ETPanache Dialogues: Male grooming biz is a Rs 16,800 cr market; young men invest in make-up, beard products
The men’s category in India is growing at 45%, according to Assocham.
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It is not certain if Jim Morrison really said, “Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts.” But Val Kilmer, playing the Doors frontman in a biopic, did say it in the film. Morrison was also known to trim his own locks. And therefore, it can safely be interpreted that the wavy-haired sex symbol’s relationship with mane maintenance — and perhaps grooming? — was complicated.
But for most Indian men today, grooming is an enjoyable, necessary part of their routine. The products and services at their disposal have improved too. Crucially, men’s grooming is a huge market — valued at Rs 16,800 crore by Assocham in 2018.
An average Indian man, according to a 2019 Mintel report, spends 16 minutes on grooming his body, 14 minutes on his hair and 12 minutes on his face. There’s a lot more going on than just a shower and shave.
What’s responsible for this change? We put some questions forth to our panellists at the third ETPanache Dialogues, held at the Taj Santacruz in Mumbai last Friday.
On the panel were Krishna Gupta, managing director, Lloyds Luxuries Ltd; Dhimaan Shah, founder, StyleCracker; designer Raghavendra Rathore; Nihir Parikh, chief business officer, Nykaa.com; Kavita Angre, director, consumer & market insights & media, L’Oreal India, and Sumanto Chattopadhyay, chairman and chief creative officer, 82.5 Communications, Ogilvy group.
Excerpts from the interaction:
A recent study shows that men spend about an hour on overall grooming each day. How much time did you spend grooming yourself this morning?
Gupta: I am an easy grooming guy — about 10 minutes.
Shah: Fifteen minutes. My wife takes less time than me — she makes fun of me. But I am upfront about the fact that I am going to take longer (laughs).
Rathore: I’ve been a boarding-school boy. So, my morning routine is no more than 10-15 minutes.
Chattopadhyay: I probably took around 20-25 minutes but that’s because I was coming for this. Normally, I put on the first thing that I see.
Parikh: My routine is pretty quick, but I do use 13 products. First, I take 15 minutes with my coffee and post that I take about 45 minutes for grooming.
The men’s category in India is growing at 45 per cent, according to Assocham. What is driving this growth?
Gupta: Earlier men were ignored from a grooming point of view. There were mom-and-pop salons where men could get groomed for about ?50-100. Or there were five-star hotels where men could go for a cut or shave — the same service but in a luxurious setting. Now, men are demanding more. They see grooming as essential. With so much being spread out on social media — from celebrities to sportsmen — it’s become a way of life.
Shah: There is a lot more affluence and aspiration [among Indians]. Both create a perfect formula for grooming to grow. Nuclear households spend on discretionary products such as grooming and fashion. And in the past few years, nuclear households have increased. In my view, it’s like riding a champion racehorse — don’t fall off, the horse will win for you. The tailwinds are so strong that you will win.
Rathore: I find that we live in a dichotomy. We celebrate Diwali and at the same time we watch what’s happening in Paris. It has taken some time for people to move away from the Gandhian mentality that our parents had. This freedom of thinking and doing what we want seems to be driving this.
Angre: Earlier the woman didn’t have a choice in the partner — I mean, you guys really didn’t have to work too hard. Now, women are more discriminating, know their mind and are more demanding [in terms of the appearance of the men in their lives]. I think the other reason is internal. If you get used to looking good, it’s difficult to go back. And we’re all looking at ourselves all the time. It’s almost an addiction to look good.
Chattopadhyay: The selfie! As well as another word, metrosexuality. What was metrosexual? It was basically ‘buy-sexual’. It was telling men that it is not feminine to use grooming products. I think it’s a western construct, where men want to groom themselves but worry if it will be perceived as feminine. I think in India, we have the ancient concept of male shringar, so we don’t have those same hang-ups, which has helped.
Parikh: If you look at facial hair as a trend over 200 years, it’s been a trend that’s come, gone, come again. Everyone’s father had a moustache. Most of the actors had a moustache in the 1980s and then it went out of fashion. Historically, men have been thinking of what we can do, what is cool. It’s just that now definitions and conversations about being cool are allowing us to do more.
From well-coiffed sportsmen to a prime minister in his late 60s who is as sharply dressed as glamour celebrities in their 20s. Is grooming a prerequisite to build one’s personal brand?
Rathore: Yes, of course. We dress a lot of politicians. We don’t put labels on those clothes. We only use khadi, sometimes only from their region. So, if they go into such detail [about their clothes], then I’m guessing they put thought into grooming too… I always notice how the beard looks so well-kept in all the prachaar and meetings.
Are there any repercussions for celebrities not appearing well put-together?
Chattopadhyay: Absolutely. Virat Kohli is one of the most well-groomed guys around. I mean that’s not the only reason that he is getting signed on [for endorsements]. But if you are an athlete, yes, looks do count. India is cricketobsessed but if you are a runner or a badminton player, and if you also look good, then brands will sign you on much faster.
The right CV but the wrong look. Would you consider hiring them?
Gupta: Definitely. People focus on their external grooming and not on their internal skill sets, which is a problem.
Shah: Does appearance matter to us? Not at all. My team’s job is to make sure our customers look good.
Angre: Absolutely. These are two completely different things. I think delivery at work is based on your skill-set. That has to be separated from the exterior part [of your appearance]. But today, when I talk to a lot of young girls and boys, I find that they take a lot of care to curate their online image. I feel, if they don’t look good, their confidence gets impacted.
The beard is everywhere. Once seen as lack of grooming, is it now driving the grooming industry?
Gupta: Definitely. We have seen a lot of boys coming in who are 15-20 years old. They want to get their first beard groomed, not shaved. Our best-selling products include the beard range.
Do you think the Indian man is ready to buy makeup?
Angre: There is a long way to go. I think makeup would stand at the very end of that. Makeup that is not obvious will find adoption earlier.
Parikh: Men’s skincare is under-tapped. This will see the maximum growth in the next couple of years. When it comes to makeup, there are many hurdles that we need to cross —like awareness, adoption. Women use a lot of products. So while it may seem like a joke, when women are 60 they will look 45 and men at 45 will look 60. Skincare first.
What are the ethics of selling certain products, like fairness creams? Is it a scary prospect that we are pushing unnecessary beauty standards on men too?
Chattopadhyay: I have spent my entire career doing promotions for various products for men and women. I’ve realised that there are two needs that the market revolves around. In Western countries, it is anti-ageing. And in Asia and Africa, it is skin whitening. This is the singular obsession in India for sure — sad but true. Emami, in 2005, took advantage of this — because Fair & Lovely was being used by men as well. These guys came out with Fair & Handsome. It did extremely well and then it spawned off other such products. Of course, there are ethics in all of this. I think fairness creams are feeding into an unhealthy obsession. They propagate and support that. But in the world of marketing and advertising, there are not much of ethics.
Can you reduce your carbon footprint and increase productivity?
Angre: It is possible. If it is your intention, then you will find a way. From a consumer standpoint, the questions are being asked, and that becomes a nudge for brands to start investing ahead. You may or may not have a market for it, but people are willing to pay a little premium. People are feeling the impact of the environment and climate change, and they are closely examining their own behaviour.
What are some of the questions brands need to ask themselves?
Parikh: The consumer cares about two things: The safety of grooming products and the environmental aspect. These are two separate conversations. I think the complexity and the formulations are not easy to change. Environmental impact is something we see most brands focusing on today. Most well-respected brands are going in this direction in a big way.
Sustainability and cruelty-free products are the need of the day. What are some of the issues brands should keep in mind?
Shah: We have to reduce the waste packaging every month. It is actually a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for our warehouse and operations team.
Rathore: The difficult thing is, how do you convince the people who run big companies? My customers are people who are making these big decisions, so we encourage them to come and have a chat with the designers. The conversation triggers conscious change. We can make a difference in whatever small way we can.
Chattopadhyay: The laws have to change in India as well. If a company can say a product is natural when it is 99.8 per cent chemical-based, that has to change. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product that they believe is genuinely natural.
The grooming industry in India is mainly focused on products and non-invasive treatments at the moment. What will the future include?
Gupta: I don’t think our audience has reached that space where they need invasive treatments. They understand the repercussions of invasive treatments in the long run.
With so much grooming going on, do you feel that everyone is beginning to look the same?
Rathore: Movies often create certain looks and these have a massive trickle effect.
Gupta: I think people are looking similar from a grooming point of view.
Angre: The standards of ‘good looking’ have been raised. I think they [well-groomed gentlemen] want to look like everybody else. That is what makes them inherently stand apart.
Chattopadhyay: There is a German word that translates into something like juvenilisation. Everyone wants to look younger.
Who is a well-groomed man?
Angre: A man who smells good. That’s one segment that is rising.
Rathore: Hygiene first.
Parikh: Someone who looks the way he wants to.
Gupta: It’s a mixture of everything – having good hygiene, being true to yourself.
Shah: Aaah. I came last, and everything I want to say has been said.