Despite an increasingly saturated cosmetics market, Hemangi Dhir, founder of Botnal, believes that there is space for every brand to grow – as long as the right demands are met.
“Since the onset of COVID-19, everyone started paying attention to their health and wellness. Consumers want to know what they are applying on their skin, sources of ingredients, whether a product is vegan or organic, biodegradability of packaging etc.
“Brands picked up on that, and became more transparent about their products and ingredients. There was also a shift from purchasing international brands to using more homegrown brands with products manufactured in India. You see new brands coming out with new products all the time,” Dhir told CosmeticsDesign-Asia.
To differentiate itself, Botnal is focused solely on face and neck products at the moment.
“Other brands cover a range of products such as lip care and colour cosmetics, but we are 100% catered for the face and neck. While there are moisturisers in the market that can used on the neck, we have a whitening cream called Kare Taker that is specifically formulated for the neck,” said Dhir.
The key ingredients of Kare Taker include hyaluronic acid to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve hydration and promote firmness; and prickly pear, which is high in essential fatty acids, omega-6 and -9, vitamin E and amino acids, to stimulate collagen production and boost cell turnover.
“The first signs of ageing actually appear on the neck. For a product that targets the neck, it needs to be richer than a face cream, yet light enough so it doesn’t feel tacky under India’s climate. Our formulation team developed five samples and clinically tested them on different batches of people. The entire process took about six months.”
In addition, Dhir shared that price point is another main factor that drives Indian consumers’ purchase decisions. For instance, Botnal’s products are priced between INR299 (USD4) and INR699 (USD9).
“India is a mass-based market, so you need to make products that are affordable for the masses. Local consumers are getting more conscious about ingredients and formulations, and when they find a product that suits the price point and has the ingredients they are looking for, they will buy it immediately,” she added.
Domestic market potential
Less than two years after its inauguration, Botnal’s big break came when it entered Indian e-commerce platform Nykaa in end-February this year.
The business saw a 30% growth in the past three months, with its products having been restocked on the platform four times so far.
This is evident of India’s market potential, both online and offline.
“Because the population is so large and when you have a good price point, you can cater to a wide audience. Furthermore, the demand is different in various parts of India. For example, people in Bombay prefer water-based products due to the high humidity. In Delhi, people will want a facial oil when winter comes in December. You just have to keep releasing a variety of products for customers all over the country to choose what they need best,” said Dhir.
According to the brand, 30% of its sales come from repeat customers.
“I think consumers really like the fact that our ingredients are natural and plant-based. One of our hero ingredients is bakuchiol, which is derived from an Ayurvedic plant called Babchi, grown in southern India. We try to use it in as many products as possible because it mimics the action of retinol without causing the same side effects.
“Bakuchiol is gaining more attention now, but when we first launched in 2021, there were very few brands using it to replace retinol. As one of the first movers, people just kept coming back to us,” Dhir explained.
Although Botnal is currently only available in India, it is planning to register its products with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that they can be sold directly on Amazon sites, including Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon Singapore.
The firm also indicated Dubai and Thailand as potential markets for expansion in future.
Setting foot into probiotics skin care
As for product development plans, Botnal is working on four new products that are expected to be introduced in June.
“The prebiotic and probiotic space is something that I wanted to delve into. We are developing a gel-based face wash that is formulated with a probiotic, papaya and pineapple. There will be a separate version for men and women.
“At the same time, we are creating a gel-based moisturiser with SPF and that also contains probiotics,” Dhir revealed.
Sustainability remains a core pillar of the brand, as it is looking to use 100% recycled packaging for its upcoming range.