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Indian consumer value-conscious but wants only the best in beauty products, says Shahnaz Husain

The Indian customer is value-conscious but only wants the best when it comes to beauty products, says Shahnaz Husain, the pioneer of the herbal beauty care movement in India and the person credited with taking Ayurveda global.

Shahnaz Husain is credited with many firsts in a career spanning over 50 years and is commonly known as the “Queen of Herbs” for her work in taking herbal products mainstream. The founder of the Shahnaz Husain Group, which has received honours worldwide for pioneering herbal beauty care in India and beyond, Shahnaz fought for the recognition of Brand India and Ayurvedic Beauty Care in international markets with a crusader’s zeal. She is also a case study at Harvard for “Emerging Markets” in recognition of the international market created by her Ayurvedic beauty care products.

“India is one of the largest consumer markets in the world, and over the years, awareness about beauty products has increased due to exposure to global trends and lifestyle changes, higher disposable incomes, and increased focus on fitness and youthfulness. The Indian customer is very value-conscious but is aware of the quality and ingredients used in the products and is open to spending on high-quality and organic products if they match his expectations,” shares Shahnaz Husain, who opened her first salon in 1971 with a loan of Rs. 35,000.

The beauty care segment in India is a crowded space and is dominated to a great extent by large multinationals and fashion brands. However, being made from herbal products is a great differentiator of Shahnaz Husain products.

“Since the day I started 50 years back, beauty treatments and products were mainly “colour and cover”. The back-to-nature trend had not yet begun. Only superficial beauty treatments were available without the awareness and realisation that real beauty is the outcome of long-term care – I decided we would not be a part of the rat race. It prompted me to develop new herbal beauty care and cure concept that did not exist at the time. I started my herbal salon to showcase ideas of herbal beauty care. It has been our biggest USP over the years and has allowed us to drive the growth of the beauty care industry,” she says.

The beauty care segment has seen explosive growth in recent years. The markets are flooded with beauty products such as sunscreens and moisturisers to specialised cleaners, toners, astringents, scrubs, masks, serums, shampoos, conditioners, hair tonics, and so on. There are also anti-ageing and a host of other wellness products available for men. While the beauty care products business is estimated to be growing at 20%, the herbal beauty business’ growth is double at 40%.

“We have positioned ourselves as the leader in the premium Ayurvedic beauty care segment. However, we also ensure our products are affordably priced and accessible to everyone,” she says further.

Shahnaz Husain pioneered not only herbal and Ayurvedic products but also the franchisee model to establish a global network of franchisee salons, outlets, and academies. The Shahnaz Husain Herbal Clinic, for instance, now has over 400 franchises globally.

“I adopted an integrated system of a chain of salons and range of products that rely on each other. It was a new concept. To that extent, and due to franchising, our business model was very different. Of course, there is no doubt that beauty care in India was fashioned after the Shahnaz Husain products and the concept of herbal care,” says the entrepreneur, who was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, for her contribution to trade and industry.

The sale of cosmetics and other beauty products declined by more than 50% because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, aided by the growth in e-commerce, sales have exceeded the pre-pandemic levels.

“The retail business has picked up, and more people prefer organic and ethical products due to increased awareness of good health. It is opening new growth opportunities for us,” she says.

Shahnaz Husain, who represented India at former US President Barack Obama’s World Summit for Entrepreneurs, says the most exciting part of her journey of five decades has been representing India at World Entrepreneurship Summits, Conferences, and Seminars and achieving international recognition and prestigious international awards for her innovations.