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A rush to cream the fairness fetish

Friday, 1 September 2006 - 11:43pm IST

The Grimm Brothers told us Snow White was the fairest of them all, but the efforts of marketers at creaming the Indian fairness fetish could leave them, well, grim-faced.

With men coming out of the closet, a market is exploding.

MUMBAI: The Grimm Brothers told us Snow White was the fairest of them all, but the efforts of marketers at creaming  the Indian fairness fetish could leave them, well, grim-faced.

Just look at the list of companies pining for a fair share: Hindustan Lever (it already has an enviable 80% share of the fairness creams market with Fair & Lovely, and an overall 40% of the fairness segment spoils) is following competitors by launching a fairness variant of Lux soap, a fairness product for men and a refurbished Pond’s product with fairness attributes.

Then there’s Godrej, CavinKare and Emami wooing those hoping for some gori chamdi. Indeed, from soaps to lotions and potions, the market is exploding.

So much so, fairness products today account for 39% or Rs 700 crore of the Rs 1,700 crore skincare segment. It is growing at a clip of 12% annually.

Stats that make marketers drool. So creative line extensions aren’t fare behind.

Fair& Lovely has reinvented itself in several new avatars, providing ayurvedic, sunscreen and blemish control as part of the brand stretch.

Says Ashok Venkatramani, vice president, skin, HLL: “As consumer needs evolve, our brands have to change, too.”

Its recent launch is the Fair& Lovely Mens Active targeting males who patronise fairness creams. “We believe that men have always been closet users of Fair& Lovely, and now they are seeking exclusive products for themselves. The time is right to introduce this multi-usage cream which fulfils the needs of men’s skin,” says Venkatramani.

In fact, the men’s segment was pioneered by Emami Fair and Handsome. According to Mohan Goenka, director of the brand, market research data shows that 30% of fairness creams are used by men. “So we are roughly looking at Rs 200 crore of untapped resources,” he adds.

Goenka says that the Rs 30 crore Emami brand has around 15% of them market. His target for next year: Rs 50 crore.  Or look at the Rs 5,000 crore soap market, where Godrej FairGlow already has a 1% share. “Consumers don’t have to incur extra cost or effort by using other products,” says Hoshidar K Press, executive director and president, Godrej Consumer Products.

Now, HLL’s new offering is branded Lux White-Glow. And with the ‘soap for beauty queens’ positioning Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai as the brand ambassador.

Or look at Ponds. “People are moving away from a single format benefit product to developing a regime for themselves; they want a soap, a cleanser, a day-and-night cream,” says Venkatramani. So Ponds now offers a fairness, hydration and ageing cream, providing holistic solutions for skin-care in all three.

According to market analyst Hemant Patel of Enam Securities, while the proposition in terms of fairness has been large, creams and soaps are more of a margin generator. Patel explains that since people’s tastes will take time to change, companies are using fairness as an aspirational platform.

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