India: the emerging beauty giant

India: the emerging beauty giant

Florence Bernardin, Founder of Asia Cosme Lab, will lead two sessions at in-cosmetics Asia; ‘India, the emerging beauty giant’ on Tuesday 5 November at 17:00 and ‘C-beauty, the rise of a beauty empire’ on Wednesday 6 November at 14:00, both in the Marketing Trends Theatre. The first session will highlight and decode the latest trends and products from India and explore upcoming trends as well as present best product development practice for R&D professionals and marketing techniques. The second session will highlight through different trends and hot products, the dynamic Chinese market and how the future beauty landscape will evolve. Richard Scott, Editor, spoke with Florence to discover more about the wealth of potential in the Indian market.

Personal Care: What specific challenges are there for a brand looking to break into the Indian market?
Florence Bernardin: The size of the country and the diversity of its people are probably the two biggest challenges when considering entering the Indian market.

Indeed, India is the second biggest population after China with a mosaic of states, religions, languages and identities that makes it a very complex market. One must understand that consumers will have different expectations towards beauty according to their ethnic group, cast, social background and state background, as well as difference in climate, for instance. As an example, brands not only need to address their potential consumers in English and Hindi, but they also need to think about adapting to local preferences such as languages, cultural references and so on.

India is such a vast country that the distribution channel may also represent a big challenge. It is estimated that 627 million people in India – more than half a billion – are connected to Internet in 2019, thanks notably to rapid growth in rural areas.

Furthermore, users are becoming super knowledgeable about cosmetics, influencers and care routines, but there is still a discrepancy in the access to these innovations.  If big megalopolises like Mumbai are where the trends are first adopted, two-tier cities also have a growing high-middle class yearning for new products, with sometimes only access to it through online retailers like Nykaa.

When brands want to break into the Indian market, they need to thoroughly target the population they are addressing, must consider local specificities and the best distribution channel to reach the maximum of their potential consumers.

PC: How does it differ from other major Asian markets?
FB: The Indian beauty market is both fairly new and deeply anchored in tradition. While it can be compared to China in terms of ancient medicine and beauty tradition, providing an abundance of rare ingredients and inherited rituals, it just recently opened to international brands. For instance, compared to most Asian markets, there is not yet a strong presence of Asian brands in India (from China, Korea or Japan).

The profiles of consumers might be different from one city to another in India than in other countries like Japan or Korea. For instance, a consumer from Chennai in Tamil Nadu (South India) will be difficult to compare to a consumer in Delhi. Such differences are quite particular to India, due to its size and variety of population.

Another difference has to do with population repartition, since in India 60% of the population still lives in rural areas, whereas most Asian countries concentrate their populations in big urban areas.

PC: Which types of personal care products are most likely to succeed here?
FB: There is a gap in the personal care market for products that target specific problems such as fighting climate harshness and pollution. For instance, cooling and long-lasting freshness is definitely a need for summer days and monsoon season, where the degree of humidity can reach 80% with high temperatures. Products that can bring hydration and high level of moisture with a light texture and no stickiness are still lacking on the market. The deodorant segment has a lot of space to grow to offer efficient and long-lasting formulas, as well as a natural/organic offer that is not existing yet on the market.

Products that are adapted to local taste in terms of fragrances and ingredients are more likely to succeed of course, and, since Ayurveda is seeing a renewed interest thanks to its healing properties and clean formulas, personal care products that take these aspects into consideration are surely appreciated.

PC: What are the major influences to trends? Is social media an important consideration?
FB: There are both local and international influences that initiate trends in India. For instance, the recent appearance of K-Beauty brands has fostered the popularity of more sophisticated skincare routines and the success of sheet masks.

International brands with strong messages of inclusivity and empowerment such as Fenty Beauty are highly attractive to consumers. Even though the brand is not available in India, we see local indie brands pushing this message forward.

Beauty retailer Nykaa plays an important role in shaping beauty trends as it is bringing constant innovative brands and new products to the market.

Social media is also a major source of influence: it allows consumers to educate themselves through tutorials, Q&As, and participation in beauty events.

Generally, Indian women think they will not necessarily buy a product just because it is recommended by an influencer, and have more trust in the recommendations from friends or family. However, beauty Instagrammers and Youtubers are still the major platforms in which new brands and inspiring beauty looks are introduced to this market. They also are more relatable than Western/Asian influencers as they share the same complexion, both in term of skin tone and perceived imperfections.

Another source of influence is the young, high-class Indians travelling or studying abroad, who start up innovative beauty businesses in India as well as bring back products for their family.

PC: What else will we learn in your presentation?
FB: The presentation will feature many insights on Indian beauty: the different motivations and ideals of Indian women, the traditional rituals and its heritage today, the everyday skincare and make-up routine vs the importance of wedding and festivals, the growing trends and latest products. It will give some perspective on the market potential as well as some insightful thoughts for the future of Indian Beauty.

For more information on the in-cosmetics Asia 2019 education programme, visit:

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