INTERVIEW: Soum Rakshit, MysteryVibe
by Stuart Wilson, Sunday 19 February 2017
Have you heard the saying sex sells? The crossover between sex toys and connected technologies has created a fast-growing sextech sector, that represents a significant growth opportunity for forward thinking distributors.
Channel EMEA caught up with Soum Rakshit, CEO & Co-Founder, MysteryVibe, ahead of the company’s participation at this week’s DISTREE EMEA in Monaco, to find out more about the channel opportunity and market potential.
Channel EMEA (CE): What do you want to achieve at DISTREE EMEA 2017? What are your key goals for the event?
Soum Rakshit (SR): At MysteryVibe, we are always pushing the boundaries to make sex and pleasure more mainstream. Over the past two years, we have done that with great success in the media. Now in 2017, our key focus is to bring our products to major mainstream stores across the world so everyone can discover and buy Crescendo and have more fun in their lives. The financial case for this is overwhelming with a recent Forbes article stating: ‘Now it stands as a US$15 billion market segment, with projections that it will surpass US$50 billion by 2020.
We have already started to build these relationships this year, such as with PocketMedia and matw. At DISTREE EMEA, our goal is to find the right mainstream partners who are passionate about what we are doing, and in getting amazing products into the hands of millions of people. The specific announcements we would like to make will be the tie-ups with major partners, as the media loves to write about anything new in sex, especially if the partners don’t normally stock or sell pleasure products.
CE: What products will MysteryVibe be showcasing at DISTREE EMEA 2017? What do you want distributors to know about your portfolio?
SR: We will be showcasing our flagship product, Crescendo at DISTREE EMEA. Crescendo is the world’s first smart body-adapting six-motor vibrator. Crescendo can be bent to flex and form to the user’s body and offer countless vibration patterns through the app. Most importantly it’s the first and only toy that can help men, women, singles and couples, discover their body and erogenous zones and learn what turns them on and drives them wild.
Crescendo was designed in collaboration with experts from the world of sex, luxury and technology. Our team brings together decades of experience from Durex, Bentley, Aston Martin, MTV, Glamour, Nokia, Philips, Siemens and Google. It is also the first product to have been designed in close collaboration with 1000 test users from across the world - to make it truly user-centric. Crescendo has won a number of prestigious awards, never before given to a pleasure product, such as the VirginVOOM 2016 export awards and the UK Young Guns 2016.
Crescendo works with both iOS and Android and can be sold as a premium phone accessory. Also Crescendo, in its next version will sync to music, lighting, temperature and video and can be sold under the IoT and home automation category.
Our next product is already in production and will be released in summer this year. It will be geared towards helping men get aroused through vibration stimulation so they can enjoy more fun with their partners or alone, especially in the world of today that we find immersed in stress.
CE: Describe how your channel business has developed in the past 12 months? What trends have you seen and what have been the highlights for your business?
SR: We started our channel sales in November 2016, having spent the two years prior to that perfecting the product. Our initial focus has been establishing adult-specific exclusive relationships in the key geographies of US, Asia and Australia. In parallel we have started working on mainstream - non-adult-specific - relationships in countries and regions. For example, in Germany we partnered with [matw] and in Switzerland we partnered with Pocketmedia.
The biggest trends we have seen in the past 12 months are: sex toys are rapidly becoming massively mainstream, with 50 Shades of Grey, Sex and the City, Beyonce and others openly talking about it in a very ‘normal acceptable way’; customers are purchasing more sex toys than ever before, even those who have never bought one before - the ease of access, particularly online, has played a big role in this; more mainstream distributors are getting interested in stocking pleasure products, even if they haven’t sold them previously.
CE: Which geographic areas and channels represent the greatest opportunity for growth for your company in EMEA?
SR: In general, sex toy sales in all regions of Europe are growing very rapidly. Markets like UK, Germany and Scandinavia are well-established while Russia, Southern & Eastern Europe are rapidly picking up. Demographic trends in West Africa also indicate growth opportunities with massive market potential. This is particularly true for Nigeria, with one of the largest growing youth populations and shifting attitudes towards sex and particularly women’s sexual wellbeing. All these are areas that can experience exponential growth for MysteryVibe with the right partners in each geography.
CE: Why should distributors focus on your products? What makes your channel proposition better than competitors in the market?
SR: According to a recent Forbes article, the global sex toy market is expected to grow from the current US$15 billion to US$50 billion by 2020. There are less than ten players in the high-quality toys segment, making basic toys selling through adult-specific channels.
We created Crescendo to appeal to everyone. It’s used by men, women, all genders, all orientations, singles and couples. It’s truly user-designed, user-centric and user-driven. It is also designed to be extremely acceptable in a mainstream setting – from its luxurious, discrete packaging to its 12+ apps - the only sex toy app in the world to have a 12+ rating instead of 17+.
By focusing on one product that can reach everyone, distributors can focus and maximise their return on investment. Also unlike other electronics devices in the market, sex toys have extremely low return rates as they are not used as frequently as other electronic products. To support we guarantee all our products for any technical faults for 12 months and take care of replacements.
On a case-by-case basis, MysteryVibe even offers full control of the market to the distributors responsible for a region or country. In those cases, all contacts and leads pertaining to that region are then passed onto the distributor to avoid any conflict in the market.
CE: Do you have a structured channel programme? Do you offer a strong margin proposition to your partners?
SR: To secure the best margins for all our distributors, we have unified the selling price globally both on RRP and MAP. We understand the need for our partners to make larger margins than they do on conventional consumer electronics. So we offer generous margins and allow them to do seasonal discounted pricing for aggressive promotions. This combination allows distributors to rapidly scale sales. We are always happy to work out the best deal for the right partners.
CE: What sort of support do you offer distributors in terms of marketing, promotions and channel development activities?
SR: Over the past three years we have established ourselves as the thought-leaders in sex and pleasure. Our media coverage is unparalleled even by the biggest brands in this space. We are regularly featured on BBC, Guardian, Times, Economist, CNBC, Wired, WSJ, Glamour, TechCrunch, Vice, FastCompany and countless others. We work closely with a world-leading PR firm called PHA, with sector-specific expertise in sex, lifestyle, dating. We also travel the world to give keynote talks at major conferences, like we are doing at DISTREE EMEA. Alongside this, we give unrestricted access to our fast-growing asset library of professionally produced content for media and marketing purposes.
CE: How quickly is your business growing in the EMEA region? What market trends have you identified that are impacting your business segment?
SR: The fast-growing visibility and appeal of pleasure products in the mainstream, alongside rapidly increasing sexual awareness even in the more conservative parts of Middle East and Africa, has drastically increased the size of the sex toy market in recent years. For example, the release in 2015 of Fifty Shades of Grey led Walmart and other large, mainstream retailers to start selling sex toys both online and in their retail shops.
We started our channel sales from November initially focusing on USA and Asia. Over the past three months we have sold 5000 units and are now starting to focus on EMEA by carefully selecting our partners to build out our sales network in the mainstream space. We have also established a good presence in the adult-specific retail stores in Europe but not yet in Middle-East or Africa. This is a very exciting time for us as all our customers are very evangelical about our product, and we want more people to enjoy it.
CE: How would you describe your overall go-to-market approach in the EMEA market? What are your overall channel goals and aims for 2017 in EMEA?
SR: Our company philosophy is focus on what we do best: build amazing products and market sex in a truly mainstream way; and for the rest, work closely with the right partners, who are leaders in their fields. This is especially true for sales.
For EMEA, just like for the rest of the world, we give full autonomy on selling in their geographies to our partners and support them with highest quality product, on-time shipping, brand marketing, assets and impeccable customer service. Even on our website, where people can directly buy our products, we promote our partners’ logos with links to their sites.
Our overall channel goal for 2017 is to work closely with large mainstream partners since our main focus last year was to get a wide coverage in the adult-specific retailers, as we know that’s where we can reach the real mass numbers.
CE: What else should distributors attending DISTREE EMEA 2017 know about MysteryVibe and your products?
SR: MysteryVibe was founded in 2014 with the vision of making sex and pleasure truly mainstream. With Crescendo, we didn’t just want to create another toy, rather genuinely create something that will bring powerful orgasms to both women and men across all demographics.
Our long-term vision is to deeply understand human arousal and bring curated content to create an immersive sensual experience in the bedroom. Through our research, we want to support the medical communities to address sexual health issues in a positive informed way. We believe that an enlightened and liberal society is a safer and happier one.
Distributors and channel partners confirmed to attend DISTREE EMEA can pre-schedule one-on-one meetings with MysteryVibe at this year’s event.