By Sonia Mathur
Whether you look at its products or its balance sheets, the beauty business paints a pretty picture. It is a sector which many believe is recession proof. The cosmetic industry in the UK continued to grow when the rest of the country’s sectors have been struggling. It is a similar picture in America, the Middle East and in India.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in a report says the market size of the cosmetics industry is expected to be worth a £100m by 2014 due to the emergence of a young urban elite population with rising disposable incomes. PricewaterhouseCoopers expects revenue for the beauty and wellness industry in India to grow by 20% annually.
It’s a far cry from the size of this sector in India a few decades ago. While the tradition of health and wellbeing goes back thousands of years, make up is relatively new. Homemade kajals (black pigment used as an eyeliner) and the bindi (a red dot worn on the forehead) being the only acceptable make up for most women until the turn of the century. This was just as well, since the cosmetics available were very expensive and quite out of the reach of most people. Spas and salons were small and micro businesses being run out of people’s homes.
But things have changed as the industry has broadened its reach, incomes have grown and people have become more conscious of their looks. The success of Indian models in beauty contests has also helped the industry on its way. Perhaps it all started in 1994 when two Indian models, Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen, were crowned Miss World and Miss Universe respectively.
While in the UK beauty pageants are considered demeaning for women, in India they and the success of Indian women in these contests has fuelled a kind of confidence among the wider population. The pageants are enticing a lot of women to want to put their best ‘pedicured’ foot forward.
Consultancy firm Technopak Advisors says working women in India tend to spend 35% or more of their income on themselves, splurging on everything from cosmetics to cars.
It estimates about 10 million urban women aged between twenty and forty are employed in corporate managerial jobs and this number is expected to increase fivefold to 50 million by 2020.
None of this is new of course. Health and wellbeing is a tradition in India which dates back many thousands of years. A system of herbal medicine, or Ayurveda, was being used in India 5000 years ago, using natural herbal remedies to treat everything from indigestion to spots.
The ancient form of exercising yoga was developed around the same time in India. The emphasis being on balance and harmony, yoga, is today practiced in Wales and across the world. Etymologically, the household shampoo comes from the Sanskrit ‘champ’ or ‘champi’ meaning scalp.
Aveda, a global brand, has worked with Ayurvedic doctors soon after it was founded in 1978 to use Indian herbs in some of its products.
Last year, the Paris-based company, Clarins introduced a line of cosmetics called Enchanted, which are inspired by Holi, the Hindu festival of colours. The collection includes lip glosses and four products for eyes, including an update of kajal – the intensely pigmented and creamy eyeliner that Indian women have worn for centuries.
The potential India offers for producers and sellers of cosmetics and beauty products is growing. One company tapping into this vibrant market is Baglan-based Montagne Jeunesse. They make face masks and you can see their brightly coloured packs lining many supermarkets in the UK.
In April last year they launched a wide range of their products including their best-selling men’s and women’s face masks in Delhi. Their launch coincided with the First Minister, Carwyn Jones’ trade mission to India.
Since their launch a year ago, the company has expanded its outlets to other cities – Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. The brand is sold through a mix of hypermarket and food retailers including Nilgiris, Twenty Four Severn and Hypercuts as well as Health & Glow, India’s leading health and beauty retailer.
Kate Johnston, marketing manager at Montagne Jeunesse said: “One of the main challenges has been to get the product in retail distribution and accessible for the Indian consumer to purchase.
“The response initially was a little slower than anticipated although we’re still very pleased with what we’ve achieved so far. The Montagne Jeunesse concept of face masks in sachets is a new idea for Indian retailers and it’s taken a while to build the distribution. But that’s changing now with more retailers across more regions listing the product.
“The Indian consumer loves it.”