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Ayurveda Brands – With Love from India

Ayurveda is not just an ‘old-age therapy’ anymore. It’s preferred, in fact, to have a healthier, chemical-free lifestyle. What does that mean for the Indian Ayurvedic skincare brands coming up? And also for international brands feeling the pressure?

Ayurveda is not just an ‘old-age therapy’ any more. It’s preferred, in fact, to have a healthier, chemical-free lifestyle. What does that mean for the Indian Ayurvedic skincare brands coming up? And also for international brands feeling the pressure?

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” said John Keats. Talking about the truth part of it, India has the biggest truths and secrets for achieving beauty that is skin deep and not only in the eyes of the beholder.

Over the years, Ayurveda as a concept has gained popularity and attracts followers from all over the world. Trying to decipher the science of time honoured recipes of natural beauty, which were passed down in Sanskrit texts about 5,000 years ago, brands today – whether Indian or international – are attempting to make a promise of healthy and beautiful skin and lifestyle, by channelling into the knowledge of Ayurveda philosophy, a system of rejuvenation, beauty and health care. Ayurvedic wisdom holds that providing the skin with the purest nourishment possible not only allows for its total self-correction, but is also said to have profound healing effects on the person.

Brands today are attempting to go the ‘natural’ way. Does Ayurveda answer all the skin and health woes that both, men and women, from all over the world are trying to find a solution to? Will this change in the Indian luxury skin care sector benefit consumers? Maybe yes.

In and around India
With an aim to act on its ‘think global, act local’ strategy, that will initiate the next round of growth in India, French cosmetics giant L’Oreal recently unveiled its first Research and Innovation (R&I) centre in Mumbai. It is said that the centre will help L’Oreal take the traditional route to introduce ‘made for India’ products that will use established regional ingredients such as amla (Indian gooseberry). Talk about India as a booming market and a source of inspiration, eh?

Some say that that they are looking into Ayurvedic leanings to woo consumers. "There is a science in India about ingredients and it is precious," said Jean Paul Agon, chairman and CEO, L’Oreal, in an interview to Hindustan Times. "We’ll develop and use these ingredients as much as we can. And the more we use traditional ingredients, the more farmers will grow them, thus helping the economy." Jochen Zaumseil, executive vice-president, Asia Pacific Zone, said, "It’s impossible to sell products here that we formulated for the European or the US markets as they are more adapted for those markets. Innovation will play a major role to help drive growth here and the opening of the R&I center is a symbolic gesture to that."

Thus ‘Indianness’ in skincare, cosmetic brands is a new trend. Let us wait and watch as to how many more brands fall in line after L’Oreal. Apparently, quite a few.

L’Oreal might have woken up now, but Dermalogica has been on top of the game for long now. Though its clinical looking packaging might give a different impression, Dermalogica too gives importance to Ayurveda. Ms Avni Amlani, International Skin Expert and Consultant to Dermalogica, says, “Many Dermalogica products include ingredients which have been used in ancient ayurvedic treatments such as ginger, centella asiatica extracts, etc.  Furthermore Ayurveda concepts are used in some Dermalogica treatments.” Bunking the myth that international brands can’t cater to India, Ms Amlani opines that skincare products should not be cultural or race focused and should be suitable for individual skin conditions irrespective of their abode.

The core
Not only international giants, but local Indian luxury brands are also delving deep into the ocean of ‘Indianness’. Talking about Indian brand Forest Essentials, the CMD, Mrs. Mira Kulkarni, believes that the brand stands for purity. “The brand represents Indian culture which is integral to Ayurveda,” she said. Comparing their stand to international brands, she explained that the best imported skincare brands use sophisticated modern technology. “We use natural ingredients, which when used over extended periods of time, retain the essential qualities of youth and beauty. The similarity is that all have stringent quality controls,” she explained. With plans to expand internationally, one can expect Indian brands to make their mark on the globe.

Kama Ayurveda, another brand of Indian origin, is a luxurious Indian brand which offers authentic Ayurvedic, 100 per cent organic and natural beauty and wellness products. Their credibility lies in the fact that they use genuine herbs sourced from the purest sources in India. The good part about them is that each product has been carefully created to provide genuinely Indian luxury experiences!

“The philosophy of the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda is maintained in our production techniques. Though many brands draw on Ayurvedic ingredients, Kama Ayurveda creates the complete natural remedy. Our partner is an original, official Ayurvedic institution, the respected Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP) in Coimbatore (south India) with Ayurvedic hospitals and clinics all over India. AVP Laboratories, approved by the Department of Science and Technology, ensure strict quality control, tested effectiveness and the highest standards of research and development, all the while following and expanding ancient Ayurvedic texts,” said Mr Vivek Sahni, director, Kama Ayurveda. Their organic products are Ecocert and also Indocert certified while their natural products, like the face mists, are cold pressed. Soaps by this brand are mostly handmade using organic coconut oil and pure essential oil. Taking the concept of Indianness a step further, Kama Ayurveda too has plans to grow with direct outlets and select distributors in India and around the globe. Good news, isn’t it?

From one to another
With the popularity of Indian skincare brands and the addition of the luxury aspect to them, it comes as no surprise that international markets may open up an avenue for them. Ms Amlani confirms that fact – “It is said and known that Indian skin care products made with traditional ingredients have more demand in international markets than in the Indian market space. With the rise of ayurvedic, organic and natural products, Indian products have been already accepted in the international markets.” Forest Essentials is the first proof of this. The brand already has an existing market in US, Europe and even to the Far East. “Ayurveda is universally accepted for its long lasting benefits, and men and women everywhere today recognise the fact that superior ingredients make fine quality products,” she opined.  According to Mr Sahni, international markets could use luxury Indian skincare products because of their uniqueness and tried and tested formulations. Win-win for all we say!

Though Ayurveda is popular abroad, is the concept really understood internationally or is it just a passing fad? Says Mrs Kulkarni, “The concept of Ayurveda is fresh seasonal produce, a moderate lifestyle, compassionate thinking and the concept of being inwardly and outwardly beautiful. How can that be a fad?” Now that is food for thought. Mr Sahni also is testing the international waters and points out that Ayurveda is getting popular internationally due to the growing awareness to use natural products as opposed to using chemical ones. “It’s not a fad any longer, but the challenge abroad is the availability of authentic Ayurvedic products since the certification process is very time consuming and also expensive. We are proud to be one of the very few authentic Ayurvedic brands available in most of the countries in Europe and Japan,” he said. Ms Amlani seconds this thought as she says that Ayurveda has a “mixed understanding” abroad.

Motivate and then some care?

The fact that India has always been renowned for the most exquisite rituals for beauty care for centuries has served as inspiration for these products. But promotion of these products and bringing out the luxury aspect in them is another challenge that these brands face today. How do they do it? Forest Essentials has been relying largely over the years on people who use the brand and recommend it. “This will remain our focus. We have experimented this year with a couple of ad films, which have been well received, but that will be few and far between. Speaking of luxury, well, luxury is a state of mind to many,” said Mrs Kulkarni. Luxury products are categorized as sought-after, indulgent, built on principles of quality and crafted methodology. For Forest Essentials, the common perception of Ayurveda being ‘medicinal yet highly beneficial’ was changed to include an experience that was, pleasurable yet had its beneficial properties intact. On this tangent is Kama Ayurveda too which highlights its luxury aspect through the authenticity of the products which are effective and easy to use.

Ayurveda is no longer a ‘new’ concept. But as this way of life receives increased understanding and acceptance, we can only hope that more brands will tap into this ancient Indian science, and give a larger impetus to this market.