It is often said that ‘Good friends are like bras, close to your heart and supportive’. Ironically, good lingerie is more difficult to find than good friends!

Funny straps sticking out of a tube top, fear of visible thong lines from a skirt or awkwardness of a wrong cup size – answers to these situations is usually the cut and dry response of been there, done that!

These situations worsen in India, wherein only the role and need of men’s innerwear is identified (enticing women) and women’s lingerie and sensuous wear is still a secret conveyed in hushed tones. Result of cultural reticence – shady shops, public stares and very commonly, wrong size and fit.

The world of online lingerie!

‘Dot com’ was God’s answer to every human’s prayer of exploiting luxury from the comfort of their homes. Similarly, in case of lingerie, dot com captured the very pulse of the segment — sparing buyers from social trauma and offering variety.

Deeksha Jaiswal Dadu, Co-founder, Strapsandstrings.com

Deeksha Jaiswal Dadu, Co-founder, Strapsandstrings.com

“Most women who desired to own premium or luxury lingerie had to shop for them from abroad,” expressed Deeksha Jaiswal Dadu, Co-founder, Strapsandstrings.com, one of the first websites to cater to the demand and venture into the luxury space. “Also, customers who desire to own premium and luxury lingerie and who have the purchasing power are no longer restricted to the Indian metros of Delhi and Mumbai alone. Going online gives customers access to our products across geographies.”

Offline lingerie stories are usually operated by men leading to inhibitions and discomfort on the part of the consumers. Also, offline retailers usually stock fast moving sizes, often leading women into buying wrong sizes or not getting the correct sizes.

“There is a lot of social discomfort associated with buying lingerie in a store – due to unavailability of sizes,

Richa Kar, CEO, Zivame.com

Richa Kar, CEO, Zivame.com

poor market penetration and lack of education around the category. Zivame was born out of a vision to provide every Indian woman access to the right innerwear in an environment that is consultative, inclusive and friendly, shared Richa Kar, CEO, Zivame.com, a brand that also caters to the masses along with offering high-end luxury products.

Similar is the situation of sensual wear in the country. From a fireman to a naughty nurse, fantasies have always been there, but rarely or almost never spoken about in India.

Monica Anand, Co-Founder, Under Cover Lingerie

Monica Anand, Co-Founder, Under Cover Lingerie

“We were keen on creating a product line that made a woman feel confident, sensuous, and playful, and enjoy every fantasy she had. Lingerie just seemed like the perfect fit,” explained Monica Anand, Co-founder, Under Cover Lingerie (Buyundercover.com), a marketplace that not only sells lingerie, but also role play apparel.

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Online lingerie stores not only worked as marketplaces for innerwear but also offer a number of other perks such as anonymity while delivering the packages, guides for right look and size, guides for men, live chat rooms to clarify doubts and a lot more.

Keep calm and wear a corset!

Lingerie is not a mere functional garment anymore. Innerwear now implies comfort, confidence, sex appeal and fashion, resulting in high sales numbers.

Dadu expressed that as compared to last year, Strapsandstrings has witnessed 3x growth in terms of revenue and 3.25x growth in terms of order volume. Kar shared that Zivame has been growing at 15 per cent month-on-month, while Anand told e27 that Under Cover Lingerie was launched in 2011 and it have grown 200 per cent y-o-y.

Arun Chandra Mohan, Co-Founder, Jabong.com

Arun Chandra Mohan, Co-Founder, Jabong.com

Jabong.com, an online fashion and lifestyle portal in India that has mass appeal, claims to receive 1000 orders per day in the lingerie segment. “There is a minimum of 30 to 40 per cent m-o-m growth in the lingerie segment at Jabong. We have been seeing double digit growth in terms of revenue,” shared Arun Chandra Mohan, Co-founder, Jabong.com.

Men’s opinion matters!

Monica: Pheebs can you come in here for a second?
Ross: Hey! What? ask me, I am your brother!
Monica: Ok! So which one of these should I wear so that your best friend wants to do your sister!
Ross: The red one!

And the advice worked! Men’s opinion and choices always matter.

Online lingerie websites receive equal traction from men, who might be either shopping for their partners or just browsing. Dadu explained that for Strapsandstrings, consumer ratio of men and women has been equal. “We have a lot of men shopping for gifts for their wives or girlfriends. In fact, the average order value for men is much higher as they come looking for something really special and do not mind splurging.”

Nonetheless, in terms of customers, women have been leading the way. Kar expressed that 80 per cent of the customers at Zivame are women.

Scared of bras – Not anymore!

Chandler’s fear of bras keeps recurring in all seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. However, with services such as trial on delivery, cash back and change of product, the online lingerie sector has managed to take away the fear and awkwardness.

Read Also: Styleprofile lets Asian ladies discover their fashion styles

While Strapsandstrings only deals in the luxury space, Zivame and Jabong also fulfill the needs of the common woman. For those who want to play out their fantasies, Under Cover Lingerie has a lot of kink to offer.

Strapsandstrings offers brands such as Chantelle and Parah; Zivame has products with mass appeal — Bw!tch, Enamor and Panache, and Jabong provides an array of options including Jockey, United Colors of Benetton and Prettysecrets. Under Cover Lingerie specialises in role play products such as cuffs, fantasy outfits and accessories.

Bras at Strapsandstrings are priced at a minimum of INR 3,500 (approx US$56) and can go as high as INR 15000 (approx US$240); Panties cost anywhere between INR 1500 (approx US$24) and INR 10,000 (approx US$160).

“Brands like Simone Perele, Chantelle and Passionate are really popular amongst our customers that offer unparalleled fits without compromising the look and feel. Plain vanilla looking lingerie does not sell very well for us,” shared Dadu of Strapsandstrings.

Kar of Zivame told e27 that the usual cart value is INR 1200 (approx US$19), and products start from INR 99 ((approx US$1.5) and range up to INR 3900 (approx US$62).

Anand of Under Cover Lingerie, on the other hand, shared that accessories are one of the main attraction. “Both, our male and female customers love Under Cover’s line of kinky accessories; especially the handcuffs,” she expressed.

Metros and beyond

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? And not just in India metros, but beyond!

Cultural barriers and lack of physical outlets of brands have been one of the major reasons behind the success of e-commerce players in India. Mohan expressed that Jabong has been seen 50 per cent of its traffic for the lingerie segment coming from Tier II and III cities.

Similar trends have been witnessed across dedicated online lingerie marketplaces.

“In the first year, we had 15 per cent buyers from Tier II & III cities. This number went up to 30 per cent in the second year. We have almost 40 per cent footfall per month these cities, and out of which 65 per cent leads to conversion,” said Kar.

The smaller cities often have influential people who are ready to splurge money but do not have access to such products. “Substantial number of sales is coming from Tier II and III cities, including some of the remotest locations that we have never even heard of,” added Dadu.

From cuddly comfort to naughty role playing, Indian consumers have evolved tremendously, yet the offline market has not.
While the online lingerie sector has been able to tap this opportunity, it needs to go beyond e-commerce basics to meet the constant rise in demand from consumers. Special marketing communications that go beyond metros will help the segment grow like nobody’s business!

Featured Image Courtesy: Under Cover Lingerie

Lead Image Courtesy: Zivame