At a time when Indian consumers increasingly look to global brands for lifestyle enhancement products, cosmetics giant L'Oreal Paris could not have asked for a better publicity boon than the wedding of its brand ambassador Aishwarya Rai to Abhishek Bachchan.
Rai, a former Miss World and reigning Bollywood heartthrob, married into one of India's biggest brands -- the Bachchans -- and has been hogging the limelight across the print and visual media for the past few weeks in a free publicity ride that most brands can only dream of.
In 1994, Sushmita Sen and Rai's dual achievements of winning the Miss Universe and Miss World titles led to the emergence of young beauty-conscious Indians with ready money to splurge on cosmetics, which paved the way for players like L'Oreal, Chanel and Estee Lauder to foray into the lucrative Indian market.
Within a short span of the last five-six years, the use of cosmetics by Indians increased significantly with more women and men taking greater interest in personal grooming. With the demand for cosmetics on the rise, many of the world's popular cosmetics brands have already entered the Indian market and some more have set their sights on the country.
One of the front runners in this list is Face Cosmetics that has identified India as its next target market and is likely to announce details within the next three months.
While announcing its half-yearly report, the company said it expects to arrange for the funds needed for the proposed JV by the second quarter of this year.
Without disclosing the name, the firm said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with an established personal care products manufacturer to set up a spa chain across India.
An annual rise of over 20 per cent in the number of high-net worth individuals in the country, which includes a significant percentage of women, is one of reasons why global biggies are flocking to India.
India's beauty market is barely 10 per cent of the global market of over 36 billion dollars, but low per capita spending on these products so far offers impressive growth opportunities, believe market experts.
According to Euromonitor, which tracks business growth opportunities across the world for European firms, India's 3.5 billion-dollar market has grown over 60 per cent from the late 1990s.
The domestic market has been studied well by MNCs for over a decade now before they came up with their launches. One such company is L'Oreal.
Having arrived in 1990s, L'Oreal is reaping the first- mover benefits and recorded a jump of over 40 per cent in its India sales last year.
Among others, Chanel recorded 50 per cent growth in its India business last year and expects this to continue in the coming years.
Currently, the company has five stores in India, including a newly opened outlet in Bangalore. "We will be expanding selectively since we need to find the appropriate retail environment for our range. We hope to have 15-25 per cent of sales in the retail space in the next three years," Chanel India Managing Director Xavier Bertrand said last month.
About a dozen CEOs of top French luxury brands were in the city last month to attend a conference on the country's luxury goods market. They were seen working out fine prints to set up shops here.
Another French luxury goods major, Estee Lauder, is launching its Donna Karan range of fragrances, M-A-C cosmetic line and Clinique skin-care brand here.
Estee Lauder Group President Patrick Bouquet-Chavanne said his company was in talks with domestic retail majors including Shoppers Stop for forging alliances.
Thus, with more and more brands making a beeline for India the market is expected to continue its surge, and with a new Miss India each year there will always be a fresh face to lend its charm.