Men grooming space is new emerging market: Varun Sharma, GM, The Body Shop India
'True beauty comes from the heart'. With a firm belief in this statement, British brand 'The Body Shop' perceives beauty more than just a pretty face. It has stores in over 60 markets worldwide and an expanding business in India with over 100 stores already. In an exclusive interaction with Wellness India, Varun Sharma, General Manager, The Body Shop India, shares his views on the brand presence in India, outlook of the beauty and wellness industry, and the changing consumer behaviour:
How is the presence of your brand in India? How was the business during recession?
The Body Shop entered India eight years back and in these eight years, we have managed to become the fastest growing international beauty brand and largest International single brand cosmetic retail chain in the country, with over 120 stores operating in over 40 cities.
The Body Shop has a very strong and growing loyalty customer base who wears the brand irrespective of season/time of the year. The brand witnessed decent growth in 2014 despite adverse business conditions in the initial time of the year.
Do you think business in this category is stock proof?
The Body Shop has experienced strong growth since its launch in the country in 2006. The brand has been successful in establishing itself as the original, ethical, natural and 100 per cent vegetarian cosmetics and toiletries brand.
The brand has been well accepted in tier I, II and III cities thus, reaffirming brand acceptance throughout. This has encouraged us to boldly enter newer cities and has motivated us to follow our optimistic growth plan in India.
We have also successfully ventured into the e-commerce business. Our beautifully designed site has been well received by the customers across India. We are at present able to reach more than 400 towns through our website and have reached 1 million customers.
Do you see the same level of awareness for wellness among people now, in comparison to the time when you entered the Indian?
There has been a significant change in consumer behavior and attitude from the time we entered into India. There has been a huge development in terms of purchasing power of consumer and the new emerging market trends made people more aware and more conscious towards beauty and grooming.
Now, people pay more attention towards their looks and health. The women beauty care industry was growing since a long time, but the men grooming market is the new emerging market. Nowadays, men are more conscious about their looks and demand for new beauty products, especially created for men's skin.
Even tier II, III and IV cities have consumers who are well aware and demand good quality products to takecare of themselves. There is also a surge in demand for natural ingredient based products which has given us an edge since we are 100 per cent vegetarian values driven company.
Makeup has also become a fast growing favourite among customers. A lot of consumers demand natural makeup products, which is exclusively available with The Body Shop stores.
A lot of people don't compromise on their brand selection and most of them are brand loyal. What is your strategy to lure and retain higher income group people to maintain your market position?
The Body Shop is a high quality skin and body care retailer offering natural products. We are one of the most recognizable brands in the world and have an established reputation as a socially and environmentally responsible company.
Famous for creating a niche market sector for naturally inspired products, The Body Shop has introduced a generation of consumers to the benefits of a wide range of best sellers from Vitamin E Moisture E cream, Moisture White Shiso Whitening Serum to the Tea Tree Oil range and our world-famous body butters.
The Body Shop does millions of customer transactions through stores worldwide and customers are sampling the current range of over 1,200 products, including inspiring accessories and gifts and our fabulous make-up range.
Our brand has been a leader in the trend towards greater corporate transparency, and has been a force for positive social and environmental change through its lobbying and campaigning programmes around its five core values: against animal testing, support community fair trade, activate self esteem, defend human rights, protecting the planet.
Our brand is loved in India because of its unique personality and great brand values. It is because of this that we attract a broad range of customers to our stores, both young as well and mature, traditional as well as modern.
What is the procedure of staff recruitment for Indian stores? Do you have dedicated criteria to select staff?
In today's economy, hiring the best people is more critical than ever. The only criterion we use is to find candidates with best skills, experiences and ability to match a job description. At the time of hiring, we always see whether the potential candidate have the necessary skills, experiences and education to successfully complete the tasks they need to perform. For us, being capable means the employee has the potential for growth and the ability and willingness to take on more responsibility.
As the demand for Green Cosmetics is picking up in India, do you have plans to enter in this category? If not, why?
We understand that every product we use has consequences for the planet, from the shampoo we wash down the plughole to the packaging we throw away. Hence it's imperative to work extremely hard to help protect the planet.
One of the ways we are doing this is by introducing an eco-conscious standard. We choose our raw materials carefully and only use ingredients known to be non-toxic to organisms that live in water. Raw materials which are classified as persistent and bioaccumulative and toxic according to EC Regulation 1272/2008 will not be used. The product formulation has been measured for ecotoxicity according to methodology 201 as defined by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development.
All the foaming ingredients in the formula are readily biodegradable, and at least 75 per cent of the carbon-based substances are non-persistent in the environment. A substance is defined as biodegradable if more than 60 per cent of it is broken down into simpler chemicals within 28 days by living organisms generally found within the environment.
Hence, we aim to use the minimum amount of packaging materials for products. We measure the weight and volume of packaging relative to its contents, and our pack-to-content ratio will never exceed 0.2 grams of packaging per gram of product. We also use post-consumer recyclate (PCR) in packaging wherever possible, and if the primary pack uses paper and/or card, it is from an FSC-certified source.