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While some players maybe attracted to enter the fast growing e-cigarette or vaping market in India and aiming to convert as many heavy smokers who are unable to quit smoking to a product that is proven to be significantly ‘safer’. However, successfully launching a vaping company in India is indeed challenging, in fact even a lot more challenging than setting up a vape company in the West. The following are things to keep in mind before you enter this impactful category in India:
1. Conduct International Research
The market in India is nascent as compared to the vaping markets in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, China etc. All these markets are dominated by a handful of select global e-cigarette device and e-liquid brands. These brands are top preference of most vapers across the world and offer unmatched quality at compelling prices. For any Indian player to tie up with these global brands and launching their products in India in a structured manner is a rewarding value proposition. Hence, it is imperative to visit these companies at their headquarters in their home country, develop good relationship with the owners, agree on a fair minimum order quantity deal, and market their products for the Indian adult smokers.
2. Localized Offering
This is particularly applicable to e-liquids since flavor profile and tastes vary region by region. In our observation, Americans like their-liquids to be more dessert flavor-based, Brits prefer more fruity flavors, Chinese prefer tea-based, while Indian flavor preference is unique and somewhere in the middle of desert and fruity based, generally speaking. It is a good idea to run focus groups to judge response of Indian adult smokers to the brand and flavors of e-liquid your company intends on bringing to India.
3. Be Legally Compliant
It is imperative and yet extremely challenging to understand the legal regulations and compliances related to this product category.
The key reason for this confusion is because it is a new category and there is often misinformation if you ask for advice from any expert. There are also rumors and non-credible information that one needs to careful about.
This is particularly true for import of these products to India from abroad. Government officials often try to bully and unnecessarily delay the customclearance process and ask for numerous permissions from even unrelated ministries for namesake. One must not lose faith and be patient, because all these delays at the end of the day are hurdles that are bound to be overcome since the product category is legitimate, and if one works within the legal framework then there is no reason to fear.
4. Never Compromise on Quality
It might seem easier to directly purchase from a wholesaler in India, rather than importing from a manufacturer and dealing with Indian customs, however based on our primary research, there is a huge problem of clones and duplicates in the market. An approximate one of six products in the current Indian offline market are clones. While it may be more costly and time consuming to import, it is highly recommended. Also, one must sell top quality products that are reliable and safe for consumers to use.
5. Focus on Consumer Awareness and Think Long-term
A majority of Indian adult smokers are not aware of vaping and its ‘safer’ aspect. Thus, awareness initiatives are essential to achieve this aim. This implies that funds and resources will be used for activities without much conversion and ROI, however a player should look at the lifetime value of each smoker who switches to vaping, and the potential of word-of-mouth that follows after.
6. Do Not Listen to Pessimists
The media is polarized in terms of their direction towards vaping. On one hand there will be positive articles talking about the harm reduction potential the product provides based on comprehensive research and facts, and yet on the other hand the media chooses to print a sensational story about unverified and false negatives articles about the category including rumors on how the government is contemplating a pan-India ban.
One must not be discouraged as most of the sensational negative news is exaggerated, and in fact the future of the vaping market in India is very bright. Indian policy making and the judiciary system is solid and works based on facts, and it is well known fact the vapingis 95% safer than tobaccocigarettes (as per Public Health England).
7. Create a Go-getter Team with High Morals
Owing to various supply chain and marketing challenges, a motivated team with a can-do attitude is essential. The customer facing team should be knowledgeable of the technological aspect of thedevice, and of the health facts of the product. The team must ensure that there are no underage sales under any circumstance, and that the product is meant for adult smokers who are unable to quit smoking through cold turkey (which unfortunately is the case with most adult smokers).
8. Make Sure you Invest Right
The inventory and marketing costs are particularly high in this category, and any player must invest accordingly to make a real impact and spread the vaping culture in India among adult smokers.