Cosmetics firms cheer as young India’s make-up kit expands

The average Indian’s make-up kit is a far cry from the kajal, lipstick and powder compact that made up most kits a few years ago


Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Mumbai: Tanya Shah watches three to four videos a day on how to apply make-up. The Mumbai resident subscribes to more than two dozen YouTube channels on beauty, including Jeffree Star, NikkieTutorials, Dulce Candy and Huda Beauty. Her make-up kit has foundation, blush, setting powder, highlighter, lip gloss and eye shadow—and she uses everything regularly. Shah, now 20, started using make-up when she was 15.

Young India is beginning to use more make-up, say experts, and more often.

Indeed, Shah’s make-up kit is a far cry from the kajal (eyeliner), lipstick and powder compact that made up most kits even a few years ago.

The change has been wrought as much by growing awareness as it has by sheer availability.

Young people such as Shah are even conversant with new techniques such as strobing (a way of using make-up highlights to shape the face), experts say.

A decade ago, cosmetics were largely bought by young women getting ready for marriage or work, says Vivek Bali, business director at the Indian unit of French cosmetic products retailer Sephora, a partner of Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd. “Now, we are seeing consumers as young as 18,” he adds.

And smart ones like Shah at that.

According to Sephora, there’s no difference between what Indians buy at its stores and what the world does. Face- and eye-make-up accounts for 50%; nail and lip colours, the rest. That’s different from the overall market, though, stresses Bali. There, face- and eye-make-up accounts for 35%.

Still, even that is a significant change. Factor in awareness and acceptance of cosmetics outside the metropolitan cities and it is downright radical.

“Over the last two to three years, the Indian consumer has become far more accepting of beauty (products). Even from cities like Varanasi, we are seeing orders for a seven-unit pack of OPI nail colour, a premium product,” says Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO of Nykaa, a beauty and wellness e-commerce firm. Make-up contributes more than 40% of Nykaa’s revenues. It’s best-sellers: eyebrow products, dry shampoo and false eyelashes.

India may well be seeing the same trend that France saw in 2014 and 2015, with penetration of make-up increasing from 51.2% to almost 60%. Spain saw an increase from 35.3% in 2013 to 45% in 2015.

Euromonitor, the research firm that provided this data, claimed that much of the growth came from millennials (those who reached young adulthood around 2000) and sub-millennials (those who came in later). The firm doesn’t track the extent to which these customer groups drive sales of make-up and other products in India. It can be argued that they are important for marketers of everything from apparel to snacks, make-up to consumer electronics.

“The size of the actual opportunity they constitute may not be large, but the multiplier impact that they have is huge,” said Abheek Singhi, partner and director, Asia-Pacific leader-consumer and retail practice, The Boston Consulting Group. They could account for anywhere between 5% and 25% of sales in a particular category, he added.

The trend has been a welcome one for companies battling a slowdown in most categories. Make-up has been one of the fastest growing segments in India, says Jean-Christophe Letellier, managing director, L’Oreal India Pvt. Ltd. He adds that the market is moving from occasional to everyday use of make-up products.

The change is driven by consumers like Shah, who spend more time online and buy and use cosmetics a lot more like their global counterparts, says Satyaki Ghosh, director, consumer product division at L’Oreal India.

When L’Oreal launched Nyx, one of its hottest selling professional make-up brands globally in India earlier this month online on Nykaa, the sales exceeded its expectations.

The preview sale saw more than 50,000 registrations and most products were sold out within three hours of launch. “The sales are five times above our expectations. We have never experienced anything like this,” says Ghosh.

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