The revenue of the beauty and personal care market in India in the current year is approximately USD 27.23 billion which is further expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.38% between 2023 and 2027. The growth is attributable to the rising and increasingly pivotal role beauty products play in daily life. It is noteworthy that Indian cosmetic brands have witnessed exponential growth on the global stage due to rapid developments in product lines.
Some of the top Indian brands include Lakme, VLCC, Forest Essentials, Shahnaz Husain, Jovees, Sugar Cosmetics, Himalaya Herbals, Khadi Naturals, Biotique, etc. The road that these brands have traveled to become global successes is interesting and inspiring. One brand, however, has a long and engaging history as well as the honor of being India’s first home-grown cosmetic brand. The name is, Lakme.
The Idea Forms
At the time when India won its independence from almost two centuries of British rule, its economy was extremely fragile with negligible national wealth. The newly fledgling country was finding its feet and attempting to self-govern its way to a healthy economy. Among the many products that the country was importing at the time, money flowing out of the country through the purchase of imported cosmetics and beauty products grabbed the concern of the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
He approached his friend and entrepreneur, J.R.D. Tata set up a cosmetics manufacturing company that catered to specific Indian climates and skin to engage the Indian audience and save precious foreign exchange from leaving the country. Thus began the motion wheel of what would become the first, and one of the largest, Indian cosmetics companies.
The Company Formation
Tata Oil Mills Company (TOMCO) was a Tata group company established in present-day Kochi (erstwhile Cochin) in the year 1920. The company’s primary business was to crush Copra and produce coconut oil, primarily, for export. Of course, with time, the company grew and also diversified its product portfolio to manufacture soaps, cooking oils, detergents, shampoos, perfumed oils, eau de cologne, etc.
J.R.D. Tata, through TOMCO, capitalized on the opportunity and established an indigenous cosmetics company as a subsidiary company in collaboration with two reputed French firms – Robert Piguet and Renoir in the year 1953. It is noteworthy that this collaboration and any other future collaborations were only for knowledge contributions with no equity participation by such foreign collaborators.
The first challenge came in the form of assigning a name to the brand. The French collaborators were given a brief – a name that combined the Indian spirit and the French splendor. An extremely popular opera was playing in Paris at the time by the name of Lakme – a French connotation for the Indian Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and the epitome of beauty.
Lakme began its business operations in small hired premises in the city of Mumbai with an extensive product portfolio for personal care.
Business Growth Under Tata
Within a few years of beginning their business operations, Lakme grew rapidly adding more products to their brochure. The manufacturing operations expanded resulting in employee shifts. It was the year 1961, when Simone Tata, Naval Tata’s wife took over as the Managing Director that catapulted Lakme into a new era.
Under her business acumen, Lakme grew, as the brand began to identify with its Indian audience with a product range that covered make-up, skincare, and other toiletries for women. Its range of beauty products for men also witnessed significant success. The brand kept up with the changing consumer preferences through continuous research and an up-to-date development laboratory that enabled Lakme to innovate and continuously add newer and better products to its ever-increasing product repertoire.
The brand ventured into setting up its own branded beauty salons and opened the first one in the year 1980. The salons offered a wide range of beauty treatments that were administered by beauticians who were trained and qualified at their beauty schools. Simone Tata was appointed as the Chairperson for Lakme in the year 1982.
Under the Tata umbrella, the brand continued its growth trajectory to become one of India’s top players within the beauty and personal care industry. However, TOMCO, Lakme’s parent company, merged with Hindustan Unilever (erstwhile Hindustan Lever) in 1993. This resulted in Lakme forming a 50:50 partnership with Hindustan Unilever in 1996. Two years later, in the year 1998, Lakme sold all its brands to Hindustan Unilever, but, has continued to lead the cosmetics market in India with a major market share.
Lakme Lever Pvt. Ltd. Under Hindustan Unilever
Lakme Lever Pvt. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) giant Hindustan Unilever since 1998, has continued its upward growth trajectory under the HUL umbrella. Lakme’s salon business has expanded its footprint to more than 450 owned, managed, and franchisee salons with a precision focus on safety, quality of operations, expert treatments, and prudent cost optimization.
The financial year 2022 saw Lakme Lever Pvt. Ltd. Reporting a revenue of INR 275 crore from the sale of its products and services. This revenue saw an increase of 19.3% in the financial year 2023 to reach INR 328 crore, primarily led by a strong recovery post the covid-19 pandemic.
As India’s first indigenous cosmetics brand, Lakme has proven its creativity and sustainability in the last seven decades. The brand grew exponentially and added many facets to its business under the Tata umbrella. It continued its successful journey increasing and strengthening its footprint under HUL. Today, the iconic brand has become a household name, claiming a lion’s share of the Indian market. Lakme is poised to take on any challenges that may arise in the future and continue to enjoy its unrivaled stature in the cosmetics and beauty market.
Which are India's top cosmetic brands?
Some of the top Indian cosmetic brands are Lakme, VLCC, Forest Essentials, Shahnaz Husain, Jovees, Sugar Cosmetics, Himalaya Herbals, Khadi Naturals, and Biotique.
How did Lakme get its name?
An extremely popular opera was playing in Paris by the name of Lakme – a French connotation for the Indian Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and the epitome of beauty. And in this way, Lakme got its name.