While Lakmé is a go-to brand for many today, the 70-year-old homegrown brand has been mistakenly associated with being ‘foreign’.
It’s quite a fascinating tale of how the
brand — that has an international air about it — captured the Indian market, making cosmetics affordable for middle-income households.
After independence, when India’s economy was fragile, the Indian cosmetics market also relied heavily on international brands like other industries.
The middle and elite classes were dependent on imported cosmetics, and this had a direct effect on the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Alarmed by the situation, the then prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru approached industrialist Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata in 1950 to start an indigenous cosmetic brand.
The company was named ‘Lakmé’, an English derivative of the goddess of wealth and beauty — Laxmi.
At that time, make-up was considered taboo in India. It was said that only women with a ‘tainted character’ had kohl-rimmed eyes and ruby-red lips.
The burgeoning brand needed a strategy that would help the products make inroads across all types of households.
This is when Simone Naval Tata — the Swiss-born wife of Naval H Tata — took on the Herculean task of redefining beauty in the 1960s.
She was instrumental in introducing most of the Lakmé products — mascara, face powder, lipstick, foundation creams, compacts, nail enamel, toners, and more.
The team also leveraged India’s fandom for Bollywood beauties and roped in actors like the ever-graceful Rekha and the 1994 Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to be brand ambassadors.
Lakmé has managed to thrive in the industry despite the aggressive competition from homegrown and international cosmetic brands.