Thiruvananthapuram: The female condom manufactured by HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL) appears to have not gained wide acceptability in the country, sales figures show. Only 38,000 pieces were sold in the open market in the country in the last fiscal.
HLL, a Miniratna Public Sector undertaking under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is however, not worried because it took more than two decades of aggressive publicity to make male condoms acceptable in Indian homes.
"Our product `Velvet` is the only female condom that is approved by the World Health Organisation and being sold in the country at present. We are quite aware that this is one product which will take a while before it gets acceptance," said a company official.
The condom was first launched in the country in 2006. It is made with support of Britain`s Female Health Company (FHC). The ring and the sheath come from FHC and the assembly line of the final product takes place at HLL`s Kochi unit.
This protective sex product is sold through two channels-- the open market and through the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
"HLL produced 320,000 female condoms in the last fiscal year, of which NACO procured 280,000. In fiscal 2010-11, open market sales was 25,000 pieces while NACO bought around 800,000 pieces," said a company official.
A packet of three Velvet pieces costs Rs.100 in the open market and HLL gets Rs.24 a piece for its supplies to NACO.
The reason for its failing sale is pinned by some on "poor" publicity. It is surprising to see commercials on sex enhancing products whose efficacy is doubtful, but there is no publicity on female condoms on TV, they say.
Meanwhile, HLL is making efforts to impress upon the government to see that NACO buys this product which it had stopped since December last year.
"NACO used to give us Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (a trust promoted by HLL) to distribute these product through NGOs and commercial sex workers. We have had good reports of this product from sex workers. We hope NACO will be able to supply us again," said Sharat Agarwal, chief operating officer of the trust.
The trust has been working with around 270 NGOs in Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
"We have supplied this product to 250,000 sex workers and in nine other states. We are now doing operational research activities to expand our work," added Agarwal.
HLL official also pointed out that the shelf life of this product is five years and across the world female condoms sales have now crossed 50 million pieces annually.