Lakme – The Story Of India’s First Cosmetic Brand

Beauty, Elegance and Tradition. These are the words that come to us when we think about cosmetics.

When we think of cosmetic brands in India, Lakme undoubtedly comes to mind. Known for its wide range of makeup and skincare products, Lakme has been a household name for decades. But do you know the intriguing story behind the birth of this iconic cosmetics brand?

From its unique name to its marketing strategies and evolution over the years, Lakme’s journey is a testament to Indian entrepreneurship and innovation.

So without further adieu, let’s venture through the history of this ‘game-changing’ brand.

India’s First Cosmetic Brand:

India’s beauty revolution started with Lakme, which holds the title of being the country’s first indigenous cosmetics brand. The brainchild behind Lakme was none other than India’s first Prime Minister, Motilal Nehru.

PM Nehru noticed that Indian women predominantly used makeup brands from the West. This observation sparked the idea of creating an Indian cosmetics brand. Nehru reached out to industrialist Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, and together they laid the foundation for Lakme in 1952.

Lakme – The Secret Behind ‘Lakme’s’ Name

Lakme’s name carries a rich cultural significance. It draws inspiration from the French word for the Indian Goddess of Wealth and Beauty, Lakshmi.
An alternative source of inspiration for the name came from the brand’s collaborators, Robert Piguet and Renoir. They suggested naming it after Leo Delibes’ popular opera, “Lakmé,” which is named after the Indian Goddess.

Aggressive Marketing Campaigns:

Introducing cosmetics to the Indian market posed a unique challenge, given traditional beauty standards.

To penetrate the Indian market, Lakme employed aggressive marketing tactics, investing heavily in press advertisements and magazine spreads.

First Indian Model and the Indian Perspective

At that time and age, the people who used to use make-up were actors playing characters on stage. Lakme had a challenging time manoeuvring through this.

Breaking taboos around makeup application was key for Lakme. Their first model, Shyamoli Verma, an 80s heartthrob and supermodel, became the ‘Lakmé girl.’

Verma portrayed a blend of modernity and ‘Indianness,’ dressed in traditional attire and showcasing Lakme products while playing traditional Indian musical instruments.

The tagline “If colour is to beauty what music is to mood, play on” marked the beginning of Lakme’s journey.

Lakme’s Growth Over the Years

In 1996, Lakme entered a 50:50 merger with Hindustan Unilever, solidifying its presence in the market.

In 2014, the Brand Trust Report ranked Lakme 36th in its list of India’s most trusted brands.

Lakme has been a prominent sponsor of the bi-annual Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai, further strengthening its connection with the fashion and beauty industry.

Today, Lakme offers over 300 diverse products, catering to over 70 countries worldwide, with a price range that accommodates all consumers.

Final Note:

The journey of Lakme from its inception by Motilal Nehru to becoming India’s leading cosmetics brand is a remarkable tale of vision, innovation, and cultural appreciation. Its name, inspired by the Indian Goddess Lakshmi, reflects the essence of beauty and wealth. Over the years, Lakme has not only thrived but also played a pivotal role in changing the perception of beauty and makeup in India, setting new standards in the cosmetics industry.