If you scoff at the advertisement of 'Fair and Handsome', a fairness cream for men, and if the image of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan immersed in a bath tub filled with rose petals took you by surprise, then chances are that you haven't noticed the change in young urban men in the recent times.
Times sure are a-changing with the young urban male all set to takeover the traditionally female bastion of beauty parlors and cosmetics. According to a recent survey by the New Delhi-based retail consultancy firm, KSA Technopak, 70 per cent of India's urban males visit a salon at least once a month; and no, not just for a haircut. Salons now offer men a slew of other services, including hairstyling, facials and skin-lifting treatment to make them look and feel good.
Women still come up against the glass ceiling but men have broken through the beauty barrier. Says Rajesh Pandey, CEO of Kaya Skin Clinic, a chain of high-end beauty salons set up by Marico across the country: "Around 21 per cent of our existing clientele is male. The number has tripled in the past year."
The increase in spending power coupled with the advent of the metro-sexual male, has now made it acceptable for a man to say openly that he likes to visit a beauty parlor, nor does he have to shy away from using products that, a decade ago, would have raised eyebrows. It is now okay if a 20-year-old spends Rs 2,000 (US$1=Rs 40) every month on personal grooming.
"I started visiting the beauty salon for the grooming of my beard and then graduated to getting other treatments like manicures and pedicures and even facials. The main reason I do it because I really feel good after that and also because it gives me confidence," says Gurbinder Sodhi, 36, a senior executive in a white goods company.
Beauty is now a big business in India, thanks to both men and women becoming more experimental and discretionary concerning their approach to skincare. In keeping with the rising demand, there has been a surge in the number of cosmetic products for men in the market. One of the first companies to gauge this trend was Emami, whose 'Fair and Handsome' is a best selling product in this range. In May this year, Nivea also introduced its men's range in the country. According to Kaya, the market size of the men's personal care segment is estimated to range between Rs 5,000 million to Rs 8,000 million.
"According to some recent surveys, men spend an average of 20 minutes in front of the mirror as compared to 18 minutes spent by women. The 'Neanderthal' look is out, and men are willing to spend generously on personal grooming. Looking good is no longer just a female's prerogative. Looking one's best gives you self- confidence - very important in today's competitive world. As the trend catches on, we are sure to see more men buying specifically into products like skin creams, hydrating gels, hair gels, hair styling, specific skin care products, etc," says Sudarshan Singh, Brand Manager, Nivea India.
Larger disposable incomes are one of the main reasons for this change. Coupled with this, changing lifestyles, greater product choice and the influence of satellite television are other factors that have contributed to bringing about this change. Besides, more foreign travel has led to a greater exposure to international trends. These factors have also contributed to the higher use of cosmetics by Indian women.
According to Dr Hemant Chandurkar, a psychologist at the Pune-based Jehangir Hospital, "There is a sense of liberation among the men. Earlier, they were supposed to be macho. It has been a gradual process, starting with deodorants and after-shaves. The concept of manliness is also being redefined. It is a requirement now to look good. Right now, men belonging to the upper strata and the upper middle class go in for things like facials but gradually this will percolate down as well."
An increasing number of men are now coming to realize the importance of grooming, especially to safeguard from early ageing, a reality thanks to the hectic lifestyles of today with deadlines, work stress and unfriendly environmental conditions like pollution and sun damage. Apart from that, many young executives believes that it is important to look good to reach greater heights professionally whether it's going for interviews or meeting high-profile clients. Looking good is no longer restricted to a feel-good factor; for many, it has become a matter of basic hygiene.
"I started noticing wrinkles near my eyes and was scared. I felt odd the first time I visited a salon, but the result was so good that it has become part of my routine. I get facials done regularly now," says Mohit Aggarwal, 39, a software engineer.
The target profile of most personal care product companies is the urban male in the 25 to 45 age group. "As of now, men across varied age groups seem to be picking up the product, but our core consumers are between 18 and 35 years old," says Singh.
Though the market is still in its infancy, it is estimated to be around Rs 7,500 million and is believed to be growing at 200 per cent. "The major part of the pie still belongs to the shaving category. However, faster growing categories like skin creams and hair gels are beginning to make their mark. Being a nascent and less evolved market, as compared to women's beauty care market, men's grooming category will witness a lot of action with new products addressing the Indian male's grooming needs," says Singh.
The perception of manliness is surely changing with the changing times and the stereotypes associated with manhood have certainly been thrown out of the window.