The cosmetics industry is ever-expanding. In 2022, the global industry was valued at USD 429.2 billion, and by 2032, the industry is projected to reach USD 864.6 billion. Mars Cosmetics is a homegrown brand launched in 2016 with a focus on creating effective and affordable makeup products for the Indian market. Their director and business manager, Rishabh Sethia, tells us about the intricacies of their business.  

Excerpts from the interview… 

How did you see Mars Cosmetics standing out in the makeup segment?

We focused on Indi.sing aspects of the global supply chain. Indian customers are value-conscious. It’s not that they don’t like expensive products, but they need to have an inherent value. Providing effective and affordable products has been the key to creating space for ourselves in the cluttered market.

What are the areas of focus in the process of product building?

Our focus is on two things – formulation and sustainability. We evaluate a lot of ingredients and use ones that are beneficial to Indian skin. However, within makeup, it is not possible to have only skin-loving ingredients, as chemicals are needed for it to be effective. Having said that, there are certain blacklisted products that we would never use. 

We still have a long way to go in terms of sustainability, but we’re taking baby steps and using as minimal plastic as possible. We have recently introduced palettes made of cardboard. Most eyeliners and kajals use Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) cards in their packaging, now we’re replacing that with paper. 

What are some changes in consumer preferences in makeup?

Makeup is always evolving, with lots of trends going on around the world at any point in time. There was a time when people preferred powder-based blushes and highlighters, but now they prefer cream and liquid formulations. We’ve moved from preferring matte and full-coverage makeup looks to more minimal, lightweight and glossy looks. People also don’t want their foundations to look cakey but want a “my skin but better” look. There are also a lot of microtrends happening simultaneously. The space is never stagnant. 

What are the key influencers of trends from your understanding?

I would attribute most of it to social media. Social media and Western influences primarily affect the likings of Indian consumers. Instagram plays a big role in setting the stage for trends and making them go viral. 

What marketing efforts work best for your brand?

Social media is the key, as Instagram has a strong community of makeup artists and influencers. In addition to that, we have OOH, offline, and other brand awareness and targeted campaigns in the marketing mix. 

Building consumer trust is something that takes time. The initial days are slower, but once you start gaining momentum, you get a lot of repeat customers as well as org.c marketing through word-of-mouth.

The customer acquisition cost is difficult to sustain at the price point in which we operate. The average unit price for our products is in the Rs 300-350 range, and if our customer acquisition cost is Rs 150-200, the performance marketing ceiling soon comes in, beyond which it becomes unsustainable or unfeasible to operate or scale. 

 Tell us about the online and offline retail and distribution.

We are a very well-distributed brand available across 7,000 – 8,000 general trade stores and 12 exclusive beauty outlets. We’re also present on all major e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Nykaa, Tira, Blinkit etc. We’re going to continue seeing growth and, this year, have a special focus on modern trade and large-scale retail outlets. As for sales, our split between online and offline is very even.

How are you planning an expansion of the product line?

I find that if you have your maximum focus on the product line, you don’t need much marketing. We want to focus on eliminating clutter from our ranges – purposely doing less to achieve more. We’d like to have fewer but more me.ngful and mindful launches. We also want to launch all our formulations in 12-14 shades and eventually expand beyond that. 

What’s a key lesson you’ve learnt along your entrepreneurial journey?

I’ve learnt that when you try and listen to the customer, most of the problems can be solved. Consumers are very intuitive and can tell you exactly what a consumer segment needs. It is our biases that stop us from actually listening to the customer’s voice. 

Rahul Dev

Cricket Jounralist at Newsdesk

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