Juul is a hot startup that is a hit on the vaping scene. It has received good funding and is valued at USD 16 billion according to Juul Labs. It is backed by Tiger Global and aids people in quitting smoking. The Silicon Valley e-cigarette startup is making moves to enter India. The Indian government has issued an advisory against the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems. As per reports, Juul has plans of building a senior management team for India. But is entry easy?
Vaping in India- A Brief
Vaping is banned in India as per regulation. The states and Union territories are not allowed to deal with the sale of electronic devices. They include devices such as e-cigarettes, vapes, e-sheesha, hookah and other like devices that enable the delivery of nicotine. These are required to not be sold, distributed, manufactured, traded, imported and advertised in jurisdictions. This is in the interest of public health to prevent youth and vulnerable groups from falling prey. So the stance of the Government on Vaping is pretty clear.
Why is Vaping banned in India?
- Unsure of its scientific relevance
- Has nicotine which is harmful
- Can have cancer-causing properties
What is Juul and what makes it the #1 Vaping brand?
It is a vaping startup whose aim is to improve the lives of the world’s adult smokers towards a healthier option. It has become the number one brand among e-cigs for its-
- Sleek design
- Good battery design
- Discreet and small
Juul’s Plans for Market Expansion
- Juul has an effective market expansion plan that comes where sales in the home country have reached 783%. Juul is now the single largest holder in the e-cigarette niche. It holds almost 75% as per CNBC reports based on Nielsen data.
- Juul, being a two-year startup, has managed to establish dominance in the e-cigarette sphere and is even growing each day. It has led to a new term called Juuling.
Juul has some serious expansion plans and has hired some stalwarts to further its vision.
- They picked Kenneth Bishop who formerly was with Facebook as the Southeast Asia managing director as Vice President.
- Anshul Abbot who was a principal at Boston Consulting Group has found a new role as the director of International Expansion at the Asia Pacific.
- The earlier assistant vice president at Zomato, Anubhav Soni, has come on board for strategy and planning.
This hiring and acquiring pattern shows Juul’s plans for South Asia and India in particular.
Juul In India – A Possibility?
- There are estimated to be almost 268,000 number of vape users in India.
- As per reports, Juul is seeking to enter India through Bain and Company and a law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. Juul incidentally has a great following in India.
- A great network of importers, smokers, vapers, retailers is awaiting the arrival of Juul. Some have vaping fan clubs for instance Association of Vapers(AVI) which claims to represent the voice of 10,000 Vapers of India. They seek to sue against the ban.
The number of regulatory frameworks may prove to be a testy relationship in India for Juul.
Juul has also been accused of started the problem of teen vaping. It has been responsible for the maximum rise in teen vapers and kicked off a trend called Juuling. The product is sleek, has comparisons with Apple iPod and the intense, flavorful patented salts are a youth sensation. The WHO, in 2017, has estimated that the worth of the e-cigarette industry was worth USD 3 Billion and almost 500 brands compete for it. The debate about the safety of vapes is very common among smokers, regulators and industry stakeholders. Despite all these regulations, these brands have found a way to the Indian market in a largely unorganized manner. There is informal distribution and formal distribution has not begun. You can order e-cigs in major cities where one can get these retailers.
Take, for instance, Vape Stop, a Delhi based retailer which operates in full compliance with the law. They work both as distributors and retailers. They source products and brands from the US or China and sell them in India. The owner, Mr. Jangwal, has noted that the county where products are imported to is China cause a large section of flavors and brands is available. He noted that it is a challenge to identify top brands and products. The research team conducted extensive surveys on Indian preferences, price patterns, market favorites and the vape markets of UK, China, and the US. They claim to get a lot of requests showcasing the demand for products and e-cigarettes in India.
Users believe Vaping helps them
Though the opinions of the medical community about vaping are divided, users feel it does help them. Anas Quraishi from Hyderabad says that vaping has helped him. Though he agrees it is not healthy, he feels it is less harmful than cigarettes. With states like Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Jammu Kashmir, Punjab and Mizoram banning them, the future feels uncertain.
As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017, almost 0.02% of India’s population that is 268,000 people are e-cigarette users. Chowdhery, who is the founder-director of AVI, feels that government should-
- Enforce safety standards
- Allow for quality devices
- Regulate the market
- Enforce age restrictions
He also feels that the prices of vapes in India will not let it become an epidemic like in the case of US Teen Vaping. A starter kit costs INR 6790 and a refill cost INR 2500.
Juul maintains that its product has helped millions quit cigarettes. It is a complicated setting of being a fast-growing setup in a perceived negative area. It comes out as a product aimed at adult smokers. It does not glorify teen vaping as mentioned on their social media. Public Health England, UK has maintained that e-cigs are an effective way to quit smoking. They are taking baby steps to consolidate their position but only time will tell.
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