How Nehru’s Vision Turned Lakshmi Into India’s Iconic Beauty Brand, Lakmé
Published On: 01 Jun 2023 Updated On: 14 Nov 2023
A Historical Perspective
Tata Group’s fundamental incursion into the skincare and cosmetics industry was Lakmé, which was established during the chairmanship of J.R.D. Tata. Also, Lakmé is the first beauty brand established after India got its independence. But did you know that the motivation behind the brand’s launch was the first PM of India, Jawaharlal Nehru? It all started when India had just achieved its liberation, and the economic condition was yet to settle on a common ground. Nehru noticed how Indian women indulged themselves in buying imported cosmetics, aiding the foreign economy. At that time, India lacked a lot in producing quality beauty products and was short of Indian manufacturers as well. Noticing the situation, Nehru convinced J.R.D. Tata, who was a dear friend of Nehru, into instituting a cosmetics brand and saving foreign exchange. Hence, Lakmé was born into the Indian market, targeting the needs of Indian consumers.
The Power of Collaboration
In 1952, Lakmé became the subsidiary brand of TOMCO (Tata Oil Mills Company), a public limited company of Tata Group integrated in 1917. TOMCO, which was initially known for producing coconut oil, gradually expanded and diversified its productions to soaps, detergents, cooking oils, shampoos, eau de cologne, scented oils, etc. So, the company took the opportunity to capitalise on locally made cosmetics in the Indian market and established Lakmé with two esteemed French companies— Renoir and Robert Piguet. Their initial objective of this collaboration was to create India’s first ‘Made In India’ brand.
This was when the name Lakmé was born. It is the French word for Lakshmi. The co-partners of the French brands were invited to propose a name for the brand, where it holds connotations of the two countries. In the end, the collaborators came to an agreement and settled on the name Lakmé, which was inspired by a popular French Opera of the same name.
A New Era in Indian Beauty
Lakmé began its business in a rented compact property at Peddar Road. It made its debut in the Indian market with a comprehensive spectrum of hygiene care lines for women. The development of the business flourished soon, and by 1960, Lakmé shifted to the Sewri factory of TOMCO, which was bigger than the initial platform in three folds. Shortly, the booming of Lakmé’s business proved too small for the quarter and a larger space was earned, leading to two-shift employment.
In 1961, Simone Tata, wife of Naval H.Tata, took over as a managing director at Lakmé and spearheaded the gigantic brand to a whole new level of achievement, moulding it into India’s iconic Beauty Brand to date. She later became the chairperson of the company in 1982. Lakmé constantly upgraded its portfolio over the years, through advanced research and evolution in its innovative products, based on customers’ preferences and feedback. Soon after, in 1980, the brand set up its first exclusive in-house Lakmé Beauty Salon, offering ladies an all-inclusive beauty treatment from certified beauticians.
Later, Lakmé introduced a cosmetology school, offering a 6-month diploma course, and the brand travelled around the world presenting lectures, training beauticians, make-up demos, and addressing beauty problems. Through the years, Lakmé continued to prove its capabilities and earned a household name in the Indian beauty market. After TOMCO’s integration with HUL (Hindustan Unilever) in 1993, Lakmé established a joint investment with HUL, later selling its brands in 1998 for 200 crores. To this day, Lakmé continues to break its benchmarks, leading the Indian beauty market, and controlling a significant share of the market.
Lakmé Fashion Week
As mentioned earlier, Lakmé has always been that brand that does not limit itself just to the mass production of cosmetics but also towards the glamour world. From Lakmé Beauty Salons to Lakmé Fashion Week and Lakmé Academy, Lakmé has done it all and achieved its pinnacle in the industry. Lakmé Fashion Week is an exclusive fashion event by Lakmé, officially inaugurated in 1999. It is held twice a year, and the event is organised in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The mega bi-yearly fashion event is executed under the supervision of FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India), where Lakmé is the title sponsor.
During the fashion week, top models in the industry, along with numerous A-list Bollywood stars and renowned names in the fashion world honour the event. Some of the showstoppers that made to the highlights over the years of Lakmé Fashion Week are Arjun Rampal, Malaika Arora Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Rashmika Mandana, Zeenat Aman, Rakul Preet, Abirr n Nanki, Shilpa Shetty, Mohit Rai, Sonakshi Sinha, Moses Koul, Sushmita Sen, and many more.
Even though there have been few countable disruptions in the trajectory of the Lakmé brand to date, we cannot deny the fact that it changed the history of beauty and cosmetics products in India and has brought significant modifications in considerable aspects, especially amongst the women population. Although big brand names like Maybelline, Garnier, L’Oreal, Revlon, and such made their impact in the beauty industry in the early 90s, it cannot be denied that Lakmé opened its door to success.
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