“If I can spend lakhs on bags, why can’t I spend thousands on beauty?” Neena Kapoor, a silent partner at a local business in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, views skin care as part of self-care and doesn’t mind spending money £50,000-60,000 per month for beauty products. Her current routine – a mix of high-end niche brands like iS CLINICAL, Ranavat and Farsali – reflects her taste for beauty products. “I think both Estée Lauder’s ANC (Advanced Night Repair) and (Benefits) Benetint are oversubscribed. I find better results with a pharmaceutical skin care product and better shades from Indian brands like Earth Rhythm and Daughter Earth. “
Beauty is no longer seen as pleasure. It’s a necessity beyond location, age, and gender. And Kapoor, 49, represents the new Indian beauty customer: trends more conscious, with greater purchasing power, great interest in ingredients – and a tendency to look and feel better than ever before.
In search of wellness
Beauty has always been important in India but the segment used to focus on women and home remedies. The situation is very different today. The Connected Beauty Consumer Report from Google, WPP and Kantar shows that the global market share of beauty and personal care products is expected to grow £73,000 crore in 2017 to £11.1 trillion in 2024, making it one of the most profitable categories in consumer goods.
“Customers talk to us about a range of brands in affordable, premium, niche, natural, ingredient, and science-based categories,” says Archit Nayar, director of retail at Nykaa, an online beauty market that’s going public or is going public Initiale plans to make a $ 3 billion public offering this year. Skin care has seen significant growth, with the skin category in Nykaa now exceeding 30%.
Nayar attributes the growth to an increased interest in wellness, with solutions based on skin type, ingredients, and advanced skin care routines growing in popularity. Last year Nykaa began offering products from niche international brands to stimulate the growing appetite of Indian consumers. Brands like Murad, Elf and Charlotte Tilbury have done “exceptionally well,” and many products sell out soon after they hit the market, says Nayar. It is proof that the digital medium has endowed small town shoppers with both knowledge and buying ability.
“The market used to be limited to the subway, now we receive individual orders from cities and towns like Karnal, Panipat, Guwahati and Ludhiana,” says Bharat Sachdev from Delhi, Managing Director (Southeast Asia) at Leader Healthcare, an importer of aesthetic equipment , Injection and skin care brands such as iS CLINICAL. “People buy in bulk with a single order valued at around £70,000-80,000 from cities in Gujarat. “
They don’t have access to brick and mortar stores, he says, and prefer to stock up on cosmetics. “There aren’t many dermatologists in these cities either, so they like to invest in products that show results.” The Google report shows that tier 1 cities have kept pace with metros in terms of category engagement. At Nykaa, 50% of luxury and premium beauty sales come from Tier 2 cities.
It indicates how quickly the Indian beauty scene has changed. Fifteen years ago, washing the face was considered a novelty. Today, Indians are familiar with the basics of double purification and acid peels.
The change in taste reflects the global trend of shunning older brands like Dior, Chanel and Estée Lauder for digital first labels like Glossier and Huda Beauty. With more skilful online content, direct access to brand founders and transparency about active ingredients, the younger players are proving to be tough competition for the more established conglomerates.
The I culture
Unsurprisingly, a key finding from the Google report was that “it’s all about me”. This “for me” goes beyond seasons, occasions, and even gender. Abhishek Parasrampuria from Raipur, director of a family business, shakes the gender myth. “I want products that lighten, shine and even out skin tone,” he says. He gives up to £1 lakh of cosmetics per month – iS CLINICAL, Sesderma, Zein Obagi and Dior dominate its skin care products; For hair care he chooses Davines, Kérastase and Moroccanoil.
“About 7-8% of our customers are men, and the good thing is that they don’t take a lot of persuasion, unlike women who ask about details like ingredients and percentages,” says Sachdev. “Teenagers also make up 8-9%, but they only choose to buy a single, effective product rather than a full routine,” he says. “We have a lot of young people who also buy for their parents,” says Pooja Shah Talera, founder of Kosá Wellness, Pune.
In an already booming market, 2020 acted as an accelerator. According to Talera, one important factor was that people wanted to look their best in Zoom meetings without carrying a lot of foundation at home. The fact that people could not see the dermatologist for a lunchtime facial also contributed to the increased interest in cosmetics. “Before 2020 we were sending 10 shipments (with beauty products) per month. Now it’s 200-300 per month. I also do 90% consultations outside of Pune now, ”she says.
Self-learning is in
Kavi Toli from Dimapur follows the philosophy “less is more”. As someone with eczema, she has been misdiagnosed several times by dermatologists. “They would keep giving me acne medication,” she says. Through self-study and online chat boards, she realized that because of her eczema, she had to use fewer and no more products.
After her success in self-diagnosis, Toli studied cosmetology and opened her own KK Dental & Cosmetology Clinic in Dimapur. Although she likes to get her patients to follow her minimalist philosophy, she finds that they like to spend money £20,000 to 30,000 on pharmaceutical skin care to get results. “People will tolerate physical pain, but a little zit is unbearable,” she says.
When customers become aware of active ingredients and percentages, they prefer spending on products based on a single skin care ingredient such as a vitamin C serum or glycolic acid toner. “Most of our customers are very well informed about active ingredients and choose products that complement each other,” says Talera. “Conscious consumption is one of the driving factors for beauty, a sign of increased awareness. The goal at the end of the day is good skin, even if it comes at a high cost. “
Vasudha Rai is a beauty journalist and author of Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty, Inside & Out.