50 years on, Nirodh-maker eyes products beyond condoms

Thiruvananthapuram: As it enters its 50th year of conception, the state-run HLL Lifecare, as Hindustan Latex is now called, is spreading itself into a wide range of "sexual wellness" products -- an industry estimated at Rs.8,500 crore ($1.3 billion) in India annually.

From lubricants and gels to lip-shaped vibrating rings, besides value addition to its mainstay, the condoms, the company has set its eyes beyond the "Nirodh" brand -- India's first condom that was a key to the successful family planning, or birth control, campaign.

"Yes, we are making made a soft entry into the new market. We decided to opt for the promotion of such products through a series of campaigns on Facebook and other social media and this will help us," HLL Lifecare chairman and managing director M. Ayyappan told IANS.

The company -- which counts among its brands Moods, Crezendo, Ustad, Saheli, HiCare, New Life, Xoom and Velvet -- has also started to test-market its latest product range through its website and the response has been encouraging, the top official said.

"The knowledge about using these new products, or for that matter even about condoms, is low in India," said Ayyappan and HLL Lifesciences is not new to such demands, after having ushered the "pink revolution" in the country, resulting in 189-million couple-year protections.

"Our objective is to encourage people to use condoms. The surprising thing is a substantial number of even educated people still don't know how to properly use condoms," he said, adding: "We are in no hurry and hence we are going slow."

The HLL Lifecare chairman, himself a veteran of 12 years in the company, said that one of the successes of his company came from the way it has been marketing its products. "Making things affordable," is the buzz word in the company.

"We have always centred our products on the customer to make them available at affordable rates with easy accessibility. With these principles in mind, we have entered the sexual wellness industry. We are confident we are on the right track," said Ayyappan.

Set up in 1966 as Hindustan Latex, with a technical collaboration with Okamoto Industries of Japan, its first plant began operations on April 5, 1969 at Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala.

Besides, Peroorkada its production facilities are now at Akkulam in Thiruvananthapuram, Kakkanad and Irapuram in Kochi, Kanagala in Belgaum, Manesar in Gurgaon and a pharma unit in Indore.

It also has several subsidiaries, notably in bio-technolgy, promotion of family planning, maternal healthcare, antobiotics and pharmaceuticals, as also one that specialises in the area of infrastructure development and procurement of medical equipment and devices.

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