair transplant, etc. has now become 75:25 (or 70:30, depending on which source you believe), and this ratio is estimated to reach 60:40 in a few years.

Of course, this person spending so much on grooming wants to be well attired too, and looks for high-quality western wear. As Indian women, by contrast, tend to be traditionally dressed on formal occasions, the market for premium western-wear brands is dominated by the male consumer; compared to more developed markets, in India the men’s apparel market constitutes as much as 60% of the total merchandise. For instance, for Italian luxury brand Versace, 80% of the purchases come from men and 20% from women. Premium lifestyle stores that house various luxury brands also report that over 80% of sales come from men. In sectors such as fragrances too, Indian men spend far more than their female counterparts, in contrast to the trend globally.

Metrosexual is Manly indeed!  

If you’d like to know more about the sociocultural changes and the attitudes driving this phenomenon, and which categories / brands are more likely to benefit from it, call us or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you. 


(Note : Sources referred to for this post include ACNielsen reports, Euromonitor reports, news reports and other secondary data sources)



Zenobia Driver

…who fervently wishes that all these appearance conscious guys would teach their uncultured brethren to stop spitting, belching and relieving themselves in public; I’d even pay for their salon treatments then!



  1. Rahul Jhaveri March 28, 2012 at 7:11 am - Reply

    Even though metrosexuality has been popular for over a decade the world over, it is only recently that men in India have taken to it in hoards. This might be because it is only recently that Bollywood male actors have embraced this phenomenon and started to shave their chest, flaunt wash-board abs and style (or over-style) their hair.

    The majority of men aged 18-35 in India look to Bollywood film stars for styling and grooming trends – at times even subconsciously. It is astonishing how much influence films have on men in India. Films like Bobby which made every young man in India start wearing bell-bottoms, Dil Chahta Hai which made men grow soul-patches and drive down to Goa every chance they got, or more recently Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara which has made every young man in India itch to make a trip to Spain with their guy friends.

    Like you pointed out, companies realize this and have started to have young film stars endorse their beauty products. Alternative sub-cultures like emo, grunge and goth have also been around for over a decade but have started to come into mainstream India through films – like Prateik Babbar’s small yet memorable role in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I am sure that the focus of the youth will slowly move towards these sub-cultures and away from metrosexuality, more so as movies start embracing them.

    • escapevelocityblog March 29, 2012 at 4:12 am - Reply

      Hi Rahul,
      Thanks for your detailed comment. Agree totally. Bollywood has definitely aided in making this trend popular.

      In fact, you looooong comment has given me an idea for a whole new post. Am trying to figure out whether to run your comment as a post, or to add to it and then run it. You have no objection if we run this as a blog post, right ?

      Also, am old and so not ‘with it’ – grunge I recognise, and goth to an extent, but emo ? Some more info please. Am fascinated.


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