According to a report by ‘Times of India’ on Dec 24, 2013, the Indian retail beauty and cosmetics industry, currently estimated at $950 million, is likely to almost treble to $2.68 billion by 2020, experts said. Annual growth in the Indian beauty and cosmetics markets is estimated to remain in the range of 15% to 20% in the coming years, twice as fast as that of the US and European markets. Demand for skin whitening products by men as well as women, is driving the trend but other beauty products are not far behind. Over the last five years, cosmetics products have seen a growth of 60%. Companies like Pond’s and Fair & Lovely top the list in this segment.
Companies like Lakme, Revlon, Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Oriflame, etc., have played a very important role in promoting the seemingly magical lightening qualities of their products in ubiquitous advertising. The number of salons has also gone up. Its growth rate is 35%. Cosmetic treatments are also growing at the rate of 5%. The hair and beauty industry is seeing a per capita annual spend of $1.2 which is expected to grow to $ 6.2 by 2015. The spa and body treatment segment is estimated to grow approximately $772 million over the next five to eight years. Seeing the growth of the cosmetics market in the country, the International Beauty Mart (IBM) was planned to be organized in India. There will be a gathering of brands, companies and experts showcasing their products, trends and services before a niche and exclusive professional audience. In order to popularize them, many companies sponsor various fashion related events.
The cosmetic industry took a strong hold in India especially after the Miss World pageant which was sponsored by Godrej and was held in India in the year 1996.
Let’s go back to the history; After Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen won the Miss World and Miss Universe contest respectively in the year 1994, it drastically contributed to the popularity and sales of cosmetics across the country. The cosmetic industry took a strong hold in India especially after the Miss World pageant which was sponsored by Godrej and was held in India in the year 1996. According to Amitabh Bachchan, Miss World, which is a British Company, after four years of Sun City, they wanted to move out and they were considering India and Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited (ABCL). And after this, beauty contests were held every month in different parts of the country. Two back to back awards in 1994, hosting Miss World in 1996, and then the cosmetic industry took over. Was it just a coincidence or an event to promote the cosmetic industry?
The two huge wins in one year also had a huge psychological impact on the Indian public, especially the girls and women. They began to think that even Indian girls are considered beautiful across the globe and it has become much more honorable when the west has recognized it. And thus the promotion and sales of cosmetics reached new heights in India.
The industry also comes with a lot of side effects. The cosmetic industry has become increasingly popular because of Bollywood actresses being roped in and being used extensively in video and print advertisement. When women look at the advertisements in the magazines and billboards, they expect that they would also look so fair and gorgeous if they use cosmetics, but they fail to realise that it is not the effect of cosmetics, but it is the Photoshop which has done the trick. It also develops a particular kind of mentality among the girls that they will only look beautiful when they have some make-up on.
And when girls or guys look at these advertisements, they admire them and expect their partners to look the same way and when they don’t get it, they are disappointed and go in search of such beauty which does not exist. But the bitter truth is that it is not possible to look like that as it is the handiwork of the editing software. Thus, the Cosmetic Industry is playing the role of a mask, where people are using these products to hide their reality and natural beauty.
On the other hand, the cosmetic industry which was only known for women, also did not spare the men. Indian cosmetics giant Emami launched the first skin whitening cream for men in 2005, called ‘Fair and Handsome’ and advertised Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan in it. It came 27 years after the first cream for women. Emami is poised to expand its ‘Fair and Handsome’ brand to include products such as shaving cream and foam. In five years, ‘Fair and Handsome’ has become a Rs. 100 crore brand, growing at 45% per annum and contributing 15% of Emami’s revenues. After this product was launched, even men have become more conscious about their image than ever before, resulting in sales on male grooming products and they are also expected to increase by 18% globally between 2006 and 2011. First, it was only women who were conscious about their fairness but now even men have begun to take this issue seriously.
The cosmetic industry started with something small but over time it has grown leaps and bounds. In order to increase the sales, earn more profit and exploit more customers, the industry has introduced different products for different parts of the body. Skin care cream, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, lip gloss, lip liner, lip plumper, lip balm, lip conditioner, nail polish, toe nail polish, hair colour, hair gel, hair sprays, deodorants, hand sanitizer, eye liner, eyebrow pencil, waxes, setting spray, false eyelashes, contact lenses and what not.
The company’s manufacturing fairness creams are not behind. Most of the time the fairness creams are in some or the other controversy. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) already has a code in place that states that advertisements should not openly discriminate against any particular “race, caste, colour, creed or nationality”. Yet, given the appalling and alarming portrayal of dark skin in advertisements, and the widespread reach of fairness products, it felt the need to frame guidelines in more specific way, particularly for this category.
Thus, in June 2014 the organisation broadly released four points that it wants manufacturers of fairness and skin lightening products to follow. Firstly, advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin colour. Secondly, advertising should not use post production visual effects on the models to show exaggerated product efficacy. Thirdly, advertising should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity. Fourthly, advertising should not perpetuate gender based discrimination because of skin colour. There are no laws to ensure these regulations are implemented strictly. Whether these regulations will be adhered to be blatantly ignored remains to be seen.
According to the Consumer Complaints Council, misleading or false advertising is most rampant in the personal care sector, accounting for more than half the total number of advertisements to have been banned by ASCI. The self-regulatory organization reckons that as of 2013, there has been a significant rise in the number of cosmetic ads failing the Advertising Standards council of India’s compliance norms and code of conduct. Till date the council has upheld complaints on 148 ads for being misleading, false or not having adequately or scientifically substantiated claims. “Out of 218 complaints registered with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) during this period, 148 were upheld and 52% of these were from the healthcare and personal care sector”, says ASCI chairman Arvind Sharma.
According, to ASCI, marketers have often exaggerated or made tall claims and it is particularly consumers of personal care products that buy not just out of need but for the aspirational value they add to their lifestyle as well. It is not an issue that such ads are all completely misleading. But more of issues that they tend to conceal more than they reveal. Technically they are correct but morally they cannot be called right. Such claims need to be substantiated with necessary scientific support, past records, research or clinical date or market research and analysis. Consumers in smaller markets tend to get influenced by such claims and the volume of such ads in the regional media is very high.
The Cosmetic Industry might have generated employment, might have contributed to the tax for the Government but has done more damage to the nation and a significant amount of income of the middle class families is spent on purchasing these cosmetics. It was a product that was not in the bracket of ‘necessity’ but the hype which was given to the industry has made these products an integral part of a girl’s life. Today a girl will think twice before leaving her house without any make-up. We fail to realize that all these cosmetics can only contribute to the external beauty and only for a short duration but what we fail to realize that it is the inner beauty which will help us live our lives peacefully and successfully.