Behind the scenes of Escort Economy 2.0

by Prasad Krishna last modified Jul 01, 2016 03:43 PM
With the government banning over 200 escort sites last week, Sunday Times speaks to the owner of an agency to find out how tech is driving the world's oldest profession.

The article by Sharmila Ganeshan Ram was published in the Times of India on June 26, 2016. Sunil Abraham was quoted.


He excuses himself to bark a series of expletives in Hindi, supposedly at a driver. He returns to the phone call and says sorry and that the people he is surrounded by only respond to colourful language. But then, this otherwise patient, English-speaking man, who runs an escort business in Mumbai, also has a more legitimate reason to swear.

Last week, the central government blocked 237 escort websites, among which one (or perhaps more, he won't say) belongs to this man. Understandably, he does not want to be named but it is a surprise he even agreed to talk. Because the question, "How has the government's move of blocking escort websites affected you?" elicits nothing from escort agencies, especially those in other cities, except a meek "I don't know" in Bengaluru to "Madam, ek night spend kar lo mere saath, bata deta hoon." That, of course, came from a man in Delhi.

But you soon realize why these cities may not care as much when you trawl through the list of blocked websites released by the Centre for Internet and Society. In this list — which besides 'juicy lips' and 'midnight princess' also includes a curious one called 'sterling bioscience' — you will find that most websites are based in Mumbai.

Most of the Mumbai numbers against names that sound like they belong to female characters from a Karan Johar movie are bound to lead you to a tiny constellation of men, chiefly call-centre workers. If you go as far as asking for their names, you are bound to get some well-deserved lies. "Guru Dutt," answered one of these men in Mumbai.

One call eventually led to this nameless man with an "IT background" who has been running an escort business for six years and does not understand the logic of blocking websites. "If you block one domain, it will pop up in other forms. Also, why block a few websites in one city while not in others?" asks the agency owner.

He says he has lost "almost 90%" of his daily revenue following the government's move. "We used to earn up to Rs 2 lakh a day from just one website. Now, it has come down to Rs 15,000."

As far as the escort economy goes, Mumbai, he says, is a "small town" compared to Delhi, with its many high-profile clients and tony hotels. While he pegs Delhi's daily turnover at Rs 50 crore a day, he says Mumbai's escort industry sees Rs 10 crore a day.

In India, the escort business falls in the murky, grey area between legal and illegal, especially because websites and agencies tend to hide behind words like 'friendship' and 'company' to describe the service and cops can't really arrest them for that.

"The escort is not a criminal. She has the right to gift her body to anyone she pleases. Besides, escort business usually involves accompanying VIPs to important events and may or may not end in sex. I know of VIPs who do not so much as touch the girl. They just want conversation," he says. That's advertised online as GFE or girlfriend experience. Of course, the housewives seeking male escorts when their husbands are not in town want more.

The escorts are mostly models and struggling actors, for whom a shoot may throw up Rs 2,000 a day while an escort job pays between Rs 20,000 and Rs 40,000. "This business helps them sustain their lifestyle and buy clothes and accessories," says the agency owner. "In the movie business, anyway, the casting couch phenomenon exists. She has to compromise and for free. Here, she is getting paid for it," he reasons. Besides models, he says there are several 20-somethings from the corporate world who leave the business after a year or so.

But you soon realize why these cities may not care as much when you trawl through the list of blocked websites released by the Centre for Internet and Society. In this list — which besides 'juicy lips' and 'midnight princess' also includes a curious one called 'sterling bioscience' — you will find that most websites are based in Mumbai. Most of the Mumbai numbers against names that sound like they belong to female characters from a Karan Johar movie are bound to lead you to a tiny constellation of men, chiefly call-centre workers. If you go as far as asking for their names, you are bound to get some well-deserved lies. "Guru Dutt," answered one of these men in Mumbai. One call eventually led to this nameless man with an "IT background" who has been running an escort business for six years and does not understand the logic of blocking websites.

"If you block one domain, it will pop up in other forms. Also, why block a few websites in one city while not in others?" asks the agency owner. He says he has lost "almost 90%" of his daily revenue following the government's move. "We used to earn up to Rs 2 lakh a day from just one website. Now, it has come down to Rs 15,000."As far as the escort economy goes, Mumbai, he says, is a "small town" compared to Delhi, with its many high-profile clients and tony hotels. While he pegs Delhi's daily turnover at Rs 50 crore a day, he says Mumbai's escort industry sees Rs 10 crore a day. In India, the escort business falls in the murky, grey area between legal and illegal, especially because websites and agencies tend to hide behind words like 'friendship' and 'company' to describe the service and cops can't really arrest them for that."

The escort is not a criminal. She has the right to gift her body to anyone she pleases. Besides, escort business usually involves accompanying VIPs to important events and may or may not end in sex. I know of VIPs who do not so much as touch the girl.

They just want conversation," he says. That's advertised online as GFE or girlfriend experience. Of course, the housewives seeking male escorts when their husbands are not in town want more.

The escorts are mostly models and struggling actors, for whom a shoot may throw up Rs 2,000 a day while an escort job pays between Rs 20,000 and Rs 40,000. "This business helps them sustain their lifestyle and buy clothes and accessories," says the agency owner. "In the movie business, anyway, the casting couch phenomenon exists. She has to compromise and for free. Here, she is getting paid for it," he reasons. Besides models, he says there are several 20-somethings from the corporate world who leave the business after a year or so.

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