Lakmé, is proud to call itself the “Indian Beauty Expert” and the first cosmetics company to offer makeup to Indian women.
In 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister, called JRD Tata on the phone. He had an issue.
When Indian ladies splurged on expensive foreign cosmetics, there was an issue with the country’s money being sent out of the country. There was not yet an Indian homegrown cosmetics line designed specifically for the country’s climate and people’s varied skin tones. After India gained its independence, there was a severe lack of domestically produced personal care goods of any quality. So, Nehru convinced JRD Tata to start a cosmetics manufacturing firm to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign exchange.
Mr Tata wasted no time in getting to work. Through Tata Oil Mills Company (TOMCO), he set up a subsidiary company that provided basic supplies for making cosmetics. In 1953, the subsidiary worked with two prominent French companies: Robert Piguet and Renoir. It is important to stress that any foreign collaborators involved in this or any future partnerships contributed only know-how and did not get any equity in return.
The Tata Group sent a team to Paris to collaborate with their French partners on this issue.
At that point, the group was exposed to a composition by the famed French composer Leo Delibes. His opera, which had a female heroine (the daughter of a Brahmin priest in India) who fell in love with a British Officer, was being performed to sold-out audiences in Paris. The heroine’s name, which means “Goddess of wealth and prosperity” in French, referred to a Hindu deity who represented strength, good fortune, and beauty in India. The Tatas finally had their brand name.
Lakshmi to Lakme
The goddess personified the idealised image of the beautiful, powerful Indian lady that the brand sought to portray.
Lakmé began operations in a modest, rented space on Mumbai’s Peddar Road. After launching a broad line of women’s personal care goods, Lakmé has become one of the most prominent brands in the Indian cosmetics industry because of its consistent growth over the years.
The company saw its first big change when Simone Tata was appointed managing director in 1961. She repositioned the brand and increased the pricing, and Lakme became a household name in India.
The marketing department was given more resources. It spent a lot of money on newspaper and magazine ads. Shyamoli Verma, a well-known model at the time, was engaged for advertising and renamed “the Lakme Girl” from “the Heartthrob.” She was the company’s first spokesperson.
Later, several famous actresses endorsed Lakme, including Rekha, Aishwarya, and Kareena.
By the 1990s, Lakme had already become a household name. It shot to fame and is today among the most respected names in beauty products.
Lakme flourished under her business acumen as the company expanded its product line to include cosmetics, skincare, and other personal care items aimed at women. It also had huge success with its line of men’s grooming. Lakme was able to keep up with shifting customer tastes because of its cutting-edge research and development, which allowed the company to introduce new and improved products regularly.
In 1980, the company took the plunge into the beauty salon industry by opening the doors to its first branded salon. Salons provided a variety of beauty services, all performed by professionals who had attended beauty schools. In 1982, Simone Tata became the Chairperson of Lakme.
The Tata name allowed the company to continue growing, into one of India’s leading cosmetics and toiletries companies. But in 1993, Lakme’s parent business, TOMCO, merged with Hindustan Unilever (then known as Hindustan Lever). As a consequence, in 1996, Lakme entered into a 50/50 joint venture with Hindustan Unilever. In 1998, Lakme sold all of its brands to Hindustan Unilever, yet the company still has a significant presence in the Indian cosmetics industry.