Sonia Michon-Floc'hlay of Estée Lauder on the Indian consumer, interviewed by Dhavani Merchant.
Why launch in India?
Beauty is of foremost importance to women across the world and India is no different. Indian women are very beautiful. As a brand, our aim is to offer different beauty solutions. Today India is a burgeoning beauty market – it's evident from all the top brands positioned here.
Why do you think people find it difficult to accept that they are ageing?
Well. We cannot stop ageing, but we can slow it down. And with cosmetic products, one can extend the life of youthful skin.
What is your take on celebrities launching their own beauty products and perfume lines?
The consumer always comes before the celebrity. If the consumer can relate to the celebrity they will buy the product. For buyers, relating to a brand or a celebrity is the same thing. The variety and choice the consumers get makes it a win-win situation for him.
Are Estée Lauder products tailored to the Indian market?
We conducted extensive research before launching here. Several of our products repair sun damage and whiten the skin. They are tailored specifically to suit the Indian skin, because there are so many different variations of the skin tone. But we also have other international cosmetics.
Isn't India obsessed with fair skin?
Women in India want to be fair. Often, when they come in for a recommendation, we have trouble explaining to them that dark is beautiful too.
Ironically, women abroad want darker skin tones and opt for artificial tanners to get the skin tone that Indians are naturally gifted with.
What about perfumes? Is there anything like a unisex perfume?
Perfumes are very popular with women and men and there is a definite market here, though nascent.
There are unisex perfumes abroad, but our research shows that women are now exploring woody scents while men opt for citrus fragrances.
How buoyant is the beauty market in India?
Oh, very. The beauty market is growing at 25 per cent every year. Women here want a taste of luxury and are not afraid to spend for quality skin care. While it's slow market, it's growing. Women here wish to look pretty and will suerly spend upto Rs 5,000 for a quality beauty product.