Every Journey is unique, every face tells a different story and every look finds a path unique to its calling. Make up or skincare is not about looking different, it is a about being you. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and a few strokes of the brush can enhance the picture. Sankalp Chopra, CEO and Co-founder, Aelius Parallel Holding Private Limited speaks on his journey into the hair and skin care industry. He began his career in the Telecom sector before shifting to the skincare industry. In a candid conversation with Team Optimist, Sankalp discusses the road ahead for India’s skincare and haircare sector.
Tell us how did you begin your career in this skincare/haircare industry?
The Journey into the cosmetics industry was by accident. I am a telecom engineer by profession and have spent over 16 years in the telecom field working as strategy consultant across the globe. It was both my wife’s idea and business partner Manisha, that I foray into skincare. Initially I was just supporting her (Manisha) at the back end while working in the telecom field. It was few years down the line when I realised that there is a possibility to create something bigger and I jumped in full throttle.
How were your initial days with Aelius Parallel Holding Private Limited?
APHL was founded recently after the success of our Skincare brand Seasoul Cosmetics. The prime vision behind forming APHL is to make India a trendsetter in the beauty and wellness sector with a global manufacturing hub. Like any new venture, teething issues are part and parcel of the process but they come with a learning curve. APHL catapulted us into a full-scale manufacturing unit. The whole concept from creating and securing the first private label contract took us over a year.
In recent years, there have been calls to make skincare/haircare products environment-friendly. How is the industry coping up with such a scenario?
I believe new age consumers are more aware and are willing to make purchases which makes the product life cycle sustainable. The industry as a whole has responded quite well to this change with bringing in sustainable packaging, shifting towards more skin and environment friendly ingredients and stopping the use of single use plastic. The initial manufacturing cost is still high which is not profitable for mass commoditisation of the product. Unlike the West, the manufacturing sector in India can adapt to new age practices which can make the complete product life cycle sustainable.
Our in-house grown brands SeaSoul and KeraSoul have kick started this shift towards innovative & sustainable product life cycle, which are completely free from harmful chemicals. We are excited to share this knowledge with other upcoming or existing players in the market through the private labels apart from the APHL label.
How the Indian market is changing as compared to the other countries in the skincare/haircare sector?
The beauty and wellness market in India is grew at an estimated value of INR 803.7 billion in 2017-18 (approximately $12 billion). With the shift in domestic importers and manufacturers. There is more awareness at consumers’ end who are selecting products not just based on the price point but are ready to shell out a bit more if the product is organic or natural. There is a growing trend of launching herbal hair and skincare products particularly for the face. The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector is the 4th largest in the Indian economy with household and personal care accounting for 50% sales in India. The country’s cosmetics’ industry has emerged as one of the markets holding immense growth potential. The future looks bright with new product launches catering to consumers’ growing requirements which fuels growth in the industry.
According to a recent research report, the Indian cosmetics market registered impressive sales. This coupled with the rising purchasing power and growing fashion consciousness, the industry is estimated to expand at an annual growth rate of around 17%. Based on an analysis of consumer behaviour, it has been observed that many consumers are increasingly shifting towards natural and herbal cosmetic products as they are associated with bio-active ingredients and safe for human skin. In addition to this, women are observed to be spending more on cosmetics as they spend money on grooming themselves.
Being a cosmetic entrepreneur, what reforms do you suggest for the growth of this industry?
The Indian cosmetics and skincare manufacturing Industry as whole needs to shift towards GMP based manufacturing practices and look into investing towards developing sustainable product life cycles which typically means using environment friendly product packaging and skin friendly ingredients. It also includes adapting GMP practices and zero waste manufacturing while investing in treating effluents for reuse.
On the other hand, there needs to stricter implementation of the acts and policies by regulating authorities, to ensure policies are followed across the board. The state FDA authorities have now become more active in this regard following the theory of ‘regulation by education, not by strangulation’. This requires large scale awareness across the business community. Many lack complete knowhow or are not ready to invest in better infrastructure. This factor remains critical for the Indian Industry to come of age and put India as a global sourcing hub in cosmetics and skincare.
What are your future plans for APHL?
We have recently secured our second private label contract. Our initial focus is to partner with domestic players looking for cost effective sustainable skincare and haircare products, either privatelylabelled(PL)or white labelled(WL). The PL/WL area in India is growing even across the large e-commerce players as they see better margins upwards of 60% on PL products rather than selling other brands. We want to be active partners here. The middle East market is also a key focus area for us, as we see a lot of traction happening there in the beauty space.
The skincare industry is often criticized for color biasedness. What is your take on this?
Yes, there has been an aspiration value added to the product to woo the end consumer. This strategy has been used across various brands and I believe it is largely due to how our society is stuck with such belief systems. Acceptability of what we are is the new age mantra and that we see now happening everywhere. Even with our in-house brand SeaSoul, we have consistently focused on giving out the message that everyone is beautiful and that skincare or makeup is just a tool to enhance beauty.