MUMBAI — Deepika Padukone, the actress and global face for brands including Louis Vuitton and Cartier, doesn’t intend to let geography be an impediment to her newly launched beauty brand, 82°E.
While few Indian beauty brands have succeeded globally, 82°E, conceived and researched to combine Indian ingredients with science-based products, had a clear positioning from the moment it launched last November.
Launched as a direct-to-consumer brand, 82°E, which is pronounced simply 82 East, initially is being sold only on its website, with products already shipped to more than 30 countries. But can it compete against the myriad global brands?
“Yes, why should it not? As Indians, why should we always second guess ourselves?” Padukone said in an exclusive interview.
“I can’t comment on anyone else’s journey, I can only comment on ours, and say that we are very confident about who we are, where we come from….I think we’re on track. A large part of the success that we’ve seen since the launch has come from the global market. It’s not only 82 East: I think as Indians we’re very much on everyone’s radar.”
Fresh from the success of her new movie “Pathaan” — which costars leading actor Shah Rukh Khan and other big Bollywood stars and grossed $82 million in India by mid-March and $49 million overseas to make a worldwide gross of $130 million — Padukone is not presumptuous in thinking globally. Her costar in the film “Return of Xander Cage,” Vin Diesel, described her as “the queen of the whole world” and she was included in Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in 2018.
Warming to her theme, Padukone said, “I think ‘Pathaan’ is a great example, I think me representing India on the Cannes jury is a great example, as is Louis Vuitton signing me as the first Indian face for a luxury label.
“These are my personal examples, and I’m sure there are tons about others out there. Maybe it did not happen in other generations, but have we seen the shift? Yes! As far as 82 East is concerned, I’m very confident about the impact we intend to create not only in India but globally as well.”
The brand name, inspired by the standard meridian that passes through India, and its tag line, “Indian in its ethos and global in its outlook,” is representative of Padukone herself. Walking the red carpet and one of the presenters at this month’s Oscars was another chance for her to be in the global limelight.
The 82°E products combine traditional ingredients like turmeric, lotus, and ashwagandha with ceramides and other science-based elements.
The importance of the Indian ingredients is seen in the product names: the moisturizer Ashwagandha Bounce at 2,700 rupees, or $32.87; Patchouli Glow sunscreen drops at 1,800 rupees; Gotu Kola dew toner at 2,400 rupees; Bakuchiol Slip Face Oil at 2,900 rupees, and the Lotus Splash Cleanser at 1,200 rupees. The brand has been launching products with a considered drop strategy, factoring in the seasons — with the most recent one, Turmeric Shield, described as a soothing sunscreen serum.
Jigar K. Shah, cofounder of 82°E who holds the business strategy together, said a 1 billion rupee, or $12 million, annualized run rate was achievable in 2023, adding that the global capability was also growing. “As a d-to-c brand from India, which has the capability to ship to 200 countries from the launch — spread across five continents — roughly about 10 percent of our revenue is export revenue.”
He emphasized the strength of the backing of the brand’s research and development center in Bengaluru. “We’re marrying Indian ingredients to science — we’re focusing more on the India story, not the ayurveda story. It would have been easy to get a third-party manufacturer, but we are unique in building the products and have been very clear that we didn’t want to create a product that just had a celebrity in it, but rather one that truly solves a problem and adds value to customers,” he said.
Shah said there was no question that beauty in India requires physical stores as well and part of the strategy is to build these after the initial understanding and feedback from the consumer, which was becoming clearer by focused retailing from its own website. It is also easier to reach the target market.
As one of the top fashion and beauty celebrities in India for years, Padukone is no stranger to the plethora of beauty brand options. Becoming a beauty entrepreneur has been a result of her “journeys and experiences with these,” she said.
“There’s learning from what’s out there — good and bad experiences, all of it put together is how we’ve arrived here. The brands that are already out there have had a huge influence on my decisions and that is what prompted me to turn entrepreneur and start with skin care,” she said.
Padukone was quick to add that while beauty is a big focus, 82°E is a focused self care brand. “The modern Indian woman is far more conscious and aware of self care and the fact that it is important, that she needs to make time for it, and definitely I see that trend evolving from previous generations. Earlier it was about putting your family first, putting everyone ahead of yourself. But I think the family system seems to be evolving — I think we’re headed more toward independent families or nuclear families, thereby increasing responsibility, and stress as well. More so, coming out of the pandemic, the conversation about self care is even more relevant today,” she said.
Her one point advice on the issue? Self care without guilt.
“Those who are making time for it do it with a lot of guilt. I hope we are able to get to a place where we are able to take care of ourselves and do it without feeling guilty,” she said.
Her own journey, as a sportsperson and honest expressions of depression, led to the creation of her mental health foundation.
Her power to influence appears to be growing too.
As she has appeared on global billboards over the past months for Louis Vuitton, she describes it thoughtfully as “a moment.”
“Usually, I’m the kind of person who just puts my head down and keeps on working, but I did have a moment to myself and I said, ‘Well, not bad’ to see an Indian face on some of the biggest billboards outside some of the biggest stores in the world — and then I put my head down and continued to work again.
“I think it’s been a huge moment for the Asian community, for young girls. While it is a personal achievement for me, I do hope that it impacts the future generations positively. My little niece, who is nine years old, had a beautiful moment when her parents took her for a drive on Sunset Boulevard and showed them a brown girl on a hoarding for the biggest luxury brand in the world.”
Leaving a legacy is part of it. “I believe you leave behind legacies when you are authentic to yourself and to the people around you, and when you do it with consistency. The brand is an extension of my personality, my beliefs, my ethos — it is something I have built from the ground up with my cofounder and therefore I believe it is authentic, it is honest. It is also backed by data and research — I believe we are on the right path,” she explained
As for her passions, she said they will be: acting “first and foremost; the brand; my mental health foundation will also be very much out there because these are things I’m extremely passionate about.”
“The endeavor is to leave behind a legacy of all of my beliefs and everything that I have stood for after I am gone,” she added thoughtfully.