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“The landscape is undergoing a sea change, not just from the perspective of new products, advanced formulations, etc. but also by way of communication.” -Mauli Teli, CEO, Iba Halal Cosmetics

“Today just like food, consumers wish to know more about where their cosmetics are coming from, what goes into them and what ingredients work well for their specific needs and problems.”

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How did Iba Cosmetics start?

It all started back in 2012 when my sister Grishma Teli and I, Mauli Teli, who worked in the US as professionals in biotech research and management consulting respectively, quit our jobs and moved back to Ahmedabad which is our hometown in India to pursue our dream to be entrepreneurs. Coming from a business family with a background in pharmaceuticals and wellness, our common interest was in the personal care and cosmetics space which also happened to be an exciting and growing space in India. But with the market dominated by large players and established brands, we needed to create a space for ourselves rooted in an ‘unmet need’ or a ‘need gap’ that our product offerings could satisfy in order to differentiate ourselves from the rest. A study of the market revealed the opportunity in Halal Cosmetics which further primary and secondary research corroborated to be a large niche within the beauty sector. Muslim women experienced restrictions and guilt in the pursuit of beauty due to the unavailability of halal-certified cosmetics and personal care. And so Iba was born. We launched in 2014 with two exclusive stores in Ahmedabad and a presence on Amazon and with a range of 60+ products across skincare, haircare, makeup, and fragrances. All Iba products are free of alcohol, pig fat & other animal-derived ingredients, harsh chemicals such as sulfates & parabens and PETA certified Vegan & Cruelty-Free along with being Halal Certified.

Today, the global Halal cosmetics market is rapidly on the rise with a current market value at $39 billion. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.5% to reach $100 billion by 2028. India is one of the largest markets for Halal beauty with an opportunity size of at least Rs. 11,500 Crores. In addition, halal cosmetics are gaining increased traction beyond the core demographics of observant Muslims thanks to the vegan and ethical beauty movements. We see this reflected in our customers as well who seek clean beauty and hence choose Iba.

How do you stand out from existing cosmetic brands?

Unlike brands that are launched to solve a specific problem, or rooted in just ingredients story, Iba was born out of empathizing with the struggle among a niche consumer segment to pursue beauty without a feeling of ‘guilt’. At the core of Iba is the belief that the pursuit of beauty and the desire to look beautiful is an equal right of all – while respecting the values and guidelines of faith, beliefs, safety, and kindness to animals. Hence the embodiment of Halal, Vegan, Cruelty Free, and Free of harsh chemicals into the brand philosophy of Iba with a goal to democratize the pursuit of beauty.

Also, we as a brand are challenging the status quo by ensuring that products can be extremely efficacious without having ingredients that are animal-derived or harmful to the user and our environment. The entire team at Iba lives by the credo of ‘What makes you beautiful must also be beautiful’! There is zero tolerance to include any ingredient in the formulation that’s harmful or not in line with the stringent guidelines of Halal, Vegan and Cruelty-Free and yet deliver on efficacy. This poses an uphill task for the R&D as well as Production and QC Teams to ensure efficacy that’s at par with the leading brands and yet remain within reach for the consumer by way of being affordable. Iba scores 1st for being India’s widest range of products that are all of - Halal Certified, Cruelty-Free, and Vegan. And hence poses a challenge far larger and well-entrenched brands by delivering efficacy at par or better while being pure, safe and affordable.

Lastly, Iba is category and not just a brand. Being 1st to market which is our unique USP, our customers buy into our belief and philosophy, are emotionally connected with the brand and trust us to deliver products that not only make them look good but also help them stay rooted in their faith and ethics without compromise. Most customers buy multiple across categories of makeup, skin & haircare and fragrances which is a testament to our relevance as a brand to our audience.

How are new companies disrupting the skincare/cosmetic industry?

The landscape is undergoing a sea change, not just from the perspective of new products, advanced formulations, etc. but also by way of communication. Today, companies like Iba cater to the needs of consumers who are aware and want to know more about what goes into their creams, shampoos, nail colours and lipsticks. The concept of no sulphates/parabens was nascent a few years ago but has now become almost hygiene for most brands. ‘Clean Beauty’ is now fast catching on and is here to stay.

Today, smaller but more agile brands are also able to make a mark in the minds of consumers using digital media to target their core consumers and to communicate directly with them and also stay relevant and top-of-mind. This helps maximize ROI and reduce spillover as digital allows for optimal spends to target brand communication to your relevant audience only.

Also, the advent of technology and growth in Direct to Consumer (D2C) approach versus traditional retail enables brands to be in direct touch with their end consumers and far more responsive to their needs. The experience of purchasing a lipstick or eyeliner online is now so much better than before, thanks to VR, influencer marketing and social commerce. Added perks such as COD, easy returns, attractive offers, cashless payments are only helping revolutionize how makeup and cosmetics are bought online today. This is only helped further by the pandemic which has shifted consumers to buying more online and get comfortable with it.

D2C is also enabling brands to be more in control of how the consumer experiences their products as well as gather feedback and data on their purchasing habits which is a huge plus and immensely helpful in getting them to grow at a faster pace. Iba is mainly a D2C brand today with 80% sales through online – own website as well as major marketplaces like Amazon and Nykaa – and the remaining 20% through traditional offline retail.

What is the changing approach of consumers with respect to organic/ halal cosmetics?

Clean beauty has made a huge mark in India with local brands, promising to pamper customers with local and ethical ingredients, storming the market. Halal cosmetics form a part of the “clean beauty” category – but actually are the “cleanest” formulations possible within this microcosm. Also, as consumers begin to understand that halal cosmetics are hygienic, ethical and free of alcohol, pig fat, etc., they are fast gaining traction beyond the core demographics of Muslim consumers and becoming mainstream. This is reflected amongst our consumers where we have a healthy split and more than 40% of customers who may not be Muslim but are seeking vegetarian, vegan, cruelty-free and harsh chemical free beauty products that deliver on their promise.

Today just like food, consumers wish to know more about where their cosmetics are coming from, what goes into them and what ingredients work well for their specific needs and problems. Today’s consumer has the Internet at their fingertips where information is both available and verifiable. For example, obtaining reviews and customer feedback for products online is now instantaneous and helpful.

Organic, cruelty-free and Halal are attributes which act as reassuring markers of quality for the consumer of today. The ask is not just that the product be efficacious and live up to its promise but also that it be sourced responsibly and made ethically. The presence of these certifications/qualities is often the deciding factor for a consumer when making a brand choice.

We are seeing a growing shift from chemical-based products to natural, from non-Halal to Halal, and from animal-tested to cruelty-free. In fact, India is on its way to becoming one of the largest markets for Halal beauty with an opportunity size of at least Rs 11,500 crores. There is an opportunity to tap this growing trend.

What are the expansion plans of Iba Cosmetics?

Immediate plans are to further expand our presence within India by catering to a growing consumer base, mainly through the D2C route. We also plan to expand our range of products and fill certain gaps within the portfolio, especially in makeup, which is our leading category. With current ARR (annual run rate) of 18 Cr +, and a growing presence across channels, we aspire to grow this 8x in the coming 1 – 2 years. The global Halal cosmetics and clean beauty market is also rapidly on the rise and we aim to enter a few key markets such as GCC and South East Asia in the coming years with a goal to grow Iba into a category leader within this space.

What is the economic impact of organic cosmetics in an already dense industry?

Currently, according to industry sources, the Indian beauty segment is around $10 billion and expected to be $80 billion in a decade. Within this clean beauty is the fastest growing sub-segment. While the top players remain mainstream beauty brands and MNCs, there has been an explosion of medium- to small brands that promote vegan, natural, organic and cruelty-free products. Halal cosmetics forms a crucial part of the clean beauty segment today, dominated by Iba.

Increasingly, clean beauty brands are challenger brands choosing the Direct to Consumer (D2C) approach to market and hence pose a threat to the established brands due to their nimbleness and ability to target their core consumers more efficiently. As a consequence, many established brands have ventured on the D2C path or launched new offerings in the clean beauty space to not lose out on this growing trend.

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