South Asia’s first sex shop flourishes in Nepal
Neighbouring shopkeepers ridiculed him when Manish Paudel decided to open Nepal’s first sex shop in Kathmandu’s busiest business locality.
But two years down the line Sweet Secret is still in operation and doing brisk business. With three new outlets in other towns it is Paudel’s turn to reap the benefits of his “unique” business idea.
“I didn’t face any opposition from my family when I decided to start my shop in 2011. But nearby shop owners were skeptical and scoffed at the idea,” Paudel recounts in his New Road-based shop.
A marketing graduate with nine years experience as a medical representative, the idea of opening South Asia’s first licensed shop selling sex toys in a largely conservative country didn’t strike suddenly.
Paudel started importing premium condoms in 2005 and was involved for nearly four years in a USAID-funded project on making condoms and other family planning tools accessible across Nepal.
While working on this project he decided on starting a sex shop to provide a safe sexual outlet for migrant workers, handicapped persons, those afflicted with STD and the old and lonely.
- Manish Paudel, owner of Nepal’s first sex shop, outside his establishment in Kathmandu. Photo credit: Utpal Parashar
A detailed 12-page proposal was submitted to the government and to his surprise he got the license to start business.
More than the business side of it Paudel maintains that his company’s objective is to educate people about safe sex and discourage sex with multiple partners and strangers.
Nearly 10% of Nepal’s total population of around 30 million, most of them young men and women, reside outside the country as migrant workers leaving behind spouses.
A sizeable number also leave their homes in villages and migrate to urban areas like Kathmandu and other towns in search of jobs. It is this group and others that Paudel wanted to target.
At present he has a dedicated customer base of more than 14,000 across Nepal. Most of his customers are men and women in their 30s. Significantly, nearly 60% of his customers are women.
“Initially we were worried that we might not get female customers. But the number of married women and girls coming to our shop and asking for a sex toy is very significant,” said Paudel.
But there are customers of other kind too.
“We have a client who came looking for a masturbation cup for his 20-year-old son who is suffering from cerebral palsy. He still comes every 2-3 months looking for new sex toys to gratify the sexual needs of his child,” he said.
Nearly 90% of his clientele comprise of Nepalis. Since sex toys are banned in India Paudel also caters to Indian tourists who want to have some fun with their partners while visiting Nepal.
Dildos followed by artificial vaginas are the most sold items in his shop. There’s also a heavy demand for sex dolls, condoms, perfumes, oils and imported lingerie.
Since these items are not produced locally most of them are imported from China. As we sat talking in his shop two of Paudel’s associates were busy unpacking large cartons which had just landed.
For customers who are shy to come to his shop, Paudel has launched a website where they can select products and order online. Products ordered by women customers are delivered by women and vice versa.
Encouraged with the response in Kathmandu, he started another shop last year in the tourist town of Pokhara. Soon two more new outlets came up in Itahari and Buwal.
“The response in those places has been very good. We plan to expand further in other towns and start a 24-hour condom shop in Thamel, Kathmandu’s hub for foreign tourists,” said Paudel.
His success seems to have inspired others. One more shop dealing exclusively in condoms has come up in a nearby locality. But Paudel isn’t perturbed about any loss to his business.
“In fact we want more such shops to start operations. Besides creating awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, it will expand the market and help business,” he said.
And judging by the number of items his associates unload from the big cartons it is easy to assume that business of sex is flourishing in Nepal. But Poudel is clear about his motive.
“We don’t aim to mislead or encourage bad habits. Our main aim is to teach and spread the idea of healthy and safe sexual activities,” he said.
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