The beauty products industry in Pakistan is estimated to be worth 80 billion rupees; some believe it is closer to 150 billion rupees and according to those who feel the informal sector should be included, the number skyrockets to 400 billion rupees (Source: DAWN Business & Finance). The reason why it is difficult to agree on a single figure is because there is no concrete data on the subject. However, what everyone does agree on is that the market is growing, either by 15% (2015, Ehsan Malik, CEO, Unilever Pakistan, DAWN Business & Finance) or by seven percent (2016, Mehrbano Sethi, CEO, Luscious Cosmetics). Again, there is no consensus on numbers.
In such a situation it becomes difficult to pinpoint how much of the colour cosmetics (foundation, lip, cheek, eye, nail, and hair colours) pie in Pakistan belongs to halal brands, but even attempting to figure that out is an exercise in futility unless we first agree on the difference between halal and halal-certified.
Halal is an Arabic word meaning permissible, so in the broadest sense halal makeup is that which contains only those ingredients which Muslims are allowed to consume. Atiqa Odho, CEO, Odho Cosmetics (launched in 2004), states that she follows FDA guidelines for her products, but because she uses beeswax instead of animal fats and no alcohol, her brand is halal by default.
Halal-by-certification is the dictum of MM Makeup (launched in 2015). Masarrat Misbah, CEO, MM Makeup, explains that the certification process (Turkish, in this case) involves more than endorsing ingredients; production facilities must be Shariah-compliant as must be supplementary processes such as transportation, storage, distribution, sales, finance and banking, and employee matters.
Don’t I know you from somewhere?
When a brand applies for certification, the authority in question uses forensic accountants as well as religious scholars to check whether it meets the requisite criteria. Most countries have their own certifying bodies; some more than one, and according to Sethi, one authority may not necessarily be recognised by another.
“Achieving halal certification is a time-consuming and expensive process, and each country has different parameters for what can be deemed halal. There is no single, credible, global authenticating body for cosmetics,” she explains.
This is one of the reasons why Luscious Cosmetics (launched in 2007) instead of acquiring the halal claim, chose to become vegan-certified by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a universally recognised group. This approach, however, is not shared by the local representative of Bureau Veritas, a worldwide provider of testing, inspection, and certification services, headquartered in France and with a presence in more than 140 countries.
Syed Zaeem Khalid, Assistant Manager, Bureau Veritas, Karachi, says that the Bureau’s halal certification is provided in concurrence with Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC), making it valid wherever PNAC is recognised. While representatives of PNAC could not be reached, a review of its website shows that PNAC is a member of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) along with more than 70 countries.
Putting on the war paint
From a commercial perspective, battling in the general cosmetics environment is tough. Odho Cosmetics has seven categories in its product line-up. In-store displays consist of a lectern-sized kiosk and it irks Odho that she cannot compete with brands that have the financial muscle to snap up entire walls of displays. “I could deal in three to four times more volume, but I don’t have the shelf space,” she says. “It is simply too expensive.”
MM Makeup with 12 categories has a larger distribution network. The brand is marketed in stores, through Depilex salons (also owned by Misbah), makeover shows on television, public events and private social gatherings.
“I would love to have walls of space, but then I also need enough SKUs to fill it,” says Hafsa Haseeb, Brand Consultant, MM Makeup.
Luscious Cosmetics with 20 categories is the biggest of the lot in both production volume and size of in-store displays, and thus perhaps the only one that can attempt some competition with international brands. It also helps that Luscious sells on cosmetics chain Sephora’s website, and furthermore distributes officially in at least 17 countries (where PETA’s vegan certification comes up trumps; “Luscious is very popular in Vietnam and Myanmar where the population is mostly Buddhist,” says Sethi, and because vegan products are halal-by-default [alcohol being a disputed subject, but which Luscious does not use] it works for the Muslim market, too).
Blend or highlight?
All three brands agree that the market for halal makeup is growing. “Pakistan is actually behind the times,” says Haseeb, noting that Muslims in the West have been exploring halal cosmetic options for quite a while. “The worldwide Muslim consumer market is worth billions already.” Specifically within Pakistan, she says female scholars at elite madressahs (religious schools) are very knowledgeable about the trend. “These women use only halal makeup. They are educated, aware, and influential in their social circles. They have immense spending power and their purchasing choices have a significant trickledown effect.”
Then why do all three brands paint themselves primarily as ‘high quality products’ instead of playing up the halal aspect? Why insist on generalising instead of specialising, particularly when two of the three already carry a halal stamp?
For Luscious Cosmetics, it is again a question of credibility. Says Sethi, “I do want to put the halal logo on my products because it’s a great selling point, added value, but until I am assured of that stamp’s universal acceptance, how can I assure my customer?”
Fair enough, but there is only so much space in the average makeup pouch and when big brands enter the niche market, a halal USP becomes imperative; as a spokesperson for L’Oreal Pakistan says: “L’Oréal started three years ago to work on halal certifications.” In 2014, L’Oreal’s consolidated global sales amounted to about 25.38 billion dollars (Source: statista.com) and their market share was nearly 30%. With that in mind, should the halal logo pop up on a tube of Colour Riche Lipcolour, it might not just be local lips in the red.