Its all about looking good

Written by Geeta Rao | Updated: Feb 10 2005, 05:30am hrs
Has the dust finally settled on whether we are manufacturing beauty queens to feed the giant and hungry global beauty market looking with greedy eyes at the Indian consumer I dont know the answer, but it seems obvious that while the BRICS philosophy can be applied to the growth of the global beauty business, it is too large a business to ignore.

In India, the beauty business is miniscule compared with Japan, Hong Kong, Russia and even Thailand. A mere piffle when compared with the US and Europe, where anti-ageing products are the big winners. In Asia, maintenance and care products sell more. Colours and make-up constitute a separate category.

The global beauty business is now computed in trillions of dollars. Dove, a brand I worked on in the Asia Pacific region, is a Unilever brand that is worth $2 billion worldwide and its Asia business, too, was growing at an exponential pace.

Japan is the touchstone for Asias markets as far as beauty care is concerned. Not only is Japan inspirational for Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, it is a place where women are truly informed about brands and beauty and skin care. In the world of leave-on and take-off products, I was told the average Japanese woman spent 45 minutes and nine steps to put on her face in the morning cleansing, toning, mositurising, protection, colours, targeted care for targeted zones and so on. There were nine steps of take-off and leave-in products for the night-make up removal cleansing, toning, moisturising, special care and so on. In those nine steps are embedded millions of dollars worth of beauty products, and millions of dollars of brand building.

Some of the worlds most famous beauty brands, some being bought out by the multinationals, are Japanese-Shiseido, SK-2, Fancil and Shue Umera. Japans consumers are far more aware and brand conscious than any I have met even in the most sophisticated consumer groups in India. No wonder every beauty brand is jostling for space in Japan.

The beauty obsession seems excessive, but in the segmentation of womens bodies and faces there are a thousand points of attention, each one a business opportunity. Footcare creams, for example, have grown in the Indian market on the preventive platform dealing with cracks, infection, and calluses. But when you leverage this into the care category, you can create an entirely new market of spa treatments for feet, one that Avon, Oriflamme and Body Shop have used well.

From care it is a short step to beauty i.e. salon-style pedicures at home, nail enamels to suit every mood and position feet as an expression of overall attractiveness. Hair is as much a sign of beauty in Asia and India, where the emphasis is still very much on the natural look.

In India, skin care is the entry point to beauty. Every woman, irrespective of age, state and economic status, believes her skin is not what it used to be. Meet this unmet need of hers and you are in business.

Education is the key to growing the market. Surprisingly, rational rather than emotional benefits work as products get more high end. Women want to know what the ingredient is and need to be reassured that it is safe. Reassurance is key in a market that is growing but still unsophisticated.

How does one build brand in this challenging segment is something that requires a tremendous sense of not only what women want but also a sense of timing the need and price. The Body Shop is a terrific case study of the philosophic liberal meeting beauty needs. You can always be induced to try a blu corn face mask when you know it has been pounded from a secret Inca recipe in a community help centre in Mexico even if you disapprove of the beauty paradigm.

In India, it is the dil maange more woman who lives in mini metros, small towns and even rural communities, who is waiting to be informed of new products. As women in India get more financially independent at a younger age, as they shed their inhibitions with experimenting, as media and TV creates stars out of ordinary citizens and as look-ism is linked to self -esteem and self-worth, the beauty business is here to stay and grow and grow.

The writer is CEO, Paradigm Shift and creative advisor, Saatchi & Saatchi Advt