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How To Successfully Launch A Beauty Brand During The Pandemic

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Hasina Khatib

If the past two years have highlighted one fact, it is that no brand is bulletproof during the pandemic. Multinational conglomerates have been pivoting production, drawing shutters of heavily trafficked outposts and going back to the drawing board—so what chance does a newbie stand in the beauty aisle? However, it is perhaps this very unfettered vigour that is affording impetus to create something that the world hasn’t seen before, underscored by a deep-seated understanding of how the modern consumer’s needs have evolved and changed during the pandemic. Ahead, we speak to the founders of newly launched beauty brands on their biggest learnings from the process.

How The Pandemic Impacted Our Definition Of Beauty

Left to our own devices for long stretches of time, it comes as little surprise that the pandemic redefined our relationship with make-up and skincare. The notion is seconded by Anusha Dandekar, who recently turned entrepreneur with the launch of BrownSkin Beauty. She explains, “Make-up suddenly didn’t feel as important as self-care and skincare. Now, more than ever, we were taking care of our true selves, inside and out, which has helped our real beauty to shine through during these challenging times.”

The sentiment is echoed by Queenie Singh, former Miss India, columnist and wellness advocate, who believes that the pandemic dialled up our awareness of the beauty industry. “First, people slowed down which was followed by introspection and soul-searching. Video calls reflected our own image staring back at us, which led to self-care. Simultaneously, we had an absolute revolution of omnichannel retail in the beauty space which resulted in consumer revelations driven by technology,” she observes. The evolution of this newfound awareness in skincare prompted her to launch BiE: Beauty In Everything in collaboration with skincare savant, Dinyar Workingboxwalla.

How To Launch A Beauty Brand During The Pandemic

Every inch of space in the beauty aisle is a hotly contested one and attempting to make room for a new entrant can be an intimidating task during normal times. Factor in the supply chain upheaval and frequent shutdowns triggered by newer variants, and launching something from scratch can seem like an outlandish proposition. However, for Dandekar, the period of self-isolation offered her access to the most elusive resource—time. “I have always wanted to do something in this space but when the world came to a halt, it meant that I actually had the time to focus all my energy on building and creating the brand without any distractions. Incidentally, it was also great for my mental health to stay focused on something and know that I was creating change for the beauty industry,” she explains.

However, the real litmus test would come while attempting to navigate the logistics. Dandekar recalls living with never-ending uncertainty. “Will our production be ready in time, will everything stay open, will deliveries make it on time? Certain areas were red zones, so that made it difficult for our production and delivery to travel through. On a larger scale, unemployment was at its peak which meant that disposable income was restricted. We had to be mindful of all these factors when crafting our launch,” she shares.

Moving beyond logistics, the pandemic also informed the product lineup for Gush Beauty, a skincare-infused makeup brand. Sarvangi Shah, COO and head of product & innovation, recalls, “We saw a rise in makeup with skin-loving ingredients that work to brighten, protect, and give skin a healthy glow. As a result, we launched the Glowgetter which is an all-over illuminating moisturiser to give you glowing skin without all the fuss.” More permanent changes came in the form of increased consumer savviness and the need for brands to step away from jargon and speak to customers more conversationally, she believes. “Another unforeseen impact of the pandemic is that we don’t have an office. We have never used one, and all the remote working means that we are ready to adapt to the new normal of being a post-pandemic company,” adds Shah.

Lessons On Launching A Beauty Brand During The Pandemic

Quiz the experts on their biggest learnings from this experience, and they are in agreement that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Passion for what you do and authenticity count as the biggest assets for Dandekar, “When the world is going up and down, you just have to be able to navigate your way through it all, focus on great products, increasing visibility and valuable messaging that comes from the heart,” she says. Singh agrees, and adds, “Understanding the modern mindset, catering to consumers‘ pain points in beauty and being totally transparent has always been our mantra. Make the online shopping experience swift and fun. Lead with honesty and integrity, operate for purpose and not profit and remember that visibility is key.”

For Sheil Jain, founder of Gush Beauty, the challenge arises when brands don’t evolve with the times. Evolution happens in multiple ways, whether through innovation in products or distribution—the idea is to look for an opportunity and maximise it. All we could see around us was the buzz about not just looking good, but also feeling good about your skin. Gush Beauty was thus born out of a common motive to uncomplicate makeup and make beauty joyful again,” she concludes.