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Tied Up

Kinky in Kanpur

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Kanpur is a hub for sex toys

Belts, bags and pollution-- that's not all Kanpur is famous for. The city is a thriving business hub for sex toys. Hogties, blindfolds, breast harnesses --- every kink in your armour has a Kanpurian working hard at it.

We enchant the world by delivering exclusive handcrafted leather exotic novelties . . . " Strip away the marketing jargon, and what this exporter from Kanpur is advertising on his website is fetish and bondage wear. The city, which is dotted with tanneries, is well known for its and shoes and bags, but few know that it also boasts of some 200-odd manufacturers who specialise in raunchy leather goods. Think dominatrix diva or kinky chic.

The market for these goods, though, is mostly abroad. "There are no local buyers for our stuff. Whatever calls we get from people based here are absurd queries about our products which almost never convert into sales," says a supplier of leather stimulators who did not want to be named.

But business is booming in the dingy by-lanes of Khapra Mohal locality in Kanpur. The export menu includes leather-hogties, leather sex-swings, wrist and ankle cuffs with connectors, blindfolds, thongs, lingerie... you name it. Exporters say their main markets are the US, UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, West Asia and South East Asia.

This is one business that recession has no impact on. "Last year, even during the slump in the international market, fetish wear and sex toys sold well in cities like New York and London," says Dharmesh, owner of a leather unit in the Banther Industrial Area close to the Kanpur-Lucknow National Highway 25. He and many others have their profits all tied up with the lucrative fetish and bondage industry in the West worth $3 billion.

Kanpur's leather hub has over 400 tanneries and nearly 2,000 small and big exporters. The total volume of exports is in the region of Rs 3,500 crore. This is projected to touch Rs 5,200 crore by 2012. Most of these exporters have now added sex stuff to their bouquet. For an average exporter, the business from fetish fashion accounts for anywhere between Rs 1 crore and Rs 5 crore.

Most of the orders come online. "Besides, foreigners often visit us and sometimes guide us on the design of a particular product. They place orders in person as well," says another exporter. Recently, a German couple flew down to Kanpur and placed bulk orders for leather sex swings, he says.

Normally, it's the small manufacturers who are into production of these toys. Since, they have limited access to the international market, they sell it to big exporters who then market the products abroad.

The hottest selling items are leather sex swings, leather hogtie and wrist and ankle restraints. "These items are crafted by a team of experienced professionals who monitor various processes like polishing, cutting, and stitching," says an exporter operating from Khapra Mohal. With bondage chic making its appearance on catwalks, the demand for leather corsets and lingerie has also gone up.

All these exporters operate online, mostly using b2b portals to market their products. This online promotion, however, often gets them weird queries from prospective desi clients. "We get scores of calls every week from different cities. First they ask about products and then graduate to narrating their sexual problems," says an exporter. "And we have to explain to them that we are not sex counsellors."

Growing bonds


Number of exporters in India:
Approximately 200

Average value of exports:

$1 m- $2.5 m per year

Goods on offer:

Hogties, sexswings, wrist & ankle cuffs with connectors, blindfold, lingerie

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