Last year, one of the unlikeliest challenges went viral: #AgeChallenge. In a world obsessed by youth, celebrities, politicians and even your next-door neighbour uploaded images on the Russian application FaceApp, whose age filter withered out your skin, adding decades of wrinkles and sunspots in a surprisingly aesthetically pleasing way. Growing old had never been so fun, until then. Especially, since the global luxury cosmetics and beauty market size, the miracle anti-ageing worker, is expected to reach $75.5 billion by 2025, growing at a fast clip of 5.6 per cent CAGR during 2019-2025.
The last decade has been a watershed for the business of beauty and personal care in India. According to management consulting company Redseer, the Indian beauty and personal care market is expected to grow at a CAGR of nine per cent to $22-23 billion in 2022. This exuberance has been aided by rising disposable incomes, which have grown over 35-45 per cent from 2012-2017, the emergence of millennials as a key market and the rise of social media, which has set to rest the beauty paradox in favour of vanity.
One of the biggest trends of 2019 was the emergence of home grown, slow skincare, haircare and beauty brands, which have been altering the conversation of beauty towards one which is mindful of not only the body, but also gentle on the environment. Opines Dr Aneesh Sheth, Founder, Dr Sheth’s vegan skincare brand that has been formulated for Indian skin, “The introduction of ‘clean beauty’ has been a huge trend. Consumers are more aware of what goes into their products, not just what these ingredients do, but also where they come from.”
While India’s beauty and personal care market is dominated by international brands and FMCGs, one of the biggest trends has been the rise of the Indian entrepreneur who has curated new beauty, skincare and haircare brands, which are not only simple, safe and effective but also have been formulated for our rich skin tones, weather, and hair types, rather than just re-purposing formulations from the West.
Drawing from traditional wisdom and modern cutting-edge technology, championing ingredients such as hemp oil, turmeric, avocado, ginseng, and more, free of harmful chemicals and toxins, vegan and cruelty-free, are companies such as Pahadi Local, Conscious Chemist, Just B Au Naturel, The Skin Pantry and Vilvah.
Kruthika Kumaran, Founder, Vilvah’s quest for a solution for her daughter’s eczema problem led her to experiment by creating goat’s milk soap from the herd on their farm. That led to her creating Vilvah, a farm-to-face brand that formulates its products from natural and organic agricultural produce, carrier oils, essential oils and butter. “There has been a conscious shift and people are very particular about what goes into their skin. Like food, they want their skincare products to be toxic -free, safe and organic.”
While the cosmetics landscape has been dominated by skin lightening products for decades, conscious, home grown cosmetic brands want to shift the narrative from colonial and caste traps. A segment untapped for many years, labels such as SoulTree, Fae Beauty, Ruby’s Organics, and even Biotique are creating a legacy of products that suit the Indian skin tone.
Fae Beauty, an acronym for Free and Equal Beauty, was launched last year by Karishma Kewalramani, its CEO, as real, authentic, transparent, and truly representative of women of colour. Described as an alternative beauty brand created to provide a new, more relatable and inclusive experience to women in India, her launch campaign included real people without airbrushing, creating a ripple. “Consumers are trying to be a little more conservative and selective with the products they buy,” she says. At Fae Beauty, the focus is on launching a small number of quality, essential products instead of pumping out new products frequently, something she hopes other brands will embrace too.
Minimalism is the cornerstone of this movement, as people try to step away from conspicuous consumption. Agrees beauty writer and author of Glow, Vasudha Rai, “People are definitely moving away from using too much and buying too much. In fact, formulations don’t need to be super complex to be effective.”
One of the biggest challenges in this market where brands are jostling for space has been to keep the fickle customer interested and building brand loyalty. Enter travel sizes and samples, staples of the perfume business, to reach out to hesitant customers who don’t want to splash out big bucks on untried products. Several brands such as SoulTree, Kama Ayurveda, Forest Essentials push out samples and smaller sizes regularly to capture customers. Eventually, loyalty points, subscription services and beauty boxes will be de rigueur in the space.
The new beauty connoisseurs
Globally, the millennials have been driving the growth, and will soon be followed by Generation Z, or the ‘iGeneration’ born after the commencement of the internet age. According to Deloitte’s Shades For Success, Influence in the Beauty Market, millennials are projected to represent 30 per cent of total global retail sales by 2020. But they’re not the only segment making a shift. A whole new audience has been seduced by the business of looking good: men, as seen in a slew of male-centric grooming brands emerging such as Beardo, The Man Company, Bombay Shaving Company and others.
Vivek Sahni, CEO and Co-Founder, Kama Ayurveda, agrees there has been a change in consumer demographics over the years. “While our earlier base of consumers were primarily women, there has been an increased number of male and teen walk-ins,” he says. Kama Ayurveda has in the recent past introduced products catering to these categories with skincare and haircare products such as night creams, body moisturisers, scrubs and more especially catering to men and anti-acne face wash and face packs for young skins. Explains Sahni, “Social media has helped propel this shift, along with a changing lifestyle, increased importance of self care, among others reasons.”
Each generation’s purchasing habits are markedly different. Consider the women’s category, says the founder of Global Beauty Secrets, a beauty and personal care brand which draws from global beauty rituals and ingredients, Aishwarya Sawarna Nir, “The vicenarian age group is becoming distinctive in their choices as compared to the mature category. While the former is increasingly exploring newer brands, ingredients and better deals, thanks to the internet and their growing financial independence, the mature age category lean towards familiar products and ingredients they share a connection with.”
The digital influence
While brick and mortar stores enhance the touch and feel aspect of the beauty, especially the premium beauty landscape, the rise of the internet age has seen the brand conversation shift online. According to Deloitte, the key to capturing the younger generation is digital engagement: millennials have little inhibition about using ‘digital first’ pathways to purchase, they actively seek out online influencers, and they function in a world that is driven by image. Nykaa, touted as a ‘Soonicorn’ with the potential of entering the unicorn club, has used content marketing, leveraging its million plus strong community at Nykaa Network in multiple languages and has engaged multiple digital influencers to reach out to this lucrative audience across metro, Tier II and smaller cities of India.
Other brands too are tapping the power of millennial marketing. Neha Rawla, Brand Communications at Forest Essentials, which has been generating a stream of content hinging on storytelling, aims to shift the discourse of Ayurveda as an alternative science to the mainstream, “Our efforts are now directed towards creating content that is not only educational and informative, but at the same time evocative and inspirational, thus driving engagement. We have invested time and effort in developing a coherent social media strategy that resonates with our audience.”
Another challenge is green-washing, says Deep Lalvani, Founder, Sublime Life, a clean beauty digital curator which has on board brands such as Cowshed, Disguise Cosmetics, Sukin, Vaunt and others, “Companies need to be clearer and more transparent. Today’s consumer is aware and wants the brand story and products to be authentic and true to their promise, before they invest into it.” For the next year, he anticipates a thrust towards certifications around ingredients and natural products, ethical sourcing, transparency and recyclable packaging.
Packaging is another problem facing the industry, especially the reams of bubble wrap, the single use bottles and cases, adding to the plastic problem. L’Oréal has a target of making their packaging 100 per cent reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2025, and to source 50 per cent of that packaging from recycled material.
There are immense opportunities too. According to Redseer, herbal cosmetics products are growing at a rapid 15-20 per cent. Says Gaurav Aggarwal, the founder of Onelife, a consumer brand in the nutrition, wellness and beauty space, brands culturally Indian, will find traction abroad. “As global beauty and wellness markets develop, expect continued globalisation and localisation of heritage-based brands.” But to give home grown companies, based on ancient traditions, a fighting chance in the global beauty market, the government needs impeccable standards the industry can adhere to. Explains Rawla, “The government needs to set higher standards in sync with other medical and beauty standards around the world, establishing Ayurveda, and making it comparable to any other science globally. There have to be higher barriers for testing, Q.C and formulations, which will help more serious players establish better products, giving them more credibility, as well as making us internationally acceptable.”
Ultimately, the approach to beauty requires a mindset shift, both at the consumer and industry levels, says Sawarna Nir, “People are beginning to understand what ancient wisdom seeped deep in traditional rituals always reflected: that beauty is the oneness of mind, body and soul. I think that as an industry we must strive to help people achieve this state through our products or services.”