Tickle.Life is the new epicentre in the sexual wellness universe. Founded only last year by Shakun Sethi and Parag Gupta, Tickle.Life is a safe, sex positive, inclusive, uncensored space for all who want to know more about sexuality and sexual wellness, free of biases and prejudice. EAN had the opportunity to talk to co-founder Shakun Sethi about the creation and the goals of Tickle.Life.
Tell us about yourself and your co-founder. What led you to the sexual health space?
Shakun Sethi: My name is Shakun Sethi and I am the founder and CEO of Tickle.Life. I have over a decade of experience in community management, international communications, brand management, and digital media. Inclusivity is paramount for me and I hope this is evident in my work. I am also the founder of organisations like ‘Jammu and Kashmir Future Talks’ and ‘Indian Students in The Netherlands’. This is my second start-up after successfully running a crisis communication company for over 8 years, called Dizuna Communications.
Parag Gupta is the co-founder and CTO at Tickle.Life. He is an amalgamation of engineering, design, and product know-how. He has 8+ years of experience in start-ups, with a focus on growth, design, technology, and product development. He focuses on using technology and design to grow products that provide value, and he has experience creating network products in spaces including business-to-business, sales/inside sales, dating & relationships, technology, and information design. He is also a co-inventor in the field of interaction design (Honeywell International) and is a visiting speaker in the field of information design and value at one of the best design schools in India. He joined Tickle.Life because he believed that there are many facets to relationships and that exploring the unexplored is imperative. With his multifaceted capabilities, Tickle.Life is lucky to have him. As attitudes towards sex and sexual health have started to shift, we need proper channels of information, experts, and basic conversations in this transition period to normalise everything about sex and sexuality. Through Tickle.life, we want to create an ecosystem where all sex positive people across the world are supported on their journey of sexual self-discovery. Like we say in our team meetings and our interactions with over 350 sex positive collaborators and over 1000 podcast owners: It is time to create magic!
When did you start Tickle.Life and what made you decide to create a platform that is all about sexual wellbeing?
Shakun Sethi: Tickle.Life is based in San Francisco and was founded in 2019. While growing up in a small Indian city, Jammu, I thought it was perfectly acceptable to make fun of puberty, sexuality, sexual reproduction, and other important topics of growing up. Conversations about sex and sexuality felt and uncomfortable, and they were limited and biased. However, things changed quickly, and while pursuing my Masters in the Netherlands, there was a sex toy shop located next to my dorm. It took me 6 months to acknowledge the desire to enter the shop and just explore. Everything I had come to believe over three decades of my life was about to be unravelled! I was so scared of the judgment and all the preconceived notions around sex that I ended up lying, saying that I was visiting this sex toy shop to buy something for my aunt. My education abroad not only opened a plethora of professional and cultural opportunities but also awakened the deep-seated inquisitiveness that I had about sexuality. There is a lot of confusion and prejudice against different sexual orientations and the LGBTQ+ community prevalent everywhere, not just in India. That is one of the major reasons why, when I decided to take the plunge, it was not for a specific gender or sexuality but to create a discovery platform where everybody can come and discover our needs.
What is your philosophy? What is your mission with Tickle.Life?
Shakun Sethi: We believe in promoting a sex-positive environment that is safe, inclusive, free of judgement, and which respects everyone’s privacy. Our mission is to make sexual wellbeing discoverable by all.
There are countless blogs and websites on the internet dedicated to sexual wellness and sexual health. How is Tickle.Life different from these?
Shakun Sethi: Tickle.Life’s goal is to provide life to the countless blogs and websites that you see by making them discoverable. Tickle.Life was conceived with the understanding that people from various sexualities are living in silos which is hampering one’s own discovery. We aim to bring the community together and start the dialogue on a larger scale which can help in normalising the discussion about sexual wellbeing. Therefore, we are bringing all the resources together at a single platform. This has made Tickle the world’s first community-based sex and sexuality discovery platform. It is the epicentre of all the information and products and services you may need for your sexual wellbeing.
What can you tell us about your content? What standards do you follow here?
Shakun Sethi: We have more than 350 collaborators adding content every day in the form of blog posts, poetry, graphics, stories, videos, and any other time format feasible. Our collaborators are educators, mental health experts, gender experts, lawyers, microbiologist, sex workers, academicians, doctors, etc. who are dedicated to bringing the need for normalising sex and sexuality to the fore. We have an in-house team of editors who vet any and every resource that is posted and follow very strict rules. Our products and services listed in our shop section are also usually scrutinised by our collaborators or via external references to maintain high quality.
What sexual health topics are popular with your customers /users right now?
Shakun Sethi: We noticed that many people are inquisitive about basic questions such as what is BDSM, how to use sex toys, how to discuss sexuality with my kids. So such information makes it interesting. In fact, we have decided to make September our month of ‘Back to School’ because of this, as we believe sex education should be a mandatory subject in school for all.
How great is the demand for information as offered on your platform? Or put differently: Are we still not sufficiently sexually educated even in the 21st century?
Shakun Sethi: OF COURSE NOT! How could we be? We are evolving sexually every minute. Sexuality comes to us naturally and the interesting part is it chooses us and it can’t be the other way around. Sexual behaviours can start to occur long before puberty and if we aren’t well informed or educated about them, it can lead to making wrong choices. Hence, it is vital to get a holistic sex education. Also, we have doubts and sometimes specific questions about our intimate lives which we are afraid to ask. Tickle.Life is the space where you can ask them – discreet, safe, non-judgmental, and full of resources, a place to find the answers you seek. It was created to bridge the gap between the sexual wellbeing industry and the people.
You recently added an online shop to your platform. What can you tell us about this feature? Why did you take the step from information platform to marketplace?
Shakun Sethi: The global sexual wellness market is projected to grow to $37.19 bn by 2022. As attitudes towards sex and sexual health shift, personal and intimate care products are shaping up to be the next big opportunity. Our marketplace is an inclusive step as there is still so much misinformation and stigma attached to products, and exploring one’s sexuality plays an integral part in finding answers to our questions. We also received multiple requests from our users who, once they had read, heard, or watched content on our platform, wanted to know where or how they should take the next step. Most of the sites out there provide either products or services but here, our sellers have already created relations with their buyers, making the shop an integral part of the user journey.
What criteria do you go by when selecting products for your online shop?
Shakun Sethi: We are very particular about the products and services that we showcase because what we are creating is not just an e-commerce platform but a discovery platform. Keeping this in mind, the first preference is always given to our collaborators and sex-positive people/organisations whose resources we have had the privilege of sharing on an ongoing basis. Also, another important criterion is to be sure that what we showcase is be of the right quality and we ascertain that by having our inhouse reviewers or our partner network test the products.
How satisfied are you with the sex toys and similar products currently available on the market?
Shakun Sethi: In terms of products (sex toys, condoms, exotic lingerie, sexual lubricants, and others) we think the world and industry is changing every day and every day, there is a new product for any group. What we need is for them to reach their buyers which can sometimes become a problem because of dearth of information about what they can do. If I am a new user and a toy description talks about motor power rather than how it will make me feel or why i need it for my pleasure, that a great bump. With our individual descriptions, we want to convey information about the real experience.
How do you rate the market for sex toys in terms of inclusion. Is the market heading in the right direction?
Shakun Sethi: Yes and no. It is inclusive because of all the new technologies and changes that are taking shape. And no because I think that, unless they reach a wider audience, they can never be inclusive in the right sense.
Where is Tickle.Life heading?
Shakun Sethi: Tickle.Life wants to remain true to its ideology to be the bridge between the industry and end users and with this goal, we want to be the platform where, within the next five years, any and every individual will go to find all the resources about sexual wellness which are created by the industry as a whole.