Mukesh Ambani's big bet: Reliance' Tira using AI tools for India's beauty market - Hindustan Times
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Mukesh Ambani's big bet: Reliance' Tira using AI tools for India's beauty market

Bloomberg |
May 23, 2024 02:10 PM IST

The idea is to give a plethora of experiences using “some form of AI,” Tejas Kapadia said in Tira’s first interview since its launch.

Reliance Industries Ltd.’s new venture, Tira, is leaning on artificial intelligence tools that can suggest perfumes or cosmetics to woo customers in the burgeoning but competitive Indian beauty sector.

Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd. Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai.(PTI)
Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd. Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai.(PTI)

Tira, which was launched by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate in April last year, also uses electronic vending machines in its stores to dispense free samples of skincare products, according to Tejas Kapadia, head of marketing of the year-old startup that has 12 stores across India and a website.

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The idea is to give a plethora of experiences using “some form of AI,” Kapadia said in Tira’s first interview since its launch. “Customers love that and they keep coming back,” he added.

One such interactive in-store experience is a “fragrance finder,” which gives perfume options after letting consumers smell a set of “cubes” with different notes of fragrances.

Its “skin analyzer” infers the features of a customer by clicking a photo and recommends products that would suit them best. Its stores offer a free engraving service for buyers to personalize their purchases by etching names on perfumes bottles or make-up boxes. The website also provides makeup and skincare lessons.

Race to Enter

Tira is Reliance’s lead horse in the race for the world’s fastest growing major beauty market. The conglomerate’s retail business, helmed by Ambani’s daughter Isha, has also taken over the local operations of skincare brand Kiko Milano and LVMH Group’s luxury beauty retailer Sephora in the past one year.

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Tira is competing with brands like Tata Group’s Palette, which also started last year, and Nykaa — the current market leader with 187 stores across India. The store count for Palette is not available publicly.

The local beauty segment is expected to grow at 10% between 2022 and 2027, according to a September report by RedSeer Strategy Consultants and PeakXV, beating China’s 7% and the US’ 5% forecast growth rates.

That’s why international brands are also rushing into India. In 2023, Japan’s Shiseido-owned NARS Cosmetic signed a distribution partnership with Shoppers Stop Ltd. and Selena Gomez launched her brand Rare Beauty on Sephora India. This year, Rihanna brought her cosmetics line Fenty Beauty to India for the first time on Nykaa.

“It is a great time to be in the beauty and personal care sector,” said Abhishek Malhotra, a Mumbai-based partner at McKinsey & Company. “People have more disposable income, increased awareness and higher aspirations.”

Reliance, led by Asia’s richest person, has been diversifying beyond its oil refining roots for years and entering consumer-facing and technology-led businesses. The almost $32 billion Indian beauty and personal care segment is the latest addition to its expanding portfolio that includes mega refineries, a wireless services provider, a streaming platform and Hamleys toy stores.

Reliance’s Playbook

Tira, which offers brands from American Smashbox and Estee Lauder to Korea’s Sulwhasoo and homegrown newbie Re’equil, is marketed as “slightly premium,” according to Kapadia, who didn’t clarify if Tira will offer heavy discounts to gain market share. Cut-throat pricing that drives out rivals has been Reliance’s playbook across multiple sectors in the past.

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Reliance, in its December-quarter earnings release, said that Tira delivered a “strong performance across various operating metrics including sales productivity, average bill value,” without sharing revenue or growth numbers.

Its largest competitor Nykaa, whose latest quarterly profit missed estimates, is also experimenting with technology-led customer services. At its new flagship luxury format store in Mumbai, Nykaa has brought ‘experiential zones’ where it provides services including the ‘skin analyzer tool’ and hairstyling stations.

Kapadia says Tira will need to keep innovating to build a significant market share.

“What we’ve done so far is bring in these great tech aspects. Obviously some other players are also now picking up on them,” Kapadia said. “So we need to continue pushing the boundary.”

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