India's beauty and grooming industry is targeting a new customer: urban men. Anjana Pasricha reports from VOA's New Delhi bureau, that with growing incomes in their pockets, Indian men want to do what their counterparts in many other countries are already doing: project the right looks and the right image.
Just a few years ago, beauty salons and cosmetic sales counters were the exclusive preserve of women in Indian cities.
But times are changing. Men now throng beauty parlors, not just for a haircut, but also for facials, manicures and pedicures. And in the crowded aisles of pharmacies, they browse through dozens of products formulated for men, such as face scrubs, under eye serums or wrinkle control creams.
A delighted beauty industry has been quick to cash in on the Indian man's new desire to be well groomed and enhance his appearance.
And in a country where fair skin is equated with good looks, skin-lightening products for men are raking in the most money.
Pharmaceutical company, Elder Healthcare, is the latest to join this lucrative business segment valued at about $75 million. The company's head, Anil Saxena, says men are big customers for whitening creams.
"Surveys have revealed that 30 percent or 40 percent of the fairness users for women's creams are men because they did not have an alternative available for them, so we thought why not offer something to the male directly?" said Saxena.
These new-age men are also fueling a boom in cosmetic surgery. R.K. Sethi is senior consultant at the Apollo Hospital's Cosmetic Surgery department. He estimates that four out of 10 patients who walk into the hospital for cosmetic procedures are men. They range from rich young men who want to look like film heroes, to older executives with an image to maintain.
Doctor Sethi says the most popular procedures are nose jobs known as rhinoplasty, fat removal by liposuction, and face lifts.
"When they are dressed up, they want to look smart, thin waist, not those little things bulging out here or there, nose of course always is a very prominent feature of the face," he said.
Elder Healthcare head Saxena says the male grooming and cosmetic industry is confident that business will only get better.
"In the last few years, the Indian male has become much more conscious and aware about his persona and personality. Indian men are definitely looking to get the best out of life. The terminology male metro sexual [urban man who is fastidious about his appearance and spends money on aesthetics] is here to stay," added Saxena.
The industry's optimism stems from numerous surveys. One done by Gillette India found that Indian men spend an average of 20 minutes in front of the mirror each morning - more than the 18-minute average for Indian women.