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Is Organic The Future of Beauty?

With the rising base of the Indian middle class, people are willing to shell out the extra buck for at-home services, online purchases, and diverse products

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Hindustan Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, India, and L'Oréal India are some of the popular brands we hear about while talking about the beauty and cosmetic industry in India. International brands we have heard of include Procter & Gamble Home Products, Gillette India, Reckitt Benckiser, and Johnson & Johnson, among others. As per ‘Avendus D2C Brands Report’, the online market is to inflate to the size of $4.4 Bn by 2025. It is yet to be seen which brands will take a larger chunk of this pie.

There is a shift towards overall well-being by using organic and natural products. There is also a growing interest in men’s grooming products, with an increasing number of beauty devices and technology solutions for men and women alike. With the rising base of the Indian middle class, people are willing to shell out the extra buck for at-home services, online purchases, and diverse products. The changing economics of skincare and wellbeing has given rise to many homegrown start-ups who are looking to increase their base in the domestic and international market.

Talking about the growing clout of such brands, Mauli Teli, CEO, Iba Halal says, “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.” With growing competition in this area, it 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.

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 spill over 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.

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. Talking about the same, Pritesh Asher, founder, Juicy Chemistry says,

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. Consequently, 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.

What Are The Underlying issues?

For a lot of consumers, finding genuine organic products can be an uphill battle. With almost every outer packaging making tall claims, and every brand claiming to top the other, the consumer is more confused now than ever before. We may see Neem, Hibiscus, Coconut, and the like in the front, but a closer look shows petrochemicals at the back. In addition, a lot of them would have no revelation about the sourcing ingredients, the location where ingredients are grown, how ethical they are in the entire process, or what were they marketed as. There are multiple gaps in the supply chain which the homegrown brands are wanting to address. Speaking about the same, Pritesh Asher, Co-founder, Juicy chemistry tells BW, “From where the product was getting manufactured, it was important for us to know that the quality was fit enough to be a part of the formulation in the first place, which would then pass on the efficacy to the consumer on application. That is a problem we have solved by going organic”

In addition, there are its own set of challenges in the logistics sector. Given that most of these new brands are startups, they may not have the logistics in place the way older players do. Logistics itself is an unorganized sector in India and the lockdown only further adds to the difficulties. “Sometimes it takes a little longer to source ingredients in India than it takes from Africa or Bulgaria”, adds Asher.

What Can We Look Out for?

With so many claims going around in the market, there are some ways to make intelligent choices. Firstly, there are bodies like Ecocert France which is one of the latest and reliable brands providing certifications. Unfortunately, there is no such Indian certification which has gained as much prominence as the Ecocert one. Another is COSMOS certification for organic products, which is he highest standard for the beauty industry. Talking about various certifications, Asher further notes, “We wanted to convey a deeper meaning to the consumer, which is something we have addressed when we got ourselves certified.”

It is thus very important to look at third party verification of the same. Similarly, there is a difference between a product that is certified organic as against using a few ingredients which are certified organic. There is a lot of terminology the consumer needs to understand to spend their money wisely. Talking about the need of the modern consumer to verify their products, Teli tells BW, “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.”

Organic is still at a nascent stage in India, in the future we will see many more farmers collaborating with such companies in India and taking the organic route. With the e-commerce boom coming in we see a lot more connectivity than earlier, but we still have a long road ahead.