NEW DELHI: Competition in the market for male deodorants in India is heating up, with international brands fighting to build customer loyalty in the rapidly-expanding sector.

Sales in the category are worth around US$280m and is growing at 30% a year, but most providers of deodorants, known colloquially as "deos" in India, struggle against a general lack of brand-consciousness among local consumers, Livemint reports

There are currently around 500 deodorant brands available in India. Research cited by the report indicates that between 30-40% of urban-dwelling Indians have used deodorant, a proportion that drops to 10% in small towns.

Marketers told the news source that the importance of deodorants lies in their role as an entry-level product to the male grooming category. “It is the first product that men use, so we cannot stay out of this category,” Satyaki Ghosh of L'Oréal India said.

"Deos are used as 'cheap fragrance'," he added, “since the category of fine fragrances is not very well developed in India and is not affordable.”

Some within the industry feel that advertising will become less significant in the future as the market starts to move outside the city, with rural areas and smaller towns expected to become increasingly important.

"The way brands can win in the market going forward," said Darshan Patel of Vini Cosmetics, "is to get the distribution right."

Data sourced from Livemint; additional content by Warc staff