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    If the first weekend openings are anything to go by, it’s the most talked-about film adaptation of a book since anything Tolkien. Fifty Shades of Grey is the kind of film that calls for a recalibration of the Bechdel Test, and has film critics doubling down for another round of Which Was Worse: Book or Film?
    We have to agree though, a piece of pop culture—merits and demerits aside—can drive demand in unchartered markets or help an old business idea reinvent itself. If F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ legacy is counted in the scores of lookalike coffee shops and online quizzes it spawned, Fifty Shades… will go down as that profit machine that popularized BDSM globally in ways the original libertine, Marquis d1e Sade, couldn’t have imagined possible. Recently, British DIY retailers B&Q sent around a memo titled “Staff Briefing – Preparation for Fifty Shades of Grey Customer Queries,” for an increased demand in rope, cable ties and tape.
    More locally, the adult lifestyle business—while still in its infancy—steadily gains steam. It’s a market that’s currently estimated at `1,000 crore and projected to grow almost nine times over in the next five years. That’s a sizeable pie; you know demand has hit the mainstream when Flipkart has a page on “pleasure devices”. Already populating the market are IMbesharam.com, thatspersonal.com, OhMySecrets.com, Privatelyurs.com and BlissBasket.com. And therein lies the quandary: the adult lifestyle market in India is bound to the domain of e-commerce alone.
    Partly, as you’d imagine, this has much to do with our archaic obscenity laws. I’m told that legally, the import and online sale of adult lifestyle products can only run into troubled waters if the packaging is explicitly obscene. Our nanny state, however, actively seeks out new ways to play spoilsport. Recent reports claimed that the Department of Telecom wants to regulate online stores based on the Information Technology Act (2008) for “openly promoting and selling alleged objectionable products illegally”. This generation’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover versus The State, anyone?
    The other reason, founder of Privatelyurs.com, Rajiv Ghosh mentioned to me, is that while reservations about adult online stores are slowly disappearing, it’ll be a while before attitudes towards buying from physical ones thaw similarly. He does add, though, that the key is to stay invested in this market for at least four or five years, given the profit potential it promises. With outliers like his company breaking new ground, I will happily chalk this one up as 1-0 against our socially constructed Victorian prudishness.

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