Raj Armani took a leap of faith and started an online adult store and seven years later it is India’s number one adult store with over 250,000 fans and followers.
What’s your story?
We launched India’s first online adult store in 2012 in a country where speaking about SEX is still a taboo even in 2019, sex before marriage is a stigma, moral traditions and society looks down at this topic, the archaic laws from 1947 regard adult toys as corrupting human minds, 70% of women do not achieve orgasms. India is one of the top 3 porn consuming countries. Ironically it has the world’s second largest population and is the birthplace of KamaSutra. In midst of all these challenges, what we saw was ‘opportunity’ so we pooled our savings, signed up a celebrity to be the face of our brand and just jumped in. Its been 7 years since, now we command the leading position in India with over 500k orders delivered, over 15k+ online reviews and over 250k fans on our social network. To top it all, we run the business from the United States and launched a ‘cross-border’ commerce business when this term was relatively unknown unless you were a giant like Amazon or eBay.
What excites you most about your industry?
Primarily these TWO things:
Disruption & Acceptance: The fact that our industry is going through its disruption phase after being in existence of 300,000+ years. Yes, that’s true. We have seen products that resembled a male’s organs since the stone ages. But what’s changing now is the perception of what we as consumers have towards the product. This reflects in how the industry is focussing on designs, functionality, innovation and packaging so if you ever need a go-pro installed c-ring, yes we have that now.
Opportunity to educate and improve lives: While the school and classes in my mama’s days never brought this up, we all realize how important sex education is for the betterment of mankind and societies everywhere. Having launched in India at a time and phase when India is undergoing its biggest youth revolution, our brand and placement plays a vital role in bringing to our audience experiences and information that will impact their social behaviour and relationship management as well as open up many closed minds on topics that were taboos for the longest time. We feel gratuitous for being in a place to empower our audience through our brand, our messaging and our products.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Born & spent half my life in Asia (India), doing business in Asia. 70% of our global audience (Indians outside of India) is also in Asia. While we are HQ’d in the US, we are looking to set up an office in Singapore to cater to the Indians in Asia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. I look up to this city/country because of how it has shaped up in the last 20 years. The ease of starting and doing business, great talent, ethical & honest folks, good vibes in people, its strategic location close to China, India and SE Asia, the regional and political stability and the culture of living & doing business.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog!
Fall seven times, get up eight (Japanese proverb)
Who inspires you?
I get inspired by my Mom. She is my role model at home and I look up to her way of life, her relationship management skills and her problem-solving skills. I also get inspiration from stories of many successful founders who were otherwise the underdogs. What propels my drive is to see a person succeed in the face of its unlikeliness, challenges and criticisms. I feel I am in a similar boat at most times.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently learnt about how the 7 boy band BTS (from South Korea) became so popular in America and how they grew big purely on talent and fan connect through social media in spite of having a start-up agency manage and promote them without the blessings of the industry bigwigs. Another success story and I am happy to be in the times when you can define your own future, and we hear examples every day.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I truly believe what and how it happens, always happens for the best. So making any change would probably have impacted how it has worked out so far. But without making that assumption, I would have jumped early into the internet bandwagon, not as a consumer but as a provider of service or products that would have probably given me a better footing. And yeah I would have visited the gym more often and taken more time out for family, friends and my health.
How do you unwind?
My kids. They are my drive and my source of happiness. No matter what day or time, I love to hang around them, listen to their stories, teach them new skills and take them out and be a kid with them.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore any day. Just because it has got it all. People, places and choices. Great for travelling solo, with family or for business. Its got a mix of both worlds, healthy green spaces, orderly traffic and public transport, rich cultural diversity and the perfect balance of modern & traditional. The availability of various cuisines – Chinese, Malay, Thai & India as well as all Western of high quality and flavor adds a big bonus to my choice.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Lost & Founder by Rand Fishkin
Shameless plug for your business:
Besharam means Shameless. We are India’s #1 adult website, and we hope to become the #1 global adult store for all Indians worldwide. Founded in 2012, we have delivered happiness to over 500,000 Indians, Sunny Leone is the face of our brand and we are one of the most popular online adult store with over 250,000 fans and followers. Check out our brand video bit.ly/imbesharam
How can people connect with you?
I would love to connect with your readers on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/rajarmani
I am also happy to advise/counsel other founders/entrepreneurs if I have the expertise they looking for, they can email me at [email protected]
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.