Over a year into working on our brand and a few months into our launch in the Indian market, we wanted to give you, our amazing community, some honest insight into our process so far. In this open letter, we’re delving deeper into our inspiration, our journey, our highs and lows, and even some questions about the design of our massager.
The question we get asked the most as founders of MyMuse is, “so, why’d you decide to create a business in the ‘sexual wellness' category?”. To us, the answer is really, why not? In the early days of 2020, as we spent time thinking, dreaming, and planning from our home in Mumbai, we became increasingly convinced that a brand that normalizes sex is beyond needed in our country. But we also knew that if not many have done it before, there must be a reason.
Aside from complex and somewhat opaque Indian laws, combined with an ingrained notion that talking about sex is ‘bad’, we didn’t know what Indians were ready for. We spent months in discovery mode– talking to people across the country to understand how they truly thought about intimacy and pleasure, what their experiences learning about sex were like in childhood, and how that impacts their relationships and lives today. Quantitative and qualitative results alike cemented our hypothesis: Most Indians consider sex to be an integral part of their lives. And if they’re not already using products in the bedroom, they’re curious and eager to try.
Our mission became clear: To create a brand around intimacy that makes people feel good, in a way that’s natural. To provide high-quality products not just for use ‘in the act’, but in private moments of connection in the bedroom and at home. Bringing in products that could be just as pleasurable when used alone or with partners. From the get go, a few things were paramount when building our brand: Crafting a voice that is inclusive, friendly and approachable. Not shying away from taboo subjects, but still respecting cultural sensitivities that exist in our society. And above all, keeping content and awareness at our core.
We were inspired by the amazing work that brands across the world were doing in redefining sex as a category. Long gone are the days of sleazy looking toys found in underground stores, and crude, gendered packaging. We saw brands applying universal principles of good design to products for the bedroom, with a variety of items for people of all genders. Collectively, these brands are changing the way the industry is both perceived by consumers, and consumed by society at large– making it a part of mainstream conversation. We were excited to bring this change to India.
We are not product designers. We are the users. When building MyMuse, we wanted to focus on our strengths: creating the best possible brand that resonated with our core audience. As we thought about our products, we wanted to introduce things that didn’t exist yet in India, or that we felt seriously needed an upgrade. Once we zeroed in on our line-up, we began our sourcing journey.
For our massager in particular, we knew that we wanted something that was discreet, non-intimidating, and on the right side of Indian law (i.e. not your typical phallic looking object). When we began looking, we were presented with catalogues of hundreds of options. Most of them were variations on the classic bullet or rabbit designs that are ubiquitously sold by brands across the world. We saw designs similar to those offered by Dame, Lelo, Maude and other leading international brands. In one catalogue, we came across a design that was similar to that of Maude’s vibe. We learned that it was an adapted design, and was being sold by some other brands across countries too.
We fell in love with its sleek shape and discreet look. Upon testing it, we were also amazed by its quality, versatility and ease of use. It seemed the perfect design to introduce in India, as our multiple interviews and surveys confirmed. Our first step was to do extensive homework on any copyrights, patents or legalities surrounding the design. We found that it was completely legal, and that we weren’t infringing on any rights. In fact, the supplier held rights on the design, and simply gave us rights to distribute it, in a market that is awakening to products like ours. The second step was to look to those who knew more than us: We consulted with lawyers, other entrepreneurs and trusted advisors who had been around the block. All of them reaffirmed our belief that we were well within our rights to build for and market this product in India.
We went through this process for each one of our products. We sourced and tested dozens of lubricant options, burnt through hundreds of candles, and continually got customer feedback along the way. After months of work, we felt that we were on the right track.
"To us, the goal was always to find the best possible products for our Indian audience, and we felt that we had truly done that."
Finding the right products was only part one of our challenge. We then spent months building out our brand, fleshing out every tiny detail that goes into the holistic customer experience. In building a brand for such a personal area of life, we knew we had to be extra thoughtful. We worked closely with a small team of brilliant designers and illustrators to bring our vision to life, and painstakingly obsessed over every nook and cranny of our brand experience. From our website design and our monthly newsletters, to the thoughtful copy that goes on every surface of every box, we built MyMuse bit by bit.
For our packaging experience, we wanted to emulate the simplistic elegance of opening an Apple box, combined with the luxe-ness of an Aesop product. Our brand goals seemed almost contradictory at first: We wanted to be playful yet sophisticated, premium yet approachable, bold yet subtle. We agonized over colour palettes, wrote endless drafts of descriptions and instruction manuals, created clever animations and easily digestible content. It was an exhaustive yet exhilarating effort. And we couldn’t be prouder of what our team has achieved and put out into the world.
We launched our products one by one between March and June 2021. This was partly by design, and partly due to COVID-induced delays. In a way, this gave us the opportunity to tell the story behind each product, and build anticipation for what’s to come. For each product, and for the brand as a whole, we have been amazed by the outpouring of positive support. Support from friends, adults who we never imagined ‘approving’, strangers on the internet, and even celebrities who stumbled upon the brand.
We took things slow, growing organically and largely through word of mouth. As we anticipated, our brand wouldn’t necessarily be something that people felt comfortable openly supporting right away. So, we thrived in places of true communication: the WhatsApp group chats, the Instagram DMs, the conversations between friends. We saw clusters of orders forming, not just in Bombay or Delhi, but across the country– from Srinagar to Kochi.
"Above all, we were overwhelmed by the one singular feedback we got again and again from people young and old: how great it is that someone is finally doing this in India. And by this, they mean simply normalising the idea of sex and pleasure."
This change wasn’t possible overnight, nor by one brand. It’s been made possible by creators, educators, social media, and countless conversations beginning to happen on and off our screens. It’s been made possible by people widening their horizons, unlearning ideas of shame, and embracing new ways of being.
Among the positive support, we also received some negative backlash. Some commented that we had copied Maude’s massager design. However, our vision has always been clear: to change things for the better in India, and to bring in the best products that people don’t have access to.
The Truth: Intimacy is Universal
"To us, the one truth is that intimacy is universal. There is no patent on feeling good, or on experiencing and exploring pleasure. This is everyone's right."
At times we’ve felt bullied and shamed, but that overlooks all the courageous steps we’ve taken to bring this brand to life in our country– steps on both the private and public level. We know the road is long, and there will be people who love us, hate us, or love to hate us. But we’re in it for the right reasons– to bring about positive change in a country that needs it.
As we grow and reach more people across the country, our goal is to keep innovating and bringing more amazing products to the Indian market, to further open up conversations, and to change long-standing taboos that we believe shouldn’t exist anymore. We hope to find products that appeal to an ever-expanding spectrum of people, at a variety of price points, so that pleasure can truly be accessible by all.
We hope that as you read this, you’re able to see the story of a young couple that took a bold step, and surprised even themselves. We may have made some mistakes along the way, but we’re always eager to learn. And above all, our most important critic (and our Muse) is you, our community. So, if you have thoughts, feedback or ideas, we’re always all ears. We hope you join us in creating the bedroom revolution in India, and find something to love over on MyMuse.
Anushka & Sahil Gupta
While our contributors do research a great deal to give you up to date and relevant content, this is basis publicly available information. Our contributors are not doctors or healthcare service providers and our content does not constitute or act as a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis under applicable laws. All suggestions, advice, points of view etc., are meant for adults in the privacy of their own homes.