Over the past few years, India has become a darling of luxury beauty brands. After the entry of the likes of Charlotte Tilbury and Pat McGrath in the recent months, L’Oréal India has brought Lancôme to the beauty arena to cater to the Indian consumer. Over a decade ago, when Lancôme had first entered the South Asian market, the consumer wasn’t really inclined to invest, say, ₹2,000 in a serum.
Today, things are very different. With a rise in disposable income, more global exposure and growing interest in formulations and ingredients, the shopper has become more aware of beauty products and is willing to invest in hi-end brands, especially if they believe a label has a strong legacy.
“South Asia is the zone of the future, and India is one of the key strategic countries for us,” insists Yosser Zmitri, general manager (luxe), L’Oréal SAPMENA (South Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa), over a video call, just before the June announcement of Lancôme’s re-entry was made. “The beauty industry here is undergoing a transformation, especially after the pandemic, in terms of redefining the true meaning of beauty.”
In an interview with Mint Lounge, Zmitri talks about Lancôme’s plans in India, the crowded Indian beauty market, challenges to stay ahead, and the changing beauty consumer. Edited excerpts:
What prompted you to bring back Lancôme?
The first time I came here (to India) was before covid, in December 2019. As soon as I came, I did what we call “consumer connects”, which basically involves going to customers and getting their perspectives on the way they consume beauty and beauty brands.
One thing that came out of those conversations was that the consumer was ready for the luxury beauty market in a big, big way... the appetite was there and it was growing. The second thing that stood out was, more people were telling me that they would pick up a luxury beauty brand while travelling abroad or would ask their aunt or a cousin to bring back for them a particular luxury beauty product if they went to Europe or the US.
These conversations made me realise the Indian beauty market was ready to accelerate. And of course, Lancôme is a well-known brand, has a rich history, so we already had that advantage. It was now a matter of entering and using the right channels to reach the customer.
What kind of channels? Also, Lancôme is coming at a time when the Indian beauty market is crowded…
We are collaborating with Nykaa and Sephora, to reach more customers. The idea is to develop a long-term relationship with the Indian consumer. As for your question, yes, India has a become a very crowded market. In the past, fragrance and make-up used to be the biggest categories in India’s luxury beauty market. But over the past few years, and also because of covid, the consumer has started giving more importance to their skin and are willing to invest to get good, healthy skin. Now, when you look at the size of the market, luxury beauty is only 1% of the total beauty market in India. This means there’s a huge potential for growth for all brands. Whether it’s an indie or a global label, there’s space for everyone.
How are you planning to target millennials and post-millennials, the ones who are more experimental with brands?
They are a difficult bunch to please (laughs). But we have 85 years of experience in the beauty space. So there must be something that makes us, us. We are known worldwide for trust, authenticity, and heritage, and this is what we bring to the table. I agree indie, homegrown brands are growing, they are taking up more space on social media and using perhaps the right tone. But you will see them in and out very quickly.
And also when it comes to the skin, you can’t be like, ‘Oh, this new brand has come out and this brand is hot right now, so I should try it.’ Our skin is also very dear to us. We want to invest in something that we know delivers quality, the one our mother swears by. As I said earlier, when you have a strong legacy, you are already ahead.
You’ve been in the industry for over two decades. How have you seen the beauty consumer evolve?
Beauty consumers used to be very classic in the past with their needs. So, you know, it will be like, ‘I want my day cream or my night cream, my mascara. I have a routine that I will stick to and will go to a store to buy what my friend recommended.’ It used to be very classic, and very easy for us marketers because, you know, once you have your consumer, you know they will always be there. Today’s consumer is not very loyal. They are butterfly consumers. Their routine evolves every day. Today, it’s a five-step skincare routine, tomorrow it’s about the mask, the next day it is about layering serums.
But that’s the fun part, I think. It’s more challenging, and pushes you to do better and keep up with trends. You need to be always super reactive to what’s happening and look at what’s the hottest ingredient on Google Search to be able to make sure that you know you get the right products with the right ingredients on time.
So what’s the idea of beauty now?
I think it’s a much more holistic approach than what it used to be. That’s probably why you’re hearing more things like “beauty is more about inside outside”.