Do you enjoy masturbation? You really don’t have to respond; research findings show that the majority of folks masturbate. However, if we were truly discussing, you would most inevitably grow uncomfortable and tongue-tied. Why then, are we so frightened to talk about an innocent act in which we all engage?
Hello, we are Manzuri. You probably remember us from when we made headlines for being India’s first sex education company. Or the time we caused such a stir on LinkedIn that the social networking giant was forced to lift its prohibition on sex education-based content and entirely reverse its policy. You may also recognise us since we create and host the most stunning, body-safe sex gadgets for all and any individuals on our website.
Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro, our mighty team believes that you deserve fun and Manzuri’s unabashed community to enjoy it with. So this is our story; come say hello!
The story behind Manzuri
It seems like yesterday when Aastha and Ritesh were sipping on coffee in the Galleria market in Gurgaon and discussing the pros and cons of starting Manzuri (it was called ‘sextoysarelife’ back then, but we will save that story for another day). To be honest, they don’t exactly remember how they went from quitting full-time jobs and taking the plunge to start Manzuri. All they remember is that it all happened very fast – no surprises here though, given both of our co-founders are extremely impatient people.
It became obvious to them both that there were many questions about the sexual wellness products available in India that bothered them: “Why is it not normal?”, “Why are sex and intimacy such taboo subjects?”, “Don’t we want to be true to ourselves? What about our sexuality?”, “Why do websites that sell intimate products have raunchy images and content?” and so on.
Sexual liberty looked like the right place to start pushing back in a culture that has policed female sexuality for millennia. They decided to bring this topic out in the open and to make exploring intimate products fun, non-intimidating and inclusive for everyone. After all, we have a long way to go to bridge the orgasm gap! Manzuri houses sex toys for everyone: sex toys for men, sex toys for women, queer-friendly sex toys, sex toys for kinky individuals, sex toys for couples – well, you get the drift. Manzuri is attempting to become India’s first sex education company by focusing on inclusive and pleasure-positive sex education.
The word “Manzuri” comes from a Japanese term that means “female masturbation.” Literally, it means “10 thousand rubs,” and the more the better, right? *wink wink* In Hindi, the phrase also essentially translates to “consent.”
With a focus on pleasure as well as sex-positive education, we aspire to straddle both sides of the spectrum and all in between. Sex, whether on its own or as a means to the wider objective of creating an equitable society, must look beyond simply providing pleasure. This knowledge drives our approach to content and commerce, as it seeks to address both mental wellness and body positivity—two themes that are inextricably linked to any type of sexual activity. In addition to empowering our customers, we also want to build a community that spreads our message through interpersonal interactions and dialogues.
Our journey so far
After conducting preliminary market and legal research, Aastha and Ritesh posed the following question to one another: “Is opening an online sex shop in India really something they anticipated themselves doing for the next chapter of their lives?” The answer was affirmative (duh! ), and they began working full-time on getting the company up and running. Months of hectic work ensued, including research work, consumer research, surveys, discussions with manufacturers and suppliers, and a lot of groundwork in order to establish a legitimate business of selling sex toys in India.
The trip hasn’t exactly been uneventful, either. Several platforms and payment gateways shadow banned, rejected, and blacklisted us. We had to get creative and recreate many of the standard approaches that a business model like ours relies on. On the other hand, we provoked such a commotion that LinkedIn (with the support of our beloved community) lifted the ban and entirely reversed its policy, now giving more weight to sex-positive content. This is the kind of tangible impact that demonstrates how far we’ve travelled and how much harder we still need to work to achieve our mission!
Meet the founders behind Manzuri!
Born in a deeply patriarchal Punjabi family, Aastha didn’t find herself until she left home for college for the first time. Aastha, an avid reader already, found her passion not in International Relations, her major, but rather in exploring gender inequality and the myriad of ways it impacts our ability, no matter the gender, to be authentic to ourselves. Her sexual liberation was the key to her own journey along this path- as she started to explore her own body and gain confidence sexually (with partners or herself), she found herself taking charge of her life personally and professionally. She felt liberated, confident, and ready to build a world that helped everyone to find the person they were meant to be and allowed them the freedom to make that transformation fearlessly.
Ritesh D Ritelin
Ritesh on the other hand was born into a family that was several decades ahead of time when it came to social issues. Ritesh found himself on the wrong side of far too many arguments, before he finally acknowledged his privilege, and started to do the groundwork to understand what the world looks like for far too many people. He remembers the day Aastha came up to him and told him about the time when her hostel mate introduced her to the cheapest vibrator that was rebranded and sold on the net as a ‘face massager.’ He could not believe that something so basic was so inaccessible to women who make up 48% of the total population. He decided that having a line of sexual wellness products that cater to everyone, but with a focus on vulva-owners, was the need of the hour and decided to realise it with Aastha.
So, what’s next for Manzuri?
By redefining the way sex toys are sold in India, Aastha and Ritesh hope to continue building Manzuri. Most Indian households avoid discussing sex or anything related to it. Due to shushed discussions between people and random online sources providing the most information, many people find themselves lacking positive experiences with sex. We dream of a future where sex-positive education is prioritized in all schools, colleges, and offices.
And in a space such as sexual wellness, we both understand the importance of taking a deep breath and remembering that change doesn’t happen overnight and is a constant process. There is tremendous unlearning that you need to do before you can re-learn the very fundamentals free of any bias or prejudice. They believe it to be “mere reflections of our society and its conservative culture”.
Our expansion is also being fueled by a brand-new market segment of enjoyment goods that has just recently begun to take shape. This has been aided by the growth of the Internet. These goods aren’t graphic or offensive, nor are they explicit. They’re highly sophisticated pleasure objects that are created for pleasure, to promote romance and relationships both within and between people.
We occasionally witness modest successes, such as ladies writing to us to share how they had their first orgasms ever as a result of a vibrator purchase, or someone DMing us to share how they were able to leave an abusive relationship as a result of one of our blog posts. These things motivate us to continue, yet we’re only starting out, so it’s too soon to feel proud or satisfied with whatever we’ve accomplished. We are on the correct path, that much we can be certain of!