The Ordinary is no stranger to beauty enthusiasts across the globe — Indians have been shelling out a fortune for overseas shipping since they launched in 2013. The cult brand — known for its science-backed skincare formulations and affordable price points — finally forayed into the Indian market earlier this month in partnership with Nykaa, under Estee Lauder Companies.
Leading with science
Nicola Kilner, CEO and co-founder of the brand’s parent company DECIEM, reveals that the India launch has been in the works since 2017, when she visited the country and met the Nykaa team along with the late Brandon Truaxe, who founded The Ordinary. “India has always been an important market for us. It is among the top 10 countries where our Instagram followers are from and we are always asked through comments when we will be entering the country. Our launch plans were delayed due to the onset of the pandemic, but we are finally here,” she says.
The Ordinary’s USP is the fact that it is a ‘science-led’ company. But Instagram aside, is there a significant demand for niche skincare products in India? Kilner explains how the company — with a 100-strong scientific team — was designed to bring to the market effective technologies at an honest price point. “We set out on a mission to bring transparency to the beauty industry and, in doing so, noticed an increase in audiences educating themselves on their skin type, concerns and how to use certain ingredients,” she says, adding that their goal is to provide “unbiased scientific information about the ingredients within our products”.
Vitamin C for the win
The Canada-based firm is kickstarting its India launch with 30 SKUs (stock-keeping units) of their highly-sought-after formulations and serums, including their bestselling Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, which they sell one unit of every two seconds, and Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. “Our focus for now remains skincare,” says Kilner, hopeful that more product categories will be introduced in India by the end of the year.
Through social listening and other data points, the brand foresees Vitamin C-based products having a huge market here. “The Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution and the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution are also two products we see work well within the Indian market [they target dullness and blemishes respectively],” says Kilner, who also sees the hero acids including AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution doing well here. With many videos about the product, and its iconic red colour having gone viral on TikTok, it has led to an increased interest amongst consumers.
Dr Renita Rajan goes skin deep
Apart from being rooted in science, The Ordinary’s price points and minimalist packaging have both scored high with beauty enthusiasts. Commenting on their no-nonsense packaging in white, black and grey (which remains the same in India too), Kilner explains how they “were watching brands, big and small, continue to disguise commodity innovation for ingenuity through creative use of packaging, communication and pricing”. In the world of healthcare, nobody can charge €150 for Aspirin but in the world of beauty you could easily find virtually the same formulations ranging from €5 to €500+.
“The Ordinary was not just created as a single ingredient, stripped back, simple offering — it was born to be market effective. The brand has done, and always will support science and labelling our formulations with their ingredients and percentages highlights this. Our packaging represents this very ethos, and is minimal to its core simply communicates the ingredient, its percentage and its use, without any additional fuss,” she says.
Drawing from the pharmacy
As for their affordable price point — their range starts at ₹550 in India — Kilner says it was all about creating transparency, as seen in the field of pharmacy. “If you have a headache, you buy paracetamol or aspirin of a certain milligram, and each one is priced roughly the same. No one walks into a pharmacy to buy pain relief medication to find a huge difference in the price point — like it has been in beauty,” she says, adding that the ingredients they use have been proven to be extremely effective, but they are not that expensive to buy.
“We want our consumers to have a better understanding of which ingredients they may be overpaying for and to empower them to make educated skin care choices. Although the price may have been the most attractive element to disrupt initially, it has been the power of word of mouth sharing [about how well the products work] that brought the real disruption,” says Kilner.
This wider conversation has been heightened by the recent launch of ingredient-led formulations by Indian and international brands that are bringing the focus of skincare back to the base ingredients, which is exactly what they set out to do, says Kilner who has her eyes set on scaling up the brand in India across locations.