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First-time brands have been launching with dizzying speed in India over the last year.

The most recent: Makeup powerhouse Nars, with more due to come, including color cosmetics from Gucci, Prada, Armani and Valentino. Meanwhile, beauty retail has been growing dramatically, too.

After months of anticipation, Nars debuted in New Delhi and Mumbai last week with department store chain Shoppers Stop and in 10 Sephora doors, as well as online with both retailers. The brand’s first standalone boutique will open in December at the prestigious Select Citywalk mall, a big beauty destination.

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Nicole Tan, president and chief executive officer, Asia-Pacific, Shiseido, in India for the launch, said the structure of retail in India was prompting a change in strategy. “It’s the first time in the history of the brand that Nars is doing an omnichannel launch like this,” she said. “It’s also the first time that any brand in India is launching with this multipronged approach to bring the brand to as many consumers, as many touch points, in such a qualitative way.”

Euromonitor estimates beauty and personal care sales in India reached $17.16 billion for 2022. That figure is expected to touch $18.65 billion in 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8 percent.

Nars tapped Shoppers Stop subsidiary Global SS Beauty brands Ltd. to be its distributor. The move is indicative of changing times, as retailers are also increasingly adding that capability to their portfolios.  

Last year, Global Beauty SS Brands launched eight prestige brands from L’Oréal, including fragrances by Prada, Valentino, Mugler, Ralph Lauren, Azzaro, Maison Margiela, Atelier Cologne and Viktor & Rolf.

Clarins began working with the company in January, and is expected to increase from 45 to 55 doors in the next few months, and By Kilian launched in four doors earlier this year. Early next year, SS beauty is slated to launch color cosmetics from Prada, Valentino and Armani.

“Beauty is going to be the next big revolution,” said Biju Kassim, CEO of Beauty, Shoppers Stop, where the category represents 16.5 percent of the group’s turnover, which was 50.66 billion rupees/ $610 million in fiscal year 2023, a growth of 63 percent year-over-year. “There is a lot of confidence in the category which Shoppers Stop wants to leverage.”

The department store chain has 107 stores, plus an additional 15 freestanding SS beauty doors, and a partnership with the Estée Lauder Cos. that numbers more than 80 stores.

While brands have been talking about the tipping point for beauty in India for years, there have been challenges. Shiseido launched Za Cosmetics nine years ago and pulled out after two years. “It was a very different time,” said Tan. “Za was competing in the mass segment, and not particularly relevant for the consumer in India. But 10 years on things are very different,” she added, noting that the digital revolution and the democratization of travel have brought international trends to India.

“We also see more women entering the workforce, which gives them the income to afford to express themselves in ways that they would love to,” she said. “All that has contributed to the awareness around more international brands.”

Tan expects the diversity of Nars shade range to be resonant in India, noting that its key foundation franchise has more than 40 shades, 95 percent of which are in the assortment here.

The Shiseido brand, which has been in India for more than two decades, also made a move last week, opening its first stand-alone store in Mumbai through its long-standing distributor, Baccarose. A second store will open in Bengaluru in the coming weeks, and the brand appointed its first brand ambassador here, Bollywood actor Tamannaah Bhatia, in October.

While there’s an influx of brands in the market, there’s also been a number of new retail players. The country’s largest industrial groups both launched their long awaited beauty formats — Tira by Reliance Retail and Tata Cliq Palette by Tata Ltd., each of which also has an online presence and big growth plans for the coming years.

Tira launched its first store in April and Tata Cliq Palette opened in August. They join a landscape that includes Sephora, which has 26 doors in partnership with Arvind Fashions Ltd.; the Baccarose-owned perfumery chain Parcos, which has more than 60 doors, and Nykaa’s 105.

For its part, Parcos is expanding its reach with Parcos Luxe, geared toward high-end niche fragrances, and Beauty by Parcos, focused on skin care and makeup. The distributor has also brought in Serge Lutens and Laura Mercier with stand-alone stores, and Gucci makeup and Dolce & Gabanna are expected to launch.

Beauty Concepts Private Ltd., another long-standing beauty distributor, with brands like Bulgari, Guerlain and Hérmes, has been making similar shifts. Maison Des Parfums, which sells a collection of niche scents, will open its fifth store next week, and a new format, called Beaute Luxe, brings luxury brands in the categories of beauty, fragrance, fashion and accessories under one umbrella, with 12 doors. There’s also Beauty Scentiments, which has 10 kiosks in tier 2 and tier 3 cities to bring the retail experience to locales that lack access to beauty products.

E-commerce majors are not getting left behind. Amazon India has expanded its beauty category with the launch of a global beauty store that houses more than 60 international  brands including Paula’s Choice, Farmacy, Caudalie, L’Occitane, CosRX, Laneige, Innisfree, Makeup Revolution, Chopard and JPMS.

Walmart-owned Myntra has been stepping up its beauty segment, too. The platform has more than 90,000 stock keeping units and 1,500 domestic and global brands, including MAC, Clinique, Benefit Cosmetics, NYX, Barry M, Sebastian Professional, and Etude, according to a spokesperson.