Ute Pauline Wiemer first came to India in 2014 for an assignment with a non-profit organization, and decided to stay back in the country. “I came for a six-month project with Fairtrade,” Wiemer, who is based in Bengaluru, tells Little India. “I was meant to go back to Germany after the assignment was over but that didn’t happen as I started my own business along with my partner.”
Wiemer talks about the reason behind starting Lovetreats, a Bengaluru-based sexual wellness startup; the “big taboo” surrounding female sexuality in India; and about meeting her husband.
Life in India
I met my husband Balaji around three months after I moved to Bengaluru. We met at a party and began dating soon after and were married in December 2016. When I arrived here, I was overwhelmed and fascinated with what was going on in the city. There was a lot of activity on the streets. I had heard a lot about the typical things that are usually advertised for tourists – temples, saris, Bollywood, various Indian cuisines, etc.
I love the Andhra meals served at the Nagarjuna restaurants here and my husband is very amused that I like it so much. In India, I have only lived in Bengaluru and feel it’s very easy to connect with people here. The city is quite fast and has a cosmopolitan nature. There’s a lot of creative energy here.
One of the major challenges I faced after moving here was lack of access to nature. I am from Berlin, which is also a big city. However, it has a lot of parks and greenery all around. I miss that a lot in Bengaluru.
Balaji and I started Lovetreats because we felt that a website where people are not judged for buying sex toys, and where women and couples feel included and inspired, is missing in India. We are sex-positive in everything that we do, and that’s what we wanted to add to the sexual wellness market in the country. It is an important part of our lives and yet, we seem to be afraid to embrace it in so many ways. Female sexuality, especially, is a huge taboo in India.
The most important part of my mission is to encourage people, especially women, to own their sexuality.
Feedback Matters More than Numbers
During the monthly sales and growth conversations, I always end up talking about the lovely notes and feedback that I receive than the actual numbers — be it from the maid of honor who ordered a dozen dildos for a bachelorette party, the couple finding pleasure in their long-distance marriage, and others.
Humor Works Wonders
I was never conscious or worried till I started the company and told people about it. I received a whole range of reactions. Some of them made me feel conscious and this occurred mostly at business networking conferences, where a long, awkward silence follows after I introduce myself and the business.
When it came to the family, I expected more awkward reactions than I received. Balaji and I decided not to beat around the bush and be upfront with our parents about our business and plans. Now, all our family and friends are very comfortable with what we do. In fact, most of them have helped us whenever we’ve been stuck somewhere — from logistics to outreach.
I have also learnt that humor works wonders. When my mother (who lives in Germany) is asked about her children, she very casually drops this line: “My son is studying at the university, and my daughter sells dildos in India,” and gets her jollies from watching them react.
Selling Intimate Products in India
A lot of first time customers ask us if sex toys are legal in India. I researched extensively before we started, and all the products we sell are a 100 percent legal here. I have to be careful about two things – selecting products which do not look obscene and presenting them in a tasteful manner, in keeping with the Indian culture.
Technically, you could open a shop and display sex toys openly as long as you stay under the obscenity radar. One of the prime reasons why we decided to start an online venture was to not offend anyone by portraying something offensive. We can always hope for a sex-positive revolution in India, so we can open an actual shop.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at email@example.com to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.