Audrey Hepburn, the eternal style icon, continues to elicit people’s interest around the world nearly 70 years after the release of her most popular films. Fashion and lifestyle publications continue to unearth details about her, particularly the beauty and personal care (BPC) products she used and the regimes she adhered to. For example, a recent article in Vogue titled 11 Things To Know About Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Regime reveals that like Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner, Hepburn used to consult Hungarian dermatologist Ern László, whose skincare line exists to this day.
The name of the lipstick brand Hepburn wore in the iconic cab scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains a mystery. In the film, she plays the free-spirited Holly Golightly, who upon learning of a potentially distressing note, declares: “A girl can’t read that sort of thing without her lipstick,” and promptly applies it. While Revlon insists it is their Pink in the Afternoon, others believe it was manufactured by Estée Lauder or Burberry and several news articles and blogs have devoted articles to deciphering which lipstick Hepburn used. This fascination with Hepburn’s lipstick shade and personal care preferences is no doubt a testament to her legacy and also highlights the role of the BPC sector in the lives of many women.
Because It’s Worth It
According to Statista, the global BPC sector is worth $579.2 billion and is predicted to increase at a 3.53% annual rate. The United States ($92.79 billion), China ($60.17 billion), Japan ($41.88 billion), India ($27.77 billion) and Brazil ($23.45 billion) are the top five countries in terms of BPC market share. Two of these countries are Pakistan’s neighbours, India and China; the other two are Bangladesh ($9.87 billion) and Afghanistan, for which data is unavailable. Pakistan’s BPC value is anticipated to be $4.62 billion, with a 2.35% increase expected over the next five years. Personal care is the largest segment, accounting for 49% of the entire sector ($2.28 billion).
Euromonitor states that five MNCs constitute over 53% of Pakistan’s overall BPC market: Unilever (24.9%), P&G (13.5%), Colgate-Palmolive (7.6%), Reckitt Pakistan (3.8%) and L’Oréal (3.4%).
According to a report by Euromonitor titled Beauty and Personal Care in Pakistan, Pakistan’s BPC market’s value has more than doubled (it climbed by 102.3%) and in the last six years it has been valued at Rs 173.8 billion and Rs 341.4 billion in 2017 and 2022 respectively. (Because of the rupee’s devaluation over the last year and likely differences in the methodologies used by Euromonitor and Statista, estimating their values in the same currency would be difficult. It is also worth noting that Pakistan’s BPC sector is unregulated, and its value could therefore be substantially larger.)
Euromonitor further states that five MNCs constitute over 53% of Pakistan’s overall BPC market: Unilever (24.9%), P&G (13.5%), Colgate-Palmolive (7.6%), Reckitt Pakistan (3.8%) and L’Oréal (3.4%). The remaining 46.8% comprises Healeon, Gelersdorg AG, Johnson & Johnson, Society Bic and Medora of London (in order of their market share) as well as “others” which make up 26.7%.
The “others” category possibly includes legacy brands like Hashmi, Kala Kola, Saeed Ghani, Swiss Miss, Tibet, Olivia, and newer brands that have recently either been established or grown in popularity, such as B&B Derma, Conatural, Hemani, HERBeauty, Lurella, Lush Cosmetics, Le Pur, Ilynn, or the likes of Faiza, Nisab and Stillman’s creams. Some of these brands continue to have a strong following, especially in non-urban areas which constitute consumers who may have the same spending power as their urban counterparts but are more price-sensitive, less well-informed and less brand loyal.
Although it is too early to tell how effective PGCRA will be, and what role the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) will play in overseeing the cosmetics sector, the reaction to the Bill from several industry stakeholders in the BPC sector has been primarily positive because many of them believe it is time for Pakistan to adopt the global practice of having a governing body that solely addresses the difficulties that the BPC sector faces.
A Cosmetic Change?
One of the most notable recent developments in Pakistan’s BPC sector is the establishment of the Pakistan General Cosmetics Regulatory Authority (PGCRA), which will fall under the administrative control of the Ministry of Science and Technology. PGCRA was established via ‘The Pakistan General Cosmetic Bill, 2023’ which was passed in July 2023 by the existing government at the time. It states that PGCRA “aims to govern various aspects of general cosmetics, including quality, standards, labelling, packaging, manufacturing, storage, distribution, and sales… this measure is designed to ensure that consumers have access to safe and reliable cosmetic products while maintaining transparency and accountability throughout the cosmetic industry.”
Although it is too early to tell how effective PGCRA will be, and what role the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) will play in overseeing the cosmetics sector, the reaction to the Bill from several industry stakeholders in the BPC sector has been primarily positive because many of them believe it is time for Pakistan to adopt the global practice of having a governing body that solely addresses the difficulties that the BPC sector faces. According to an industry insider, the Bill is a big improvement over a previous version, which specified that the BPC sector will be governed by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), which is in charge of pharmaceutical regulation.
What remains unclear about the Bill – apart from the PSQCA’s future function – is how the Ministry of Science and Technology will ensure that the quality of cosmetics adheres to global standards. This is important because PSQCA has previously not done a thorough job of regulating the industry in terms of enforcing quality standards and addressing the sector’s primary concerns and challenges.
According to Myra Khan, CEO of Conatural, “It is common knowledge that China uses Pakistan as a dumping ground for makeup products that do not meet the quality standards of its own and other countries. These pose significant health risks.”
Blemishes to Cover
These concerns include the availability of counterfeit and low-quality items, such as dangerous whitening creams that contain mercury and pose health dangers to users and the environment. Furthermore, similar items are imported from different countries, particularly China and according to Myra Khan, CEO of Conatural, “It is common knowledge that China uses Pakistan as a dumping ground for makeup products that do not meet the quality standards of its own and other countries. These pose significant health risks.”
Here, it is important to mention that although the purchase of imported products has been affected owing to the economy, volumes have increased, particularly for products that enter the country through the grey market. However, their costs have risen and this has opened up opportunities for local businesses, especially given the prevalent ‘buy Pakistani’ mindset among consumers.
Khan and other stakeholders also mention other concerns expressed by brands operating in Pakistan, primarily the fact that it is increasingly difficult to obtain imported raw materials at consistent rates, as well as the challenges of skyrocketing petrol prices and electricity costs, not to mention overall inflationary pressures. As a result, these variables have decreased profit margins for industry participants, a state of affairs compounded by the fact that consumer spending has decreased, especially among the lower SECs.
Despite the challenges, the BPC sector has grown substantially in the last five years and although the rate of growth is lower compared to most countries, it is undeniably on a consistent upward trajectory – or in the words of an industry insider, it is “exploding.” This expansion is due to different variables, many of them connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, which sparked a higher interest in personal care, self-care and general wellness among consumers. In the words of Sidra Afzal, Digital Marketing and Partnerships Lead, Saeed Ghani, “Consumers have become more aware that skincare is an important component of their overall well-being and this has been critical to our growth.”
Rising urbanisation and population expansion in Pakistan have also seen a shift in lifestyles, with city dwellers looking for a wider selection of BPC goods to meet their needs. Along with increasing urbanisation, internet penetration has increased and more customers have access to online shopping platforms, thereby increasing their awareness about BPC products.
There has also been a rise in the use of natural BPC products globally and Pakistan is no exception, especially considering that Pakistanis have relied on desi ingredients and totkas as part of their beauty regimes since time immemorial.
Hand in hand with this is the increase in direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands for brands like Conatural and their emergence has disrupted traditional distribution channels. According to Khan, “These brands often offer specialised products that attract a younger demographic who prefer to shop online.” She adds that consumers are turning to online shopping for their BPC products due to the convenience of online platforms, which tend to have a wider product selection, plus the fact that would-be buyers can compare prices and read reviews online.
There has also been a rise in the use of natural BPC products globally and Pakistan is no exception, especially considering that Pakistanis have relied on desi ingredients and totkas as part of their beauty regimes since time immemorial. This is evidenced by the increasing emergence (and re-emergence) of natural, organic, and sustainable BPC brands, be it Aura Crafts, Conatural, Hemani, Nirvana Botanics or Saeed Ghani. This trend is one of the reasons why Hemani (established in 1899) chose to enter Pakistan in 2016. Prior to this date, they were focused on export markets in the Middle East, Europe and North America.
Although women tend to dominate this market (approximately 90-95%), there has been a noteworthy increase in the number of men displaying an interest in skincare, haircare and grooming products, particularly among the younger generation.
As Zohair Hemani, Director, Hemani Group, explains, “Organic products were gaining traction globally and this was always our strength. When we saw the trend catching on in Pakistan, we decided to enter the market.”
Hemani have 45 outlets in 16 cities and their portfolio includes lines of celebrities such as Waseem Badami and Ayesha Omar. Their portfolio is spread over 1,200 products across six categories including skincare, personal care, healthcare, essential oils and fragrances. Similarly, Saeed Ghani has benefitted from the organic boom. They have over 100 outlets across Pakistan and have introduced new natural products.
The men’s grooming segment too has undergone significant expansion and has made a substantial contribution to the BPC sector and brands catering to this demographic have witnessed substantial growth. Although women tend to dominate this market (approximately 90-95%), there has been a noteworthy increase in the number of men displaying an interest in skincare, haircare and grooming products, particularly among the younger generation.
According to Hemani, products like facewashes and hair and face mists have gained popularity among men, especially among those who use bikes to commute and use these products after reaching their workplaces or attending meetings. This practice helps them to freshen up after being exposed to the pollution on the roads. Consequently, there has been an increase in the number of brands catering to men such as Daari Mooch and Nabila’s Zero Makeup which cater to men as well as women.
Expand, Diversify and Strategise
To cater to these new trends, BPC businesses have had to implement a number of strategies, including putting greater emphasis on increasing localisation, particularly for MNCs, introducing loyalty programmes, expanding their product portfolios with more SKUs to broaden their reach to lower SECs and providing customised products in line with their consumers’ evolving needs.
This has led to constant product innovation for Conatural, including the introduction of organic and natural components, cruelty-free products, and personalised skincare solutions. Saeed Ghani has followed suit to cater to specific skincare needs, and Afzal says that the brand recently introduced a full range of Vitamin C products in response to consumer demand for skincare solutions that brighten and rejuvenate the skin. “Whether it’s herbal products, skincare essentials, or specialised treatments, our offerings consistently attract positive attention and reinforce our brand’s reputation for quality and innovation.”
Qawi Naseer, Country Manager, L’Oréal reinforces this (read his interview here). “Over the last five years, consumers have been seeking personalised, clean and sustainable products that align with their values. L’Oréal has adapted to these trends with diverse product offerings, a commitment to sustainability and a focus on self-expression, resulting in increased sales, loyalty, and engagement.”
Branding Personal Care
In terms of marketing and advertising BPC products, conventional mediums such as TV, print, and OOH are important, particularly in targeting specific demographics, although digital appears to be the dominant channel for urban customers.
As a result, many brands demonstrate their commitment to goals such as sustainability and diversity by engaging in content marketing through videos, tutorials and events conducted by notable dermatologists and using influencers.
L’Oréal’s target audience now has an “increased awareness of diversity, inclusivity, and self-expression, and people are embracing a wider range of body types, ethnicities, and gender identities, leading to a more inclusive beauty standard.”
For example, Saeed Ghani organises events as a means to engage with their audience directly and for Afzal, these go beyond mere product showcases to serve as platforms for education and interaction and include workshops and seminars on skincare and self-care routines. They are also venturing into influencer collaborations to connect with their audience more effectively. Khan seconds this, saying that for Conatural, “celebrity endorsements and social media influencers play a significant role in promoting BPC products. Many consumers are influenced by celebrities and the influencers they follow on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.”
Given that the majority of the advertising is increasingly conducted on digital, the corresponding budgets have increased due to the rupee’s devaluation, as well as the fact that influencers are now charging significantly more than they did five to 10 years ago. The approach of the messaging has also changed in keeping with the fact that for many people the perception of what personal care is has also evolved. According to Naseer, L’Oréal’s target audience now has an “increased awareness of diversity, inclusivity, and self-expression, and people are embracing a wider range of body types, ethnicities, and gender identities, leading to a more inclusive beauty standard.” This is why we see many brands – local and international – focusing on concepts such as individuality, diversity and sustainability, self-confidence and empowerment in their communication.
A Picture Perfect Outlook?
Ultimately, despite the challenges, the BPC sector’s rise remains favourable as it continues to focus on product innovation, customisation, diversity and sustainability, and makes active efforts to cater to the specific needs of an increasingly informed consumer base. However, factors such as the current economic situation and currency exchange rates, as well as a lack of oversight, may continue to impact the sector negatively. This could of course be remedied if the newly established PGCRA takes a proactive approach to regulating the sector and addressing the challenges related to low-quality, substandard and counterfeit products.