It’s 12.30 am, and a Bob Marley song plays in a dimly lit room as 28-year-old Sameer rummages through his stash, only to realise he has run out of ‘blanks’. What saves the day, or rather ‘still young night’, is a quick commerce app with a ‘smoking accessories’ section. In less than 10 minutes, the techie is all set to roll his next joint even as Marley screams, “I’m not gonna stop smoking my herbs, well, Am I gonna stop? NO”.
Estimated at $7-10 million, the growing market for ‘smoking accessories’ in India, long dominated by international brands such as RAW and OCB, is seeing the entry of several local players.
Names such as StashPro, SlimJim, CaptainGogo, and Bongchie are flooding the market with products ranging from rolling papers and filters to roach pads and bongs.
Bootstrapped StashPro, based in Pune, started by making pre-rolled cones and today sells 56 kinds of products. Founded by Sanil Mehta, Sohel Shah, Saurabh Dugad, and Yash Shah in 2017, it has grown from eight to 300 employees. Mehta says the idea for the venture came to them during their trips to Europe.
“We noticed that although the rolling papers were very light, which meant the cost was low, the retail price was high. At the same time, there were not many Indian brands selling rolling papers; hence we thought it was a good opportunity,” he says.
The similarly inspired SlimJim founders, Kunaal Kapoor and Nikunj Ahuja, started in a small way in 2010 by making filter tips and now have a portfolio of 72 products and 50,000 orders a year. They say that though the business was unconventional, they found it to be profitable and booming in India. They are now gearing up to export more products.
A quick change
An added impetus for these businesses came from the advent of quick commerce in India. These platforms retail smoking accessories in the ‘Paan Corner’ section.
The sale of smoking accessories is largely growing with a rise in the consumption of ‘sin goods’ like tobacco and the subculture of recreational marijuana use, which remains illegal under Indian law. According to market and consumer insights platform Statista, over 31 million Indians use cannabis.
Mehta of SlimJim says that in India loose tobacco is consumed significantly more than marijuana, which is way more expensive.
StashPro, meanwhile, describes its user base as favouring organic smoking options.
Even as they tiptoe around the legal intricacies, the sellers of smoking accessories contend that their business is permissible under Indian law and they are not liable for the end-use of their products.