How Jawaharlal Nehru Became The Reason For India’s First Cosmetic Brand ?

Today, we might be just a click away from getting hands on our favourite products but it wasn’t always the case for Indian consumers. Let’s take a look at how Jawaharlal Nehru helped in introducing the first Indian cosmetic brand.

Talking about beauty and cosmetic brands, a dozen of names come to our mind and getting your hands on your favorite products is quite easy these days. It wasn’t the case if we time travel to a few decades back and the reasons are quite obvious. What if we ask you about the first time cosmetics were introduced to India, who did it and when did it happen? A lot of names might come to your mind but would you believe that Jawaharlal Nehru and Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata were behind introducing the first Indian cosmetic brand? 

How and why was the idea proposed?

 Let’s do some time travel and go back to the year 1952 when we just got independence and India was not at its best financial state with very limited foreign currency reserves. Of course makeup and beauty products were a luxury at that time and since there were no domestic manufacturers of it, all these products used to be imported from other countries. This was the factor because of which only high class people had access to beauty products. Jawaharlal Nehru decided to ban the import of these products to save the foreign reserves and this decision was not taken well by many people especially, high class women at that time who requested him to lift the ban. 

To solve this problem, Jawaharlal Nehru approached industrialist Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata who proposed launching a made in India cosmetic brand and that’s how Lakmé was launched in 1952. It was the subsidiary of Tata Oil Mills, a company originally known for exporting coconut oil.

How does the brand get its name?

The name Lakmé was suggested by Robert Piguet and Renoir. Lakmé was also a popular opera in France by Léo Delibes and it is named after his protagonist who was inspired by an Indian Goddess, Lakshami. 

Making its space in the Indian Market

Now we had a made in India cosmetic brand which offered cosmetics for all skin types and at a very affordable price and that’s what the Indian consumers wanted. It is very obvious why the brand gained popularity really fast. 

It got its biggest boost when Dadabhoy’s Swiss wife Simone Tata took over as its managing director in 1961. From pricing of products to the brand’s positioning, she gave the brand every reason to be loved. She later became the company’s chairperson in 1982.

There was a time when villains in TV shows were shown wearing kohl-lined eyes and brightly painted lips, advertising for cosmetics was difficult. To create its space in the Indian market, Lakmé applied aggressive marketing tactics, including spending large amounts of money into press advertisements and magazines. With Super Model Shyamoli Verma as the brand’s first face, Lakmé began its campaign of breaking taboos around applying makeup. Verma later came to be known as the ‘Lakmé girl’. Dressed in traditional attire and adorned with Lakmé products,playing Indian musical instruments like the sitar and flute, she showed the brand to be an amalgamation of modernity and ‘Indianness’.

‘If color be to beauty what music is to mood, play on’ was the brand’s first tagline. After this, we got to see many Bollywood actors like Rekha, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Kajol Devgn became the face of Lakmé.

In 2014, Brand Trust Report ranked the company 36th in its list of India’s most trusted brands. It has also been a title sponsor of the prestigious bi-annual event Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW), which takes place in Mumbai. 

Today Lakmé has become a part of Indian women’s lifestyle and the true synonym of Indian Brand but not many of us are aware about the origin of one of India’s favorite beauty brands. 

It was the true vision of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister who made it possible with his vision and collaborative approach with Jehangir Ji Tata who helped in making it all possible. Though the market has expanded and we get to see new brands and products emerging very often but being built by visionary minds, Lakmé has its own legacy which is worth knowing. In 1996, Lakmé formed a 50:50 merger with Hindustan Unilever. Two years later, Tata divested its 50% share in the company and sold it to Hindustan Unilever and today Lakmé is owned by HUL. And this was the story behind Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, directly and indirectly becoming the reason behind India’s first cosmetic brand.

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