As the international buzz gets louder on natural and ayurveda products, the Indian cosmetics sector never had it so good

For a while now, Indian fashion designers have been drawing from India’s rich legacy.

However, this phenomenon is not unique to this industry alone. It has influenced other luxury sectors such as beauty too. Small wonder, for, globally the thrust today seems to be on ‘natural’ products.

And, this is where ‘Made In India’ brands such as Kama and Forest Essentials come in. Though they have been around for at least a decade now, they expect a rapid growth in the retail space now.

It's all in the packaging

Bangalore-based Komal Basith, beauty writer with ELLE and founder of beauty website Jossbox, says, “I think a lot of the resurgence of interest in traditional Indian beauty has to do with the fact that beauty companies are now packaging it in a way that’s appealing to the consumer. Earlier, ayurveda meant funny-smelling powders and potions in plastic bottles with home-made labels; they weren’t usually something that took pride of place on your dressing table. Companies such as Sundari, Anjolie Ayurveda and Forest Essentials have taken the concept of ayurveda — in itself proven to be effective over several generations — and have repackaged it for products that are exciting; that’s something we’ve only seen quite recently.”

Forest Essentials is a 12-year-old brand based on ayurvedic principles. With 25 retail outlets in India, it is looking to open five to six more stores every year. Started by Mira Kulkarni as a handmade soap company, Forest Essentials is today one of the recognised names in the business.

“Indian beauty companies are very much the underdogs. I do not think anyone expected us to do us well as we have,” says Samrat Bedi, executive director of Forest Essentials. Today, the company has its own pharma-level factory in the villages of Uttaranchal where the manufacturing is done.

As for Kama, it was set up in 2001 by four friends — Rajshree Pathy, sugar baroness from Coimbatore who has been using Ayurvedic products since she was three, former investment banker Vikram Goyal, as well as graphic and product designers Vivek Sahni and Dave Chang. It proved good product and design are a recipe for success. Being pure and 100 per cent Ayurveda was its goal, while still being a product that had a look and feel of luxury. Kama has had its products get a European Union Certification.

As Sahni says, “It was not just about being pretty and nicely scented.” Kama has just opened its first store in Delhi’s Khan Market, and is available at lifestyle store such as Good Earth, Taj’s Khazana and Chennai’s Amethyst.

Bedi says that the beauty business in India is worth Rs. 4,800 crore. Not surprising, considering that globally there has been a fascination for all things ‘Indian’, especially yoga and ayurveda.

Incidentally, the brand boom is in full swing in India. “Women here are obsessed with hair and skin,” says Bedi.

“Plus, there is a wedding market that is central to the beauty market,” says Sahni. So it seems ‘The Great Indian Wedding’ is not only a target for international brands, but for our very own home-grown luxury companies too.

Going eco-friendly

There are other reasons too for the growing trend. “There is inherent national pride among the young,” says Bedi. “People also are thinking eco-friendly and about going back to where it all started.”

So ‘Made In India’ beauty products are a natural choice. And this is having an effect on ‘masstige’ market (a cross between mass and prestige markets).

For instance, the Blossom Kochhar Aroma Magic brand. It is over 15 years old, and her professional line of products is available at many salons across India, her retail line is available in supermarkets such as Spencer’s and Star Bazaar. Blossom is working on new packaging to give her products a more luxurious feel, as they are based on aromatherapy. She is looking to open her first retail outlet in Delhi’s Hauz Khas by year-end. “The consumer knows to look at ingredients and is more knowledgeable,” says Samantha Kochhar, managing director of Blossom Kochhar Products.

And the consumer is looking for something that is all natural. “Media too has just grown in this segment, educating people about what ayurveda and other natural processes are,” says Sahni.

With international luxury brands wanting all things ‘Made In India’, and all of us slowly going back to our tradition, The India Story was never better.