Green has always been “in” in India. Because of the country’s Ayurvedic heritage, there has always been an emphasis on using natural products and herbs for beauty care. Traditional home beauty recipes have been passed down through generations, defining key beauty regimens for most men and women in India, but the market opened up in the mid-1990s when consumers’ buying capacity increased, welcoming packaged beauty products that were not necessarily nature-based. At the time, consumers were hardly discerning, and using at-home beauty recipes was considered down-market. While this new buying pattern trickled down to smaller cities across the country, consumers in the more rural areas continued to supplement their packaged creams and lotions with at-home recipes. Culturally, they never completely trusted imported brands or products with synthetic ingredients.
The scene is changing again. Over the last two to three years, there has been a movement among elite and mid-range buyers to seek out beauty care products that are made from natural ingredients and fewer preservatives, in part, due to consumers becoming more informed and questioning the manufacturing process behind every brand. There is also a growing concern about the chemicals that are put into beauty care, cosmetics and toiletries.
Back to Nature
According to a report by Euromonitor International, since 2006, products based on natural ingredients have become part of mainstream offerings. This is a global phenomenon that is being driven by increased focus on health and well-being, and a rising awareness regarding allergies and the perception of health risks from chemical exposure (Euromonitor pegs the number of chemicals the average consumer is exposed to in the course of daily grooming at 170). While natural beauty products never really went out in the Indian market, there is a new glamour in using nature-based or organic beauty products. Consumers who purchase natural or organic beauty products in India seem to do so in order to make a statement about their lifestyle.
“When I started Aroma Magic as a brand, it was to promote the concept of natural beauty care amongst my clients,” said Blossom Kochhar, founder and director of Aroma Magic, an Indian aromatherapy-based beauty brand. “In those days, people were into using creams and lotions that had too much synthetic stuff in them. But that has changed; my clients are very conscious of pollutants and chemicals that enter their system, so they seek products that are nature-based. This is one of the reasons why spa therapies have become big, simply because fresh herbs and natural ingredients are used to deliver the treatments. More than a beauty statement, using organic products for rejuvenation has become a lifestyle statement for the consumers today.”
Indian consumers also perceive natural-based products as having long-term beneficial impact on skin and hair.
The growing awareness among young Indians about health, wellness and beauty as important aspects of life translates to growth opportunities for natural beauty product manufacturers and marketers. According to a report in The Times of India, a leading Indian daily, young Indian consumers are willing to spend more on eco-friendly products and natural beauty products because they feel they are doing something beneficial for themselves. “Today, for the goodness of natural ingredients, most of our clients do not mind paying a premium. It always good to know what you are putting on your skin,” says Yatan Ahluwalia, director, Y&S Style Media, the Indian importer of organic beauty care brand Susan’s Soaps & More.
The growth of the Indian spa and eco-tourism industries is also a boon for organic beauty care companies. (See “Indian Spas,” GCI magazine June 2007 and online.) With the increasing global awareness of organic beauty, both business and tourist travellers like to pick up beauty products with natural ingredients from Indian spas and stores. In fact, Indian brands such as Forest Essentials and Khadi (an Indian government initiative to promote cottage industry that has upgraded its beauty product offerings) cater to this segment.
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